Saturday, July 30, 2011

Turning the World Upside Down (1 Thessalonians 1)

For the next five week’s we’ll be walking through a little New Testament book called 1 Thessalonians.  It’s pretty small - just five chapters and only about two pages in my Bible, but it was actually written to a really important city.

Thessalonica (now Thessaloniki) is still the second largest city in Greece, but it is some 2,300 years old.  Around the New Testament times, it was the capital of Macedonia - the northern half of Greece.  And it was rich, very rich.  It had an excellent port, comfortably nestled into the northernmost port of a gulf.  It was also centrally located on the major Roman highway running east and west through the empire.  All of this led to lots of importing and exporting.  They worked hard, and they had lots of cash.

Thessalonians were also very religious.  Like most ancient Greeks and Romans, they worshiped a wide variety of gods.
  • Of course, there were the traditional gods of Greek mythology, but the most prominent in Thessalonica were Dionysius and Artemis.  
    • Dionysius was the god of wine and ecstasy.  His followers were famous for wild drunken party-parades which “freed” everyone from all their social inhibitions.
    • Artemis was worshiped both as goddess of wild animals and goddess of fertility.  
  • Thessalonians also adopted two Egyptian gods: Isis and Osiris.
    • Isis was the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and magic.  Her statues often showed her nursing a son.  Also known as the Queen of Heaven, she offered salvation and eternal life to all in exchange for humility, confession, and repentance.
    • Osiris was Isis’s brother and husband, and he was supposed to be the god of the afterlife and underworld.  Osiris was believed to die every year and be raised from the dead by Isis’s tears.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Double Indemnity - AFI Greatest Movie #29

"Straight down the line, Baby.  Straight down the line."  Perfect plan.  Perfect execution.  Perfect murder.  Except that nothing is ever perfect.
In Double IndemnityAFI's 29th greatest film of all time, Fred MacMurray (the star from "My Three Sons") is swept into a murder plot by a beautiful woman who wants to be free from her overbearing husband.  As an insurance guy, he ought to know how to work the system, and he almost does - until his intuitive and nosy friend spots the one hole in their case.  From that point on, MacMurray begins to unravel in the style of Crime and Punishment.
All in all the point seems to be rather simple, crime (and selfishness) doesn't pay.  Theologically, you can almost see sin's creeping tentacles slowly wrap around MacMurray and pull him foot by foot into his own pit.
The closing scene is artistically brilliant in its reverse foil.  MacMurray's friend, who was always in need of a match, suddenly has one on hand and lights one last cigaret for MacMurray as he waits dying for both the ambulance and the police.
A classic crime and suspense tale, but not incredible.  The Josh rating: JJJ.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dragon Seed - Review

"The woman had hair as yellow as cat's fur, and it did not lie smooth about her head as hair does, but it stood out like lamb's wool."  These were the thoughts of Ling Sao as she came face to face with her first white woman.
Pearl Buck's Dragon Seed is set in northeastern China during Japan's invasion between 1937-1941.  It tells the story in all its brutal details through the lens of a single farming family living on the outskirts of a large city - possibly Nanjing or Shanghai.  This simple, hardy family suffers all the ravages of war and being conquered - flight, rape, murder, oppression, irrational injustice, heavy taxation, poverty, hunger, disease, and extreme instability.  In the midst of this single family, we all the options of resistance - flight, subversive fighting from the hills, compromise with the enemy, sabotage from within the enemy's camp, passive endurance, and sly evasion of taxes and oppression.
In addition to telling a riveting story, Pearl Buck has also revealed the difficulties of isolated people coming into contact with outsiders for the first time.  As one living in Korea, where contact with foreigners is still somewhat new.  These little bits of insight from the perspective of the indigenous people shed light on many of my experiences.  On more than one occasion, we have caused a baby to cry simply by entering an elevator with our white faces.  But even more common is a deep reticence to talk with us simply because we are different.  When one has been exposed to only one type of people for many generations, the sudden advent of diversity is radically disconcerting.
I recommend this book, not only because it's a great novel, but also because it can help expats living in Asia to understand a little bit more about how we are often experienced by many in our host nation.  The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love in a Fearful Land - Review

