Fasting from the Book of Faces

In efforts to have more vision from the Lord, my mentor suggested we all do a 3 day fast. I immediately heard God say, “Yep, do it! You know what I’m talking about.”

Facebook….fast from Facebook.

Now, along with everyone else, I agree. It’s a huge waste of time, filled with a bunch of crap from other people’s lives that I don’t give $.02 (2 cents) about…(that reminds me, whatever happened to the “cents” sign? I remember writing a small “c”…or backwards was it (?), with a vertical line through it in school. Is change really that unimportant now?) Anyways, I don’t care that people are going to bed, and I REALLY don’t care that people are going to the gym. BUT when you’re living in the desert (a.k.a. China…there’s more to it but that’s another story) there’s things you find interesting that wouldn’t normally tug at you…pics of Hawaii, someone’s kid’s tooth fell out, people having the sniffles…I’m already starting not to care. If for nothing else than the pure fact that you have a pseudo-connection with people to keep you sane and make you falsely feel like others care about what YOU’RE doing. That’s me.

Because when I turn off Facebook it’s just me and God…hmmm, a novel idea. No distractions? Why don’t I want more of this? (God usually doesn’t give instant gratification that my generation has been raised to expect, and I, for one, hate that I’m a victim an addict to it just as much as the next person.)

So, at 7pm (Hawaii time, because that’s what my computer’s time is still on) yesterday I “x”ed out of Facebook, not to be turned on until 1pm Sunday (China time). [Oh yeah, and speaking of fasting; aren’t you, like, not supposed to tell anyone?…Well, this preacher’s-kid has never been one for rules and regulations. It just brings out the rebel in me, and I DO NOT need anymore of THAT lady.

So naturally, I immediately log into Twitter. “You specifically said Facebook, God. You didn’t say anything about Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.”

I went on to “tweet” something stupid that no one cares about and will never see…No, wait, that’s wrong too. I attached Twitter to my blog so people will see it now. WHY DO I DO THESE THINGS?! “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, Emily.”

I can remember a time when the only time I checked Facebook was in the computer lab at school because I didn’t even own my own laptop and Tweeting just sounded dirty. (It may have come out the same time as that song with the “skeet skeet skeet”.)

So, this morning, while doing my devos I committed to fasting from ALL social media. I figured, if nothing else, it’ll inspire me to write more and hey, look, here I am! I told God in my devos today “I don’t even know what I’m looking for.” To which he reminded me of Romans 8:26. Then I just simply said, like I do everyday “What would you have for me today, Lord?”

English AND Chinese…double whammy!

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9

That’s it! We fast for discernment, to know what’s best. And isn’t it true that we make better decisions when not distracted?! Thanks God!

I prayed this over my sisters in my Bible study group. For me, yes, I struggle with wanting to know details, but I’m always reminded to keep it simple. Seek HIS will, not my own. Bring glory to HIM, not myself. Build HIS kingdom, not my own. The rest is gravy!

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Would You Rather?

You know that game “Would You Rather”? It’s a silly ice-breaker game where you ask people what they’d prefer between two evils. Well, I’ve got one for you:

Would you rather die by being set on fire OR by going to English Corner and listening to broken English for 2 hours after teaching ESL for 8 hours that same day?

NO CONTEST!

English Corner is, by far, the hardest thing for me to make myself attend. I love these girls here at Hwa Nan, but 1) Those girls aren’t MY girls. They’re from different departments. Yes, I do play favorites. 2) No EFL (English as a First Language) speakers stand around in a circle taking uninterrupted turns answering pre-staged questions. In fact, I’m not sure any language works that way. It’s not natural. You have a meal together, you get coffee, drinks, whatever, but you don’t call your friend two days before and say, “Hey, on Friday night, let’s meet under the light post and talk about these three questions. 1.Would you rather be a bird or a fish? 2.What’s your favorite movie? and 3.How many siblings do you have?” Other than these questions being the most-boring surface-y things to talk about (yeah yeah yeah, I know, good for language learners), NOBODY CARES! Who the crap cares if you want to be a bird or a fish, it ain’t happenin’! Let’s get down to business! What are you passionate about? Did you know Taiwan is really it’s own country?! What do you think about Tiananmen Square or the Cultural Revolution? (Ok, so maybe those might be too touchy, but you get my point.)

My neighbor, Laihar, brought me some dark chocolate to thank me and encourage me to keep coming even though we both openly admit to hating it. LOL! Even patient Laihar hates it? Wow, it must be bad. I just told her I can’t help but remember that even though I don’t see the benefit, God’s purposes are bigger than mine and I never know who I’m going to encourage or connect with, so I just keep on going. (And then I bribed her into giving me dark chocolate, otherwise I’m out.)

I gotta say, the last question up for discussion tonight was a good one, one that struck me deep.

If you only had 3 days to live, what would you do?

