Wednesday, October 31, 2012

100 Things I Love About Korea: #3 - WolBong Mountain

I love mountains and nature, so WolBong Mountain is one of my favorite parts of Korea.  As far as mountains go, it's pretty small.  It's really a range of wooded hills with a hiking trail along the ridge, but I love it.  I've walked every inch of that trail for eight years.  I've counted the wooden steps.  I've explored all the side trails.  I've found the quietest corners to pray and to watch the animals.  
When I pass that threshold from field to forest, something changes in my psyche.  I feel that I have moved into God's domain, stepped into his loving embrace a little more fully.  I feel appropriately small before its largess (muted as it may be).  
WolBong Mountain is literally 2-3 minutes from our apartment, and I can walk the short side of the trail and get back within 30 minutes or the longer side in 40 minutes.  Or, I can take a pocket Bible and "camp out" for a while in solitude on one of the slopes.  
One of the beautiful quirks of Wolbong Mountain is that the undergrowth is dotted with scraggly azalea bushes.  Because of the thick trees overhead and lack of grooming, they never grow into the beautiful clouds of flowers that line landscaped buildings.  However, in spring they are like little starbursts of color amid the dull brown of the forest underworld.  
I will definitely miss my mountain.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

100 Things I Love About Korea: #2 - Universal Health Care

     Don't let the fear mongers win.  Universal, government-controlled healthcare is great!  One of the best parts of living in Korea is having very cheap, very good health care, and it's all extremely accessible.  Just walk in, and you usually see the doctor within 10 minutes without an appointment!  Nobody tells me which doctor to see.  I have full freedom of choice.  It's just that the government is everybody's primary insurer.
     An average doctor's visit costs about US$3.  An average prescription costs about $4.  Can't beat that.  Prices go up for specialists and special medicines.  My allergy medicines cost a total of about $25 for a six week supply, but that's for three different brand name drugs.  In the USA, that would easily cost over $100 even with insurance.
     The downside of the the government insurance is that it's great for the small, normal stuff, but not so good for the really expensive stuff.  Korea has a booming market in supplementary insurance for large medical costs.  However, for about $70 a month, our whole family has basic insurance.  That would be a massive improvement over the US system - almost beyond the power of adjectives to describe.
     And, in case you're concerned about the quality of care, my layman's estimate is that the quality is about 90% as good as in the USA.  And those deficiencies don't stem from the system itself, but rather from the fact that 50 years ago Korea was one of the poorest nations on earth.  It's still catching up in some areas.   For a more thorough look at Korea's health care system, check out this excellent explanation on Ask A Korean.

100 Things I Love About Korea: #1: Food - Kimbap

We're moving away from Korea in something like 120 days.  As part of saying goodbye, I'm going to try to blog about the 100 things I love about Korea.  These will come in no particular order, but only as the spirit of the day moves me.

Right off the bat, I have to declare my love for Kimbap - that omnipresent Korean fast food, loosely related to sushi.
However, it wasn't love at first sight.  One day into my life into our 8+ years in Korea, our host for the day - the incredible Jean Johnson - took us shopping, and we stopped for lunch.  My meal was kimbap, which is rice, vegetables, imitation crab, ham, egg, and processed fish - all wrapped inside blackish-green seaweed paper.  I was pretty intimidated at first, and that doesn't often happen with me and food. I actually said to myself, "Well, it doesn't kill them, so I guess it's safe to eat."
I don't remember especially liking it on that first day, but I ate it.  And, lo and behold, it grew on me.  Especially after I discovered "Chamchi Kimbap" or Tuna Kimbap.  It's kind of like tuna salad and rice, all wrapped up into bite-sized chunks.
Kimbap is a nutritionally balanced, tasty meal, ready in about a minute, easy to eat on the go, and all for the low price of $1-2.  Gotta love that.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Hard Part - We're Moving

[I shared this at our church's annual meeting October 21.  I announced our plans in the worship service today, October 28.  I'm posting it now so that anyone who missed the meeting can read the full explanation.]