Here's another Nouwen book.   It's fairly short with a generous dose of photographs, so I finished it on the bus ride before the retreat officially began.
Love in a Fearful Land is the story of two Catholic priests in Guatemala.  Father Stanley Rother a missionary priest from Oklahoma City was assigned to a poor Mayan village in the mountains of Guatemala.  He learned their language and served with steady integrity and compassion for 12 years.  He invested his life in helping the people understand God and become more self-reliant and healthy.  Eventually, this nonpolitical commitment to serve his community was viewed as political resistance to the corrupt and oppressive Guatemalan military regime.  (For more on the political situation in Latin America in the 1970's and 1980's see yesterday's post.)  After being threatened in a variety of ways, he was finally killed in his bedroom in 1981.
Three years later Father John Vesey felt called to replace Stan as the priest of this little town - despite all the risks.  Vesey asked his good friend Henri Nouwen to come and pray for him as he adapted to his new assignment.  When Nouwen was leaving, he asked how he could help.  This book is the result.
What I learned from this book is pretty similar to what I learned from Gracias!.  Sometimes doing even simple and obviously good things leads to conflict and persecution.  Once again, I felt grateful to be in a place where there is no threat of physical persecution.  And once again, I felt encouraged to persevere with humility and patience.
In this book, Nouwen is not at his best, but as he explains, he is coming off a drought of a year and a half of writers' block.  Also, this is not his standard topic.  However, even in the midst of the martyrdom and difficulty, this book is a glowing depiction of simple love in Jesus' way.  By telling the story, Nouwen calls us to the same simple and persistent love for all - no matter the cost.
The Josh rating: JJJ.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gracias! - Review

Last week I took a spiritual retreat up to the mountains of northeastern South Korea (just below the border).  While there, I picked up a Nouwen book out of the monastery library.  Nouwen has been my most common spiritual director on retreats down through the years.
Gracias! did not disappoint.  It was full of profound cultural and spiritual insights which I needed to hear.
Gracias! tells the story of Nouwen's six month sojourn in Bolivia and Peru in the early 1980s while he was attempting to discern whether he was called to serve in Latin America.  If you think back about your world history, Latin America was a mess in the 70s and 80s.  For hundreds of years Latin America was ruled by European colonialists and their grandchildren.  Native Americans and people of mixed ethnicity were poor, uneducated, and deeply oppressed.  The fair skinned ruling class wanted to keep them that way, but around mid-century, the poor slowly decided that they didn't want to stay poor.
The Catholic Church - by far the largest religious group in Latin America - took a "preferential option for the poor" and assisted them in developing their lives through education, health care, better farming, better saving, social organization, healthier diets, etc.  Gustavo Guiterrez was developing and teaching his now famous - Liberation Theology - at this time.  As the poor gained knowledge of their human rights and hope that enabled them to shed fatalism, they began to push for reforms.  As the reformers were first ignored, then punished, then brutally persecuted, reform slowly merged into revolution.
And - given the power dynamics of wealthy nations, USA vs USSR, democracy vs communism - all of these issues in Latin America were set in the light of communism versus everything else.  80-90% of Latin America was poor at that time, and anyone who sided with them or helped them risked being labeled as communist, leftist, destabilizing, disruptive problem-makers.  The result was mass persecution of the Catholic Church whenever and wherever it openly assisted the poor.  People began to disappear.  The martyrs began to be counted by the dozens, then hundreds, then thousands and tens of thousands.
It is in this milieu, Nouwen was considering a life among the poor in Latin America.  A brave question and a brave sojourn.
I learned or relearned three important lessons through Nouwen's reflections.  Some of the most meaningful parts of the book came in his reflections of Gustavo Guitierrez's lectures which Nouwen attended several times.
1. Reform takes time.  I consider myself a reformer, a progressive, someone who is participating in the larger reform of the Church of our time.  I deeply want us to return to our Biblical and Christlike roots as a church, which will - yes - include much more service to the poor, but also much more love for all our neighbors and much more intense commitment to understanding and following Jesus in every possible way and reform in our structures and styles of doing church.  I have struggled with others' resistance, apathy, and lip-service to this reform.  However, observing the Latin American struggle from the distance of space and time encouraged me - oddly.  Their struggle - far more painful than ours - persevered as was largely successful, though it is still incomplete and ongoing.  If they can persevere in the face of persecution and death, I can persevere in the face of complaints or walk-outs.  Also, some of the people in the liberation theology group advised Nouwen that this all takes a great deal of time, that progress is slow, and that it must be done at the pace of the people not the pace of the reformers.  I felt a strong call to perseverance and patience.
2. True reform is deeply spiritual.  Gutierrez lectured on the spirituality of liberation and explained that without maintaining a deep connection with God, we lose the both the heart of love and the will to persevere.  Gutierrez advocated spending time in the "useless" work of prayer and meditation.   Nouwen observed that many of the reformers around him were hostile, angry, and militaristic (at least in words and mindset if not in action).  But the "old fighters" called these young bucks to peace, to patience, to connecting deeply with the Spirit of God, and to working patiently with the people even if that means suffering with the people as the people develop their own desire to further the reformation.  I felt a call to go deeper in my own spiritual life - even if that means less time for "tasks" and "productive" things.
3. Gratitude is central.  Nouwen was deeply struck by the inherent gratitude of the Latin American people.  They view everything as the gift that it is.  Life is a gift.  Food is a gift.  Work is a gift.  Home and family are gifts.  Every good thing we have is a gift from a gracious God.  As a reformer, as someone who deeply wants our world to be better, often I can focus on what is lacking the good that we need but is not yet.  Often I can look at our world as one large bundled collection of problems and deficiencies.  This is an extremely distorted view.  Yes, our world is broken and needs healing.  But even amid our brokenness, God is at work, and God has blessed us with innumerable good gifts.  Despite the dents and the dust, these gifts retain their glorious goodness, and I am - we are - called to celebrate these many gifts at all times and in all places.

