Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Korea Tip 120: Cheonan at Night

Want a sneak peak of Cheonan?  Or maybe just an interesting look at a place you've seen a thousand times? 
Here's a cool time-lapse photo video of downtown Cheonan by my friend Andy Phelps, who is an outstanding photographer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Korea Tip 119: Gmarket

Gmarket is Korea's Amazon.  Actually, it's owned by Ebay, but it's not an auction-based site. 
It has a pretty good English translation of it's website.  There's even a button for product to use google to translate product descriptions.  This translation is spotty, but the parts that are absolutely necessary for transactions are easy to understand and easy to use.
We recently purchased diapers and printer ink cartridges at about a 40% discount over local store prices.  Also, for many items, especially things over 30,000 won, shipping is free.  Our products were delivered in 2-3 days. 
If you need help directing the delivery man to your address, just have it shipped to your work place and give the Korean secretary's phone number.  Or, if you live in an apartment complex, the delivery guy (Konglish: tech bay) can drop it off at the security office and you can pick it up later.
Another helpful tip for purchasing over the internet: you don't have to pay by credit card.  You can just click the button that says something like: "bank transfer."  Then follow the instructions on the site and make the transfer at an ATM.
Happy discount shopping!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Overload Syndrome - Review

I thought I was reading The Overload Syndrome for other people.
I realized I was wrong in the introduction.
People are stressed ... exhausted ... overloaded.  
"I feel like a minnow in a flash flood."
Margin is the space that once existed between our load and our limits.  Margin is the space between vitality and exhaustion.  It is our breathing room, our reserves, our leeway.  
We push the limits as far as possible.
We spend ten percent more than we have - and it no longer matters if one is talking about time, energy, or money.
Without margin, we are self-protective, painfully uninterested in an opportunity to serve our neighbor.  Without margin, we tread water and hang on by our fingernails, trying to survive an other day.  Without margin we are chronically exhausted, chronically late, chronically rushed.  Without margin, we are overloaded.
What about you?  Have you lost your joy and passion?  Do you suffer from work dread?  Are your relationships strained from stress?  Do you wish you could check into a hospital just to sleep?
Understand that you are not alone.
I am not alone.  You are not alone.  Many of us - if not most of us - are overloaded.  This book has been part of the beginning of my healing process.
You need to read this book.
The Josh rating: JJJJJ.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeling our Prayers - Isaiah 63-64

   Every single person I know has struggled with prayer at some time.  Most people I know struggle with prayer most of the time.  Praying can be hard.  Someone told me last week that he has just about given up on prayer.  Most people say they wish they had more time to pray, but most people don’t seem particularly interested in actually spending more time in prayer.  When it comes right down to it, most of us would rather do most other things.  If you have ever struggled with prayer or with not praying, you are not alone.  Most people are like you.

   We are entering the Season of Advent.  This is a season of waiting.  We are waiting in three ways. 
  • We’re waiting symbolically with the people of the Old Testament for Jesus, the Messiah to come.  We’ll celebrate Jesus’ coming at Christmas time.
  • We’re waiting for Jesus to come again and make our world right.
  • We’re waiting for God’s coming and action to be more fully present in our world and in our lives.
    In the midst of all this waiting, prayer can be hard.  When I graduated from university, my Aunt Sue gave me a book by one of America’s greatest philosophers: Dr. Seuss.  It’s called O, the Places You’ll Go.  Dr. Seuss describes life as this long journey of ups and downs, celebrations and failures.  But one stage of life is often “The Waiting Place”:
        a most useless place … 
        … for people just waiting.
        Waiting for a train to go
        Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
        Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
        Or waiting around for a Yes or a No
        Or waiting for their hair to grow.
        Everyone is just waiting. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Success and Failure

Do not run to success
   For success may bring
      As much burden as blessing.

Do not run from failure
   For failure may bring
      As much blessing as burden.