I’ve saved the hard part of the meeting for the end.  There is no easy way to do this, so I’ll just get started.  After much prayer and consideration, our family has decided to move back to the USA.  I have accepted a position at a Nazarene church near Chicago.  I will be an associate pastor, with an emphasis on missions and missional communities.  We expect to leave in late February, and in the meantime, I’ll be helping our church here prepare for the transition.
After some of my teasing sermon illustrations in the past, I feel like I should take a moment now to say that this is not a joke or a clever lead-in for a point later.  This is real.  For the rest of this time, I want to talk about four basic points
  • Why we are moving at this time
  • Why we are moving to this place
  • Some confirmations I’ve experienced
  • What’s next for our KNU International English Church.
I hope these will answer most of your questions, but after I’m done we will take time for some questions as well.

Why We Praise (Habakkuk 3)

This is a guest post by our assistant pastor, Matt Banner.
Habakkuk 3
3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran.

His glory covered the heavens
    and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
    rays flashed from his hand,
    where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
    pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
    the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Retro Poem #17: Nothing Words

That was a nothing voice
That spoke in a nothing way
When it spoke to me about holiness.
They were nothing words 
Because I did not believe
I did not believe it was possible 
To live the kind of life
They proclaimed.
I had tried and failed.
I did not believe.
My experience taught me otherwise.
That was a nothing voice
That spoke in a nothing way
Because I did not believe.
I closed my ears
And embittered my heart
When they spoke in nothing words
A doctrine of holiness.
I did not believe.
My experience taught me otherwise.

But God will prove his person
To those who seek his face.
In his something way,
He found a path around 
My nothing walls
And slowly peeked His 
Holy light into my heart
And showed me His holy face.
In his something way,
He has removed my bitterness
And replaced it with passion,
Longing to be holy
Because of my holy God,
Who is Holy Love.
I stand longing yet resting,
Resting in what I have in Christ,
Who I have in Christ.
He in me, and I in him,
He is my life, my peace, my holiness.
God, in his something way,
Has moved me from bitterness, 
     to longing, to rest.
We serve a something God
Who dissolves our nothing walls
If we seek his face.

Written in 1998

Monday, October 22, 2012

Retro Poem #16: One Day

One day will I father your children?
One day will I love you so uncontrollably
that I cannot imagine the possibility
of being with someone else?
One day will I know without the faintest shadows of doubt
that I love you with all I am?
One day will I see you walk down an aisle to me?
One day will we travel the world together?
One day will you be my closest and dearest friend?
One day will I come home to you?
One day will we serve our Lord
in a lifetime of ministry together?
One day will I not know what I would ever do without you?

Maybe so my dear,
But one day is not today.
I cannot live or figure out one day today.
Yet today is one day.
So let us walk hand in hand on this one day,
Truly living each single day
As we move ever closer to one day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vision Sunday 2012

Today, we are celebrating our vision as a church.  We are celebrating what God has been doing among us over the past year, and we are looking forward to how God will do more and more next year.  To help us understand this on more personal terms, three separate people will come up at different times and share how God has been working in their lives.  Each person will tell how God has made one part of our vision real for them this year.

Vision Story #1 - Renewed by God’s Love:  Sarah Bean
I’ve been a Christian all my life.  My parents were pastors.  The church has always been my home.  I have grown up knowing that God loves me.  That is not a new thing for me.  But this year, I have begun to experience God’s love in a new way. 
For those of you who know me well, you know that I’ve had a rough time this past year.  I’ve been under a lot of stress at school.  I’ve been homesick for my family.  I have struggled with doubts.  You know those kind of unanswerable questions of faith – Why do bad things happen to good people?  If God is taking care of me, why do I feel uncared for?  If God can do anything, why doesn’t he step in to help me?  Is God even listening to my prayers?  What does God want from me?  I think that every person who believes - at some point or another - will have seasons of struggle, where you feel silence, where you feel alone, where you feel lost.
Again for those of you who know me well, you know that I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  I pride myself on being good.  And I’m good at being good.  I’m responsible.  I do what I am supposed to.  I do the right thing.  I want to make my parents proud.  I want to please people.  I want to please God.  I want him to be proud of me.
Part of my crisis this past year has been the reality that even though I’m doing all the right things, I still feel lost.  Even my best effort falls short of perfect.  Sometimes the best you can do just isn’t good enough.  We are all a bit broken – and we can’t fix ourselves up.
In the midst of this struggle, I have experienced a beautiful truth that I have always known.  God loves me.  God doesn’t just love the things I can do – God loves ME.  Broken, messed up, doubting, lost little me.  And there is nothing I can do to make God love me more. He already loves me to the max.  He loved me to the cross.  He loved me before I was even capable of loving him back.
With all of my failures and all of my fears and all of my weaknesses – He sees me with my faults, he knows me for the mess that I am – and he still loves me!  He calls my name, and says, “Daughter, you belong to me, and I am proud of you.”  He doesn’t ask me to be perfect.  He doesn’t ask me to fix myself.  All he asks of me is to fall into his hands as broken as I am.  
I think we all know God loves us.  But this year I have come to experience that truth.  Not just on an intellectual level, but deep in my core.  And I am thankful beyond what any words can say.  I am thankful even for the painful journey that brought me to this place.  I don’t know where you are right now, what doubts you may be wrestling with, what pain you may be experiencing – But hang on…because God loves you!  He loves you to the max!  There is nothing we can do to make God love us more!  Even in desert places of dark and silence, he is there – waiting for us to experience in a fresh way the renewal of his love.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How Can I Know If What Is Happening Is God's Will? (Talk Back Series)