The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Conversion (Tough Theology - Week 6)

When I was a university student, I did a one semester exchange program at European Nazarene College - a beautiful little campus on the Rhine river at the border of Germany and Switzerland.  That spring, we had lots of holidays.  Germans take almost as many holidays as Koreans.  One of the holidays was Ascension Day, to which I said, “Thanks for the day off and everything, but what’s that?”
Ascension Day is the day when Jesus ascended into heaven - exactly 40 days after his resurrection.  We had a special Ascension Day worship service, and the guest speaker was none other than Hermann Gschwandtner, the German missionary who is now the South Asia Field Director and was here in May.
I honestly don’t remember anything Hermann said, but I do remember the text: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
That day, that verse, that sermon - they changed me.  I felt God clearly calling me to give my life for evangelism.  Sitting in that little European chapel, I knew that the highest purpose for the rest of my life was to help people become authentic Christians.
About a year later, I began working on an MDiv degree in a special program focusing on evangelism.  The English word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word euangelion or “Good News” or “Gospel.”  Evangelism is Gospel-ism.  Evangelism is to do the Gospel, to proclaim Good News, to bring Good News, to be the living presence Gospel.  I am here standing before you today because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have given my life to transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So today, in our last week on the Tough Theology series, we pick up a topic that is very dear to my heart: Conversion.  What does it mean to become a Christian?  When we talk about the gospel and evangelism and all of that, what are we really aiming at, and how do we get there?
Three people have shaped the way I view conversion.  Three key thinkers have radically altered the way I think about what it means to become a Christian.  Today, I want to walk you through each of these key thinkers, and I hope they will shape your thoughts on conversion as well.

 The first thinker who has changed my thinking is James Engel.  He developed something known as the Engel Scale of Evangelism.  It looks like this.  This chart may look complex, but it has a simple movement.  Everyone in the world is somewhere on this chart.  As people’s thoughts and actions become more in line with the gospel, they move up the chart.  Anything that helps someone move up - even just one step - is a form of evangelism.  ....

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Thursday, July 21, 2011


Squinting through a mist
I navigate by the tip of my boat
My ears my only guide
Whispers of the wind float
Quietly gently to my side
A sixth sense sweeps them in
Interpreting soundless sounds
Directing my oars - now out - now in
Am I lost?  Or am I found?
Moving through a mist

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Doubt and Faith about Heaven and Hell - Tough Theology Week 6

After today, I hope you have two things: more doubt and more faith.
I hope you have more doubt about that are not true, more doubt about issues on which the Bible is not clear. More doubt about things you SHOULD doubt.
And I hope you have more faith in things you SHOULD have faith in. I hope you have more faith in a few things the Bible is very clear about. But most importantly, I hope you have more faith in God.

Next, let’s start with a few surprising truths.
  • There is no required belief about hell to be a Christian.
  • God is not going to say, Because you didn’t believe in hell, you’re going to hell.
  • God is not going to say, Because you didn’t believe the right things about hell, you’re going to hell.
  • God is not going to say, I won’t forgive you if unless you believe in hell.
  • God is not going to say, You can’t get into heaven unless you believe in hell.
Let me say it again. Believing in hell is not a requirement to go to heaven or to be a Christian. It’s important that we say that because a lot of people have walked away from Jesus simply because they cannot believe in hell.
Don’t get me wrong. The Bible does talk about hell, and if we are loyal to the Bible, we will have some concept of hell. BUT - and this is the important part - we don’t all have to have the same concept of hell. ...