Run only to God
   For God will bring
       All that we need.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hiding Place - Review

I grew up with my mom talking about The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boon.  She told and retold several of the stories until I felt like I had already read the book.  In my university ethics class, the professor referenced Corrie Ten Boon's ethical disagreements with her sister about whether it is ever OK to lie - even when lying might protect a human life.  Corrie Ten Boon's story has taken on the aura of a modern Christian legend.
As I picked up the book to read, I honestly had a mixture of interest and skepticism.  The interest came from the recognition that it must be a classic for a reason, and I guess the skepticism came from the postmodern distrust of easy answers from modernism.  Both my interest and my skepticism were rewarded, though not in equal measure. 
I was entranced by the story of Corrie's Dutch family's resistance to Nazism through underground work and care for the weak.  This was one of those books that I found myself reading at every spare minute at home.  Also, the way Corrie's family engages their faith in a good God while evil triumphs temporarily was fascinating and heart-warming.
A few times, though, I found myself uncomfortable with Corries sense that God was working in the tiny details of her life.  I heard the echos of my doubting friends in my head.  "If God could miraculously smuggle a Bible into her prison cell, why didn't he just eliminate the prison all together?" 
However, the co-existence of obvious tiny miracles and huge evils pushed me toward humility in determining what God should do in our world.  This juxtaposition pushed on me the realization that God can't always do what God wants to do because we humans often resist his desires. 
Also, Corrie found that even problems like fleas in their concentration camp barracks could become blessings (annoying critters that kept the even more bothersome German guards away).  Again, this pushed me toward humility - realizing that we often cannot see the total picture of what is good or bad for us at a given time.  The best response to all our circumstances is joyful trust in our Father - even if that does seem irrational or even lame at times.
This is a very good read, and although I don't agree with her perspective 100% percent, I certainly agree with and am inspired by her heart and life.
The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sanctuary - Review

William Faulkner's Sanctuary was the best, weirdest, darkest, most difficult novel I've read in a while.  It was like reading a novel through a kaleidoscope.  The characters, settings, and times shift and turn at a dizzying pace.
Half-way through the novel, he gives information that makes sense of the opening scenes.  Even in the closing chapters, information unfolds that interprets many of the mysterious edges that haunted the whole novel.
It's almost as if Faulkner has this huge entrancing photograph that he has torn into little bits.  Then, he takes the readers through the frustratingly entrancing process of reassembling the original image.
This is not a novel for the faint at heart.  It deals with rape, murder, impotence, racism, class-ism, divorce, adultery, alcoholism, and more.  The general message seems to be that our world is a tangled up mess, where all our broken pieces are more connected to everyone else's broken pieces more than we'd like to admit.
The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Indian in the Cupboard - Review

Emma and I just finished reading Indian in the Cupboard, the classic children's novel by Lynne Reid Banks.  A boy named Omri finds a magic combination of an old cupboard and a mysterious old key that makes his plastic figurines turn to life.  In addition, to the suspenseful and and entrancing story, this book teaches the values of empathy and unselfishness.  As Omri gets to know his little people better, he learns to view the world from their perspective and to put their well-being above his own personal desires.
This is a great book for parents to read together with children.  Emma and I both enjoyed the reading and looked forward to our nights with "The Indian." The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The African Queen (Best Movie #17) - Review

The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, ranks as the #17 best movie of all time on the American Film Institute's top 100 list.  This is one of the few older romantic comedies that we didn't find supremely cheesy.  Sure, it has its moments, but overall, this is a movie about one person coming out of her shell and two people falling in love.
Katherine Hepburn is a missionary in Africa when World War 2 breaks out.  The colonial territories of Germany and Great Britain are caught up in the conflict.  When her brother dies, she must ride to safety on the old river boat of the kind but rough Humphrey Bogart.  She slowly develops respect for him and freedom to be herself, and eventually they fall in love.  Without giving away the ending, there is an over-the-top but artistic ending that wraps the movie in a pretty bow.
One refreshing element of this movie was the modesty.  If this movie was made today, it would have been filled with nudity and sex.  However, The African Queen  has them taking dips into the river in their boxers and bloomers.  That might not be as realistic, but it was nice to be able to watch a movie without having to deal with that temptation.
The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Korea Tip 118: Getting a Teaching Job in Korea

"I'm thinking of working in Korea.  What should I do to prepare?  What advice do you have for me?"
I've been getting these questions a lot lately.  Here are my answers.