Talk Back Question:  How can I know if what is happening in my life is the will of God or because of my own choices?
[This question can in on a Talk Back card at our church.]

That is a very good question to ask and the answer goes a little deeper.
Just like Habakkuk, we have to have faith in God.  We know that with the fall of human kind, sin entered into the world, and that sin can interfere in our lives.  Let’s look at 1 John chapter 5: 
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
In 1 John 5, we learn that if we believe that Christ is our savior and we love him, we will carry out his commands. By carrying out his commands we overcome the world!  This passage is letting us know a few miraculous blessings from God. 
  1. When we confess and are saved by Jesus Christ, we are reborn into God’s family and we are His children. Just like when we were children, we follow and listen to our parents. We must do the same with God!
  2. That we need to know God’s commands.  How? By reading, studying and understanding the word of God –the Holy Bible. 
  3. If we follow his commands and seek God’s will, then we do not have to worry about what is happening in our lives! We know that God is in control.

Also, from 1 John 5:
14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.
These verses show us that when we talk to God, we don’t demand what we want. When we become Christians, we become slaves to Christ (Ephesians 6:6) and to God. Our will, our thinking is no longer about us!  It is about God’s will!  When we pray for God’s will, he will listen to us, and we can be certain that he will intervene in our lives.
So how does this answer the question?  Well, if we are seeking God and His will, we can be confident that no matter what happens, God will guide us.  We must pray and seek guidance and have confidence that God is showing us His will. Sometimes God is very direct, and sometimes he is not.  He did give us a free will to choose and God wants us to be happy serving Him.  Sometimes the choices may be entirely up to you!  God doesn’t nitpick out lives!  Trust in God, and your prayers. 

[Answered by our youth pastor, Adam Jantz.]

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Just Trust (Habakkuk 2)

You talked back, and we heard.
  • Why does God create people with mental illnesses?
  • Why do so many people do good with bad results or do bad and are constantly blessed?
  • If God is love, and God is good, then why does a good God allow suffering?
You talked back, and God heard you.  Before you even asked the questions, almost a year ago, God led our worship planners to plan a series on the Minor Prophets.  Somehow,God led us to the book of Habakkuk, which answers your questions directly.  
Habakkuk has the same kinds of questions.  Adam introduced them last week.  
  • Why is there so much injustice in the world?
  • How can God allow evil people to prosper while good people suffer?
  • Where is the God who is supposed to protect us and to take care of us?
  • Where is the justice in this messed up world?
Even a prophet has doubts and questions.  Perhaps, it’s the prophets especially who voice the questions and doubts.  Maybe they are the honest ones who say what everyone is thinking and feeling.

It’s time for you to get a little prophetic.  In your bulletin, you’ll find a piece of black paper.  On this paper, write down your biggest doubts and questions about our world.  How is our world unjust?  What bothers you the most about our world?  When you think abou the global situation or your personal life situation, what makes you really angry?  Write it down.  I’m not going to ask you to read it to anyone or to talk to anyone.  The paper is black so that even your neighbor or your spouse can’t read what you’re writing.  Be completely honest.  Use all caps and explanation points and curse words if you want.  No one will see it.
OK, go ahead and write.