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The First Crack in the DMZ?

Coca-cola and KFC have recently signed deals to establish operations in North Korea.  (Short article ... slightly longer article).  So far, they will be limited to hotels and tourist locations serving foreigners.  However, make no mistake about it, this is a step into the future. 
Communism can only survive within a closed system.  Dictators maintain power by limiting information.  (And yes, all communist leaders are dictators of one variety or another.)  With external contact comes information.  With information comes power.  With power for the people comes the fall (slow or fast) of all dictatorships.  Once people know there is an outside world where life is far better, they demand to participate in that better-ness, and they rid themselves of their ineffective leaders.
This is how it went in Eastern Europe.  This is how it happened in Africa and Latin America.  This is how communism has slowly been transitioning to capitalistic democracy in China.  And this is the beginning of the end for North Korea.
Actually, this is not the first crack.  Mass starvation, mass illegal immigration, and mass corruption were the first real cracks.  Porous borders with China brought black market capitalism and information (in the form of cell phones and DVDs).  International aid workers were a steady drip, drip, drip of outside influence.
But now, now, after these subterranean foundation shifts, we see the crack going up the wall, and it looks like the Coca-cola trademark wave. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Maltese Falcon - #31 Greatest American Movie

Sarah and I chipped away at our goal of seeing all of the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.  It's not exactly comprehensive because they have to be American movies, but it's a good place to start to find some great movies.  This weekend, we hit another Bogart classic, The Maltese Falcon.
This is a pretty simple movie with a classic mystery plot.  A tangled web of characters are trying to lay claim to a mysterious missing treasure - the Maltese Falcon - a gem, encrusted gold bird from ancient Malta.  Humphrey Bogart is a private detective who gets wrangled into the search for the bird by a beautiful woman.  There is the expected romantic drama between the two as each tries to use the other and considers the possibility that despite their better judgement they might be falling for each other. 
[Spoiler Alert] Revealing the point of the movie, at the very end, after the bird is discovered and revealed to be a fake, after most of the characters are either captured or have escaped, Bogart lovingly cradles the falcon as he walks out the door.  A cop asks, "What is that thing anyway?"  In Bogart's deep, wry voice, he answers, "The stuff dreams are made of."  Leaving the audience to wonder if all our dreams are farces or if only our quixotic, get-rich-quick dreams suffer Bogart's judgment.  Either way, it pushes us toward a critical evaluation of our own dreams - something that's always healthy.
Although there is an element of mystery and suspense, in the end, I felt like the plot was basically predictable.  You just kind of get the feeling that it will work out this way.  Still a good movie.
The Josh rating: JJJ.

Love Wins - Review

I read Rob Bell's controversial Love Wins yesterday - as in I started at 8:30 and was done by 3:30.  Granted, I'm preaching on heaven and hell this week, so I figured I should at least read the most debated book on the topic in recent memory.
If you missed the controversy, let me just say it was messy and ugly, and I was only viewing the remnants and echos from the other side of the world.  For a not-so-brief summary of the controversy, check out this article.  For a beautiful interview with Rob Bell about how he has handled all this controversy, click here.  For a look at what this conversation means for the current state of North American Christianity - especially evangelicalism, read this excellent article by theologian Scott McKnight. 
Essentially, the controversy is all about two long debated points within Christian theology.
1. What does it take to be saved (to go to heaven and to avoid hell)?  (Specifically, can people who have never heard about Jesus be saved?)
2. Is hell a place of eternal, conscious punishment from which there is no escape - ever?
Both of these questions have been asked by theologians almost since the time of Christ, and for almost that long, our best Christian thinkers have come up with a variety of answers.  There is no Christian consensus on these two points.  Neither of these two points are critical questions of Christian orthodoxy.  Therefore, throughout history, most Christians have afforded each other the freedom to disagree.  Rob Bell's answers to both questions fall well within the scope of the varied Christian opinion throughout history.
So what does Bell actually say?  Although he says it very well, in his wonderful way of putting very complex ideas in simple and beautiful words, he actually only makes a few specific points.

Regarding heaven, Bell clarifies the use of the word heaven in the Bible.  In the New Testament, the word "heaven" is used in three different ways: (a) as a reference to God (e.g. "Kingdom of Heaven"), (b) the place/time of total restoration in the future, (c) the invasion of that future reality into our present reality ("Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" - type of thinking).  Basically, heaven is something we can experience in part now. (Remember all your pastors talking about starting the "eternal life" now.  This is what Bell is talking about.)  But one day, this foretaste will become the real deal, explosively joyful, unfiltered presence of God among the loving community of God's people.  So far, Bell is right in line with all good theologians.