1) Work for a reliable institution.  You are usually safer with universities or public schools (or programs working with public schools).  As a general rule of thumb, the larger the institution and the older the English teaching program, the safer it is as a workplace.  Here are some I recommend:

2) Start early.  Korea requires more and more documentation and authentication every year.  Some of those documents can take a great deal of time to obtain.

3) Maintain healthy skepticism.  Most employers and most recruiters are pretty good people who will treat you pretty well, but there are some real scumbags out there.  Check the wages compared to other jobs with similar working hours.  Ask to speak with a current or former employee (a foreigner if possible). 

4) Check out the area.  While public transportation here is good, its quality diminishes dramatically outside major cities.  Be aware that if you live in the sticks, you may have to buy a car or suffer the randomness of buses beyond your control.  If you're a Christian, you'll want to be looking for an English speaking church within reasonable commuting distance.

5) Know your rights.  We're currently working on an English Teacher's Rights guide.  Stay tuned here for that posting coming soon.  In the meantime, make sure your potential employer plans to provide you with health insurance and pension. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nazarene Heritage: Unity (Snakes in a Church)

Numbers 21:4-9
 4 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”
 6 So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.
 8 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

    Snakes on a Plane was possibly the worst movie made in the last ten years.  The basic concept is that someone releases hundreds of poisonous snakes on a plane flying over the Pacific Ocean.  They can’t land, and they can’t get the snakes out.  Just so you don’t have to watch it, let me give you the summary.  It’s a bad movie, and lots of people die.
    At the risk of extreme cheesiness and possible biblical irreverence, I want to use snakes as a theme for our talk today on unity.  You might call this sermon Snakes in a Church.   Let me give you the summary.  It’s a bad problem, and lots of people die - spiritually. 
    In Moses’ story, God sent the snakes as a punishment for Israel’s complaining and lack of faith.  In our story, the snakes are more the cause of the problems.  Our snakes are our sneaky, sneaking sins that hide in the darkness, tell us lies, and masquerade as truth.  They poison our lives, and they poison our churches.  Both stories point to Jesus as the cure. 

24/7 Video

Our church is doing our 4th session of 24/7 Prayer in a few weeks.  We'll be using this video to help promote it in our church.  It fits perfectly with our theme of unity for this week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Friday Night Lights - Review

Four years ago, Sarah gave me the first season of Friday Night Lights for my birthday.  I absolutely loved it.  The high school football, the small town drama, the Texas setting, all brought back waves of memories for me.  That's why I started watching.  I kept watching because this show deals fearlessly with nearly every major issue of our society in mostly positive ways.  (Season 2 is a little weak and soap-opera-esque, but my friend Matt wisely advised us that it gets better.)

Relevant Magazine published several articles on Friday Night Lights which are well worth reading:
Some of the highlights of the show for me:
  • Without a doubt, the best part of the show is the honest, loving, committed, flawed, enduring relationship of the coach and his wife.  They really love each other.  They really hurt each other.  They really find ways to forgive, to find healing, and to stay happy together.  Sarah and I often caught ourselves laughing at the familiarity of their arguments: "Do not whisper-yell at me!" 
  • I love watching the coach's leadership process.  He's way different than me - way more silent and way less encouraging, but he's very honest and very good at what he does.  As a leader, I love watching a good leader lead.
  • Honest struggles with friendship, faith, pain, family, failure, healing, injustice, loneliness, and nearly every other issue of life pepper the show.
  • The dialog and artistry rivals that in any movie.  I rarely, rarely ended an episode feeling my cheese-alert go off.  That is a rare event in today's television market.
The Josh rating: hands down 5 Js: JJJJJ.  If you want to understand more about American culture, this is a must watch series.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wild Blood

Wild blood climbing up a tree
Wild blood climbing up me
Thorns in the bushes
Thorns in the vines
Thorns in the rushes
Of unsettled times
Wild blood in the street
Wild blood on our feet
Forgot our shoes
Forgot how to lose
Rush out, rush in
Again and again
Thorns on the hills
Thorns on our hands
Thorns in the ills
Of unsettled lands
Wild blood roses unpreened
Wild blood roses unseen

