Friday, March 29, 2013

Relearning America 004: Cars and Driving

I'd been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading getting a car.  In South Korea, where we lived within a mile of almost everything we needed and had public transportation for the rest, cars were an unnecessary and (mostly) undesired luxury.
But we're in America now, the place that has more land than we know what to do with, cars are a necessity in most places here.  We quickly bit the bullet with a good deal on a minivan.  We've also been blesses with a few people generously loaning us their cars.  I thought we were done with the process when we finally paid for the car and drove away, but I forgot about insurance, registration, and all of the other paperwork.  On the docket for next week is buying one more car (for me), and getting both cars registered and plated.

Definite culture shock at the gas pump.  Even though gas is about half the price of what it costs in Korea, it's still loads more than a bus or subway ticket.  Coughing out 50 or 60 bucks at a time just for transportation still hurts.  And I haven't eve
n had to pay for any repairs yet!
Yes, I love/hate to drive.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good News About Poverty

Finally some good news about global poverty.  Bono shares some shocking statistics about our progress in fighting extreme poverty around the world.  If you have ever had any doubts about whether we can do anything meaningful about poverty, you must watch this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Temptation to Take Over (Palm Sunday)

First, I want to start out by thanking Greg for giving me an easy topic for my first Sunday preaching here.  I get all the really easy stuff like temptation, evil, deliverance, prayer, - oh and tie it all into Palm Sunday while you’re at it.  Now to be fair, Greg said I could wuss out and take the sermon on forgiveness last week.  He didn’t actually say the words “wuss out,” but I could see it in his eyes.  
But, since I’m not a sissy preacher, here I am, and here you are.  We’ve got a tough text on a tough Sunday, so let’s dig in.

Jesus enters Jerusalem with the crowds shouting, Hosanna!  Now, that’s not a word we use everyday.  
  • How are you today?  Hosanna!   
  • The Hoosiers won again.  Hosanna!  
If this word isn’t from our daily vocabulary, it must come from somewhere else.  It must have a whole other background and history.  
Hosanna is actually a Hebrew word, and it is used several times in the Psalms.  It means literally, “Lord, save us!”  But it also has the connotation of praise, something like Hallelujah! 
But there’s even more background for this word.  Remember Jerusalem was chock-full of Jews because it was the beginning of the Passover Festival.  This was the time when the Israelites remembered how God set them free from slavery in Egypt.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of Jews flocked to Jerusalem to pray for freedom again - freedom from the oppression of the Roman Empire.  And every year at Passover, the Roman armies in Jerusalem went on red alert, with every soldier on duty and every garrison ready for war - just in case the people revolted, again.
So when Jesus enters Jerusalem, and people start shouting “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the King of Israel!” this is not normal.  Even more, they are waving palm branches, which was a special kind of cultural celebration to welcome a king. 
So these Jews aren’t just throwing confetti.  They aren’t just having a welcome-to-Jerusalem party for Jesus.  They are welcoming a Messiah to set them free.  
  In the first few centuries after Jesus, various Jewish leaders led revolts claiming to be the Messiah.  Archeologists discovered some coins from one of these periods of revolt.  They were the normal Jewish coins with the face of Caesar, but over the top of Caesar’s face was stamped the image of a palm branch.  
So in our passage today, Palm Sunday and “Hosanna” are not innocent images of joy and praise, these are the actions and words of revolt.  These people were trying to start a revolt.  They were declaring to all the world that Jesus was their new king.

But here’s the real question.  Why did they want Jesus as their king?  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Relearning America: 003 - Boogie Board Sledding

The skies over Indiana gifted us with 12.5 inches of snow on Tuesday, and Wednesday night prayer meeting was canceled, so the obvious response is to get the kids and go sledding.   If you can't pray together, at least play together!
Our host proved abundantly hospitable again, this time loaning us the use of two boogie boards her sons picked up on a vacation to Hawaii.  Boogie boards are actually designed as surfboard substitutes for the oceans, but somewhere along the way, people discovered that they skim across snow just as well.
Together with Greg (my new lead pastor) and his kids, we zinged up and down a nice little hill dozens of times.  We wore out the kids, and the adults were even starting to sweat.  
The best line of the day came from Greg: "Best staff meeting ever!"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Relearning America: 002 - Snow Blowers

Texas doesn't have many snow blowers.  When it snowed in Houston, it was a few little flurries once every five years, and everyone rushed outside to witness this strange event.
But today, when we got home I heard a strange humming sound, kind of a cross between a lawn mower and a chainsaw.  Snow blowers.
Then, I learned how to crank one up and do it myself.  Our lovely host, Pam, showed me the snow blowing ropes, and I gave her driveway a good workover.  I'll try to clear it again tonight or tomorrow morning - paying our rent in labor.
We probably won't buy a snow blower when we get our own home, but I'm sure there will be days when I'll want one.   Welcome to Indiana.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Relearning America: 001 - Alpo Tacos

My family and I just moved back to America after nearly 9 years away, so naturally we're going to have some reverse culture shock.  Of course, we came home for vacations and visits to family every so often, but that in itself brings its own culture shock.  You mean America isn't the land of perpetual vacation and crossword puzzles?!
I just finished up a series of 100 Things I Love About Korea.  (See the archives at the right.)  So I'm going to follow that with 100 Things I'm (re)learning about America.

One of our first lessons came today.  We were making lunch - just sandwiches or wraps or whatever people wanted.  Emma was making a taco.  She reached into the fridge and pulled out an innocuous red can.   She asked if she could put some of it on her taco.  I briefly glanced up from my crossword puzzle (still slightly in vacation mode), and I saw what looked like refried beans, so I said, "Sure."
About five minutes later I get up to rustle up my own grub, and as I'm milling about the counter I take a closer look at that red can.  The picture looks great, but then I read the label: ALPO.
I quickly scan the counter and locate both my daughter and her father-approved taco.  Oh, thank God, she hadn't eaten any yet.  "Emma, I don't think you should eat that taco.  That's not refried beans.  That's dog food...  I mean, you probably could eat it.  It's probably safe, but I wouldn't recommend it since it IS dog food."

Lesson #1: Don't be fooled by those pretty pictures, read the labels.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Disintegration of a Home

(I actually wrote this in November, and as I was cleaning out my desk, I realized I had never posted it.)

First a friend came over
And left with picture frames
And poker chips.
Brickabrack in storage
Emerged as hearty substitutes
For their departed peers.
When the plants walked away,
They left a barren wasteland,
Until we decorated for
One last Christmas.
Tomorrow we’ve invited loving buzzards:
“Come. Pick the flesh off our bones.”
How to donate the old piano?
Given us via cancer,
Too precious to sell,
Too large to pack.
Few, few, very few
Treasures will be packed,
The well-loved sediment of our lives,
Seeds to start again,
Grafts to rebuild,
As we move home again
To the place where we
Have no home.