Regarding hell, Bell unpacks almost every Biblical reference to hell.  And then he slowly works to prove that it is at least possible that a person's experience of hell might not be forever.  The fires of hell might be for the sake of purification rather than eternal punishment.  There might be a second (or third) opportunity to repent and to return to God's grace even after death.  It is possible that God might eventually empty hell and reclaim every lost child.  This may sound strange to people who have grown up with the concept of hell as a place of eternal, conscious, permanent punishment.  However, as Bell points out, good Christian theologians ranging from Justin Martyr to Origen to Luther have said exactly this.

Regarding salvation, Bell makes three basic points.  (1) God is everywhere.  (2) God is always trying to woo people to him and his ways of love.  (3) We will be judged on how we respond to God's wooing - however or wherever we find it.  Although he puts the argument in more beautiful and more controversial tones, this is the essential point, and this is nothing new to Christianity.  Everywhere there have been Christian missionaries and thinkers, people have wondered about this, and many of them have said exactly the same thing.

So here's my conclusion.  Rob Bell didn't say anything new or unorthodox or unChristian, but he said it really, really well.  Honestly, I'm not sure he's right, but I think it's possible.  And I think it's important that we talk about hell and who may or may not go there with a little more humility and uncertainty.  (The Bible seems to be intentionally unclear on that point.)  And I am sure that Bell (or anyone else) can believe everything in this book and be authentically Christian.

The Josh rating: JJJJ.

(Coming soon, my sermon on Heaven and Hell.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Change and Continuity

I stumbled onto this video today.  This girl, Amanda, has taken a photo of herself every day for three years (ages 14-17) and compiled them into a continuous video showing her changes.  This struck me as a metaphor of life and the gospel.  A few observations.
1. It is clear that she is the same person throughout.  She changes.  She grows.  Her hair gets longer and shorter.  The backdrop changes.  The clothes change.  But she is the same.  This is how it goes with us throughout life.  Things change.  We change, but we're still the same - in this case - Amanda.  Also, this is how Jesus (and the church and the gospel) works.  The cultural backdrop changes.  The style changes.  The decorations change.  For the church and our understanding of the gospel, there may be changes and growth.  But the Jesus remains the same.
2. I was strangely encouraged by the fact that she had zits and that they went away and came back and went away and came back.  On the day that she had some of those big zits, they must have felt like horrible problems - remember she's a teenage girl!  But problems that seem monumental today will pass.  New problems will come, sure, but these will go the way of zits in puberty.  They will fade.
OK, that's all for the thought of the day.  If you have other observations, please share.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - #38 Greatest American Movie of All Time

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the best Humphrey Bogart film I've seen.  His character is a down-and-out American in a Mexican city.  After getting some cash, he takes up gold prospecting - together with a friend and an experienced prospector.
The story itself has lots of twists and turns.  It leaves you guessing right up to the very end. 
However, the essence of the story is his transformation after they find gold.  He moves from a trusting, stand-up guy to ... well I won't ruin the story.  Gold changes people - a maxim often repeated by the old prospector (who seems to be the type-model for the old man prospector in Toy Story).  They old guy himself claims to have made and lost many a fortune hunting for gold.  Once you strike it rich, you just can't stop, he says.
In the end, this movie is a story about the foolishness of chasing wealth.  A side plot basically reveals the point of the movie.  Another gold prospector tries to force his way into their prospecting team.  He is killed during an attack by bandits, and they discover that this guy has a wife and kids, who are longing for him to come home and to give up his pursuit of gold.  Family, home, and loving relationships are the real treasure - not gold.
The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eschatology: Rapture or Restoration?