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dying to Live

Our small group is discussing this video this week.  A medical doctor is diagnosed with terminal cancer and discusses how this effects her spiritual journey.  (Thanks for the recommendation, Pete.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arise and Shine - Engage Magazine Article

-- This article originally appeared at:   --

 Baptism speaks of a new life, and on September 4 we witnessed this glorious sacrament in abundance as nine people rose up from the waters at KNU International English Church (at Korea Nazarene University). In golden letters on a wall overlooking the plaza, 'Arise, shine' (Isaiah 60:1) formed a fitting backdrop for Christians arising from the water aglow with sunlight.

The baptism testimonies were as different as you would expect in a group hailing from four countries and spread over three generations.

Undoubtedly, one of the most uplifting stories shared was from Mrs. Lee, a mother of two teenage sons who were also baptized. As one of her sons translated, she spoke of her life without God for 27 years and how she had slowly started experiencing the Lord in her life again. Even though she doesn't speak English well, with help from the pastors and the Holy Spirit, she has overcome the language barrier. One night she dreamed she met God in a room with a white wall and high ceiling. Later in the week she joined her sons in the church's 24/7 prayer room, and she was shocked to see the same room where she had met the Lord in her dream. She immediately broke down in tears, and soon after she gave her life to Christ.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Korea Tip 117: A Few Good Articles on North and South Korea

1. North Korea's Patchy Capitalism.  Due to the total failure of the government controlled system, North Korean citizens of all levels are resorting to gray-market capitalism.  Simply to purchase food and fuel, they must barter services and goods on the open market.  This hints at hopes and problems for unification.

2. Better Food-Aid to North Korea.  20 years of food assistance has failed to relieve chronic food-insecurity in North Korea, and hundreds of thousands have starved.  This is largely due to the governments incapacity and unwillingness to distribute the aid effectively and fairly.  Therefore, future aid programs need more stringent demands for outside involvement

3. Capitalism's Unstoppable Bubbling Up.  Once you start, you can't stop.  Capitalism is coming to North Korea, largely tainted with corruption and black markets, but still coming.  This is the crack in the communist system that will shatter it.  (This is why we should release all sanctions and invest and trade heavily with North Korea.)

4. Multiculturalism in South Korea. With increasing numbers of long-term foreign residents and multicultural marriages, South Korea is quickly losing its homogeneous make-up.  By 2020, 1/3 of all children born in South Korea may be multi-ethnic.  South Korea is still very much in the growing pains on adjusting to multiculturalism, but there are some signs of hope.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nazarene Heritage Week 2: Wesley and Bresee (All Saints Day)

Today is All Saints Day - a day to remember people who have followed Jesus especially well. Nazarenes donʼt usually celebrate All Saints Day, but weʼre missing out.
All Saints Day is an important part of Christian tradition, and it was actually John Wesleyʼs favorite day of the church year. All Saints Day is a great opportunity for us to remember the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Listen to how John the Revelator describes this great crowd in his vision of
heaven in Revelation 7:9-17.
 9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout,“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”
 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,
   “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor
   and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
[3] 13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”
 14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”
   Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.
 15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple.   And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter.
 16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
 17 For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd.  He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

There will come a time, when we will stand with the saints from every tribe and language and culture and time - all those who have ever trusted in the Jesus as the Lamb of God. Together we will sing praises to God. We will be one people, healed together by his love.

All Saints Day is a day to practice this corporate worship and unity now - here on earth. We stand today with the saints of Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Americas. We stand today with the saints of the first humans, the first Israelites, the first Christians, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Industrial Age, our own time, and all times yet to come. Together, we are Godʼs people. Together, we worship him. Together, we learn what it means to follow him.

Today, as part of our study of our Nazarene Heritage, we are focusing on the two most important saints in our history: John Wesley and Phineas Bresee. As we talk about these two leaders and how God used them, my prayer is that we will catch some of their passion and let God use us in similar ways.