Now, hold on to that paper and that doubt for a few minutes as we turn to Habakkuk.  He asked God his questions.  He shouted at God, and then God answered.  Today, we’re going to read Habakkuk 2, which gives us God’s longest answer to Habakkuk.  We’ll start where Adam left off last week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Retro Poem #15: I Know Not What Love Is

I love you.
I believe I love you,
Yet I know not what love is.
Is it an emotion or a feeling
As some define it?
Is love only love when it is worked out by actions,
As I have recently thought?
Must I know beyond a doubt 
That marriage is our future?
Must I swear, “For life, for death!”
As Browning so eloquently explains?
Is love only love
If I know beyond a doubt
That I want to spend my entire life with you?
Must I not say, “I love you,”
Unless I am prepared to follow it with 
“Will you marry me?”
Is that the only option?
O, my dear, I feel that I love you,
But I know not what love is.

If love is all these things,
Then I fear I do not hold it.
I am not ready to commit my life to you.
Yet is that an inherent condition for you?
Can love be so concretely defined?
I want to love you,
But I know not what love is.

Can we engage in love
Without fully understanding it?
If not, none save Christ has ever loved?
Is love all that we have said
And unimaginably more?
Can we walk hand in hand
Along the shores of this abyss,
Knowing we are not as deep as others,
Recognizing we are entering the same amorous abyss,
Walking deeper every day,
Letting love’s sweet waves lap against
our feet, our calves
our thighs, our waists
our chests, our smiling faces
Until we are completely immersed
And continue walking deeper still?
Can we do this?
Is this process - this long walk down the shores
Love itself?
Is the journey the essence of the love?
If it is, I gladly continue
What we’ve already begun.
My love, I want to love you,
But I know not what love is.

Written in 2000.

Retro Poem #14: Good and Gone

It was good
And it is gone
Though not completely
In my memory room
There is a special box of memories
With her name 
And pretty face

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Retro Poem #13: Compared to You

When I see other women
Whose frames are alluring,
My manhood enjoys their luring,
But then, my dear, just then - 
I think of you and who you are
Though their suits reveal alluring limbs,
Next to you, their beauty dims
Like a candle before a star.

(written in 2000)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Even Prophets Have Doubts? (Habakkuk 1)

[This is the first week in our series on the Minor Prophets, specifically Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Our Youth Pastor, Adam Jantz, is batting lead-off.]

Have you ever been mad at your parents? I mean really mad…. Like so mad you didn’t even want to think to them, obey them, and just felt like… It is entirely their fault for this situation that I am in! You get so mad with your parents and so frustrated for not fixing the situation, you just didn’t know what to do and why they are taking sooooo long to fix the situation…. Why not Now! 
Eventually you realize you have to turn back to your parents… Yeah, the one you just said you would never talk to again!  Then you felt ashamed, maybe a little regretful and, if you are like me, a little stupid for making a mess of things… You wanted answers and you were troubled that you couldn’t get any.
Well I am sure all of us have there or thought about going there for one reason or another… 
Let’s take this a little further... let’s replace “parents” with “God.”
Have you ever been mad at God? I mean really mad… Like so mad you didn’t even want to think about God, obey Him, and just felt like… It is all God’s fault for this situation that I am in!  You get so mad with God and so frustrated with God for not fixing the situation, you just didn’t know what to do and why he is taking sooooo long to fix the situation… Why not Now! 

Retro Poem #12: Creek Bed Creatures

[I wrote this poem in 1999, while walking a trail along a creek in Olathe, KS.]

I see a doe and her fawns
In a creek bed in a small wooded area
In the middle of town.
These woods creatures
Are meant to have the forest as their kingdom.
Instead the are relegated here
To the refuge of the creek bed.
A house on one side
And a paved walking trail on the other,
Yet their little enclave here
Is a snapshot of nature.
They bed in the leaves
While two squirrels dance and scurry about
Looking for acorns or something interesting.
Right here we have the Nature Channel
Live, in action, in Olathe.
Two of the watch me
Preparing to escape if necessary.
I don’t move;
Neither do they.
The squirrels continue in their dancing work.
The oldest fawn stands.
It is old;
It is tall, and it has lost it’s spots.
I still don’t move.
I have stayed too long.
The other two rise.
They begin their retreat;
I continue on my way.

What is it in this world
That changes kingdom creatures
Into creek bed creatures?
Is it the same thing 
That has littered this creek bed 
With trash and plastic debris?
These beautiful creatures have been forced out.
Their kingdom has been conquered
By the expansion of man,
By our growing population,
By our houses with big yards.

I am grateful to see these creek bed creatures
And their five minutes of nature,
For I fear
There aren’t many creek beds left.