    We humans have a love-hate relationship with eschatology.  Eschatology is the study of the end.  What will happen at the end of the world?  What comes next? 
    On one hand, we seem to be irrevocably drawn to the apocalyptic, end-of-the-world stuff, especially in movies. lists 61 apocalyptic movies since the year 2000.  In his article, “It’s the End of the World, and We Love It,” Mark Moring says, “We are divinely wired to wonder what comes next.”1
    Every now and then, this deep hunger for knowing the future leads people to make some outrageous claims.  Just a few months ago, an 89 year old American radio guy named Harold Camping hosted a huge campaign - with public billboards, radio slots, news footage, and mobile bus advertisements - saying Jesus was coming back at exactly 6 p.m. on May 21, 2011.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.
    That kind of error-based fear-building has given many people a distaste for eschatology.  Many of us would rather just put our heads down and live today, one day at a time.  Some folks just want to forget the future.
    But eschatology is still really important.  It’s the closing chapter of our human story.  In fact, nearly all of the New Testament - and really the whole Bible - is forward looking.  From the Biblical perspective, the future is holding our hand and pulling us into its reality.  
    The problem with understanding the future is that it isn’t here yet.  As much as the Bible is forward-leaning, as much as Christianity views us as being pulled into the future, there aren’t many details. 
    Christians are deeply committed to the future, though.  We have a few absolute beliefs about the future.  ...

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Korea Tip 113: Naver's Dictionary

Don't waste your money on an electronic dictionary - much less the neolithic paper versions.  Naver (Korea's #1 search engine) has a top notch English/Korean dictionary.  You can initiate your search in either Korean or English, and it will provide you with (1) a definition of the word or phrase and (2) examples of actual uses of that word or phrase on the net. 
For example, today I looked up: 혹시 (hokshi), and I got the following results:

1. (만일)      
혹시 이쪽에 오게 되면 꼭 연락해라
If you're ever in this area, be sure to give me a call. play
혹시 저 없을 때 전화 오면 받아 주세요
Please answer the phone for me while[if] I'm out. play
2. (행여나, 어쩌면)      
혹시 내일 떠나게 될지도 모르겠습니다
I may have to leave tomorrow. play
혹시나 했던 일이 현실로 나타났다
My fear has come true. play
혹시나 했던 일이 현실로 나타났다
What I feared has come to pass. play
혹시 그녀가 아픈 건 아닌지 모르겠다
I'm not sure, but she might be sick. play
혹시 그녀가 아픈 건 아닌지 모르겠다
I'm not sure if she's sick (or not). play
3. (확실한 건 아니지만) by any chance, (just) in case      
혹시 우리 만난 적 있나요?
Have we met by any chance? play
혹시 모르니까 우산을 가져가라
Take an umbrella just in case. play
혹시라도 제가 못 가게 되면 혼자 가세요
Go alone if by any chance I cannot go. play
큰 병은 아니겠지만 혹시 모르니까 병원에 가 봐야겠다
I'm sure it's nothing serious, but I should go see a doctor just in case. play
혹시 그가 집에 있나 하고 전화를 걸어 보았다
I called him to see if he was home. play

This is far more comprehensive than any other dictionary I've seen, and this is only about half of the results.  I use this at least a few times a week when I'm trying to understand exactly what my Korean text book is saying.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Walking Through Jello

Through Jello
I sit up and reach for the clock
Through Jello
I find my way to the coffee pot
Through Jello
I eat my cereal and brush my teeth
Through Jello
I stumble down the hill
Through Jello
I stare at my computer screen
Through Jello
I try to make sense of today
Through Jello
I wander home again
Through Jello
I lay my head on my pillow
And snore
Through Jello

A Time to Kill - Book Review

A Time to Kill is John Grisham's first novel.  It was rejected by 28 publishers before a small pub-house agreed to print a meager 5,000 copies.  (Grisham's second book, The Firm, was the best selling book of 1991, and was on the best seller's list for 47 weeks.) 
Grisham is a Southern boy, and most of his books are based in the deep South - especially Mississippi.  A Time to Kill began this odyssey into rural, southern USA.  It is replete with racial tension and insider looks at traditional stereotypes.  Grisham writes as one who loves the South - and at the same time, as one who sees through its facade of overdrawn strengths and weaknesses, to the soul of the people.
A Time to Kill is built around a simple, heart-wrenching story.  A young black girl is brutally raped by two white "rednecks."  (Grisham freely uses inflammatory stereotyped words - which are also freely used by most folks in the South.)  The girl's father guns down the two offenders as they are leaving their preliminary hearing at the courthouse.  The rest of the book is about two points: (1) Was the father justified? (2) What are the racial implications and ramifications of this trial? 
I wonder if Grisham's stereotypes are exaggerated, and I surely hope some of them are.  But as a Southern boy myself, I know that many of his driving insights (into both the white and the black communities) are uncomfortably close to home.
This is my tenth Grisham book.  He's one of my favorite fiction authors, hands down.  Although the conclusion was a bit disappointing, I would say that A Time to Kill is one of Grisham's best.  The Josh rating: JJJJ.