So typical right? Yeah, maybe for most, but not for those of us with eternal glory waiting. My immediate thought was spending time with my parents and family, binging on canned frosting and bacon/swiss/mushroom burgers, blah, blah, blah. Then I thought, “But I’m gonna see them again. No, I would spend those three days with all my friends who don’t believe in God for I may never see them again.” It was kind of emo, but always makes me smile to think about eternity. Only God knows our hearts, and while I literally ache some days to just GO ALREADY, and be with my Heavenly Father forever, my purpose is here, beyond my limited scope. And while I slave away here at Hwa Nan (HA! Yeah right!) I will be on my knees each and every day to stand in the gap for those that haven’t made the decision yet to follow Christ. Who knew this sarcastic old soul could be so in love with people, the way Christ wanted me to be? I certainly would’ve never guessed it.

Nope, not done yet.

Then I thought “If I’ve got eternity waiting on me. What is keeping me from selling out 100%? I’ve got NOTHING to lose. Material things are just that. Money is easy come, easy go. I need food, a roof and clothing: check, check, check.” None of us are promised another day so what is it that I’m holding onto?

Alert! Alert! Sunshine! Alert!

You can bet that when the sun comes out, everything that I can’t do outdoors is put on hold. I felt like a little kid again today. I knew I needed to practice piano, but there was sunshine and I wanted to go outside and play. “Only 45 minutes. Dear God, please don’t let it rain.”

This song is actually a challenge for me. I feel sorry for all the others living in this cement building. Most of my songs are just practice for scales. It can be very monotonous, and I'm sure I'm not the only one humming them even after practice in finished.

When the sun comes out full blast, everyone's washing their linens and putting them out to dry.

Thankfully, studying Chinese and laying out go hand in hand.

It's not Hawaii, but it'll do for now.

Worship

Best day ever. I got so high today!

This morning I met one of my students to go to church. When I arrived she said we were waiting on three more girls. She said they were my students, but she didn’t know their English names. So we waited and when they showed up, it was like Christmas. I was expecting more of my current students, but it wasn’t! I was so surprised! My immediate thought was, “I KNEW there was something different about those girls!” Two of them were freshman I taught last semester, and one was a junior I had in a class from the Preschool Education Department. She’s currently in her internship, getting ready to graduate. All of them are so filled and I could see it so clearly last semester, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I know why, the joy of the Lord.

We showed up to this hole-in-the-wall church about a 20 minute walk away on the other side of one of the campuses. It had about 100 students from all the different universities in the area. It was so awesome to see this younger generation coming to church on their own. I know for me, college was such a time of testing to see how committed I was in my faith. My parents weren’t forcing me to go anymore. Would I stay faithful to serve alongside a fellowship of believers? It’s such a crucial time in realizing you need that weekly fellowship and encouragement so you’re able to give back and pour out to your own community during the week. Church fellowship is, however, second to daily nutrition; time with the Lord, praying and reading His word.

Fill up everyday with His truth, not the world's.

Worship had already started so we filed into our seats and joined in the singing. I could read some characters on the projector here and there, but didn’t understand it. Most of the songs were contemporary, but I did recognize the ancient hymns of How Great Thou Art and Because He Lives, to which I hummed along. I watched these kids shamelessly raise their hands pouring out their thanks and praise to God. I listened as my students sitting next to me belted out the lyrics as though they were alone with an audience of one. It was such a touching sight. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about how beautiful these joyful noises must sound to the Lord and how precious he finds his children clothed in humility. All the drab seemed to fall away, hearts glowing with pure light.

Lately, every time I get on Facebook, the part on my info that says “Languages You Speak” stares at me and I always reply back, “One of these days I’ll be able to put in ‘Mandarin’.” But as I listened and watched these kids praise God, I thought “I am bilingual. I don’t speak Chinese yet. I never fully learned German while living there, no Hawaiian. I certainly didn’t learn French in high school, but I do know the language of worship.” I know what it means to raise your hands in surrender and bow your head in reverence, not worthy of His grace but in acceptance of the free gift of salvation. I understand the feeling to raise your chin with eyes closed as the Son shines down on you and your palms are open ready to receive His goodness.You feel so small and unworthy of such blessings, yet so thankful the Lord found you adequate. In worship you don’t just know the victory God has won, you feel it. You know the battle has been won for your soul and your heart overflows with joy.

This language is universal among Christians. You don’t have to manually follow a protocol or list of postures. There’s no right or wrong way to worship, it’s the attitude of the heart. No one teaches you, “Ok, now, in church, or when you sing church songs you gotta do like this.” No, this is the natural posture taken on by one in awe of the King of kings, giving adoration to the One who set him free. The greatest thing about it was that these students weren’t hindered by the suppression of their government. They were free and freely expressing it, and not quietly. I loved it. I may have a huge language barrier between myself and my students, but one thing these girls and I have understood between the few of us is the love of Christ, and the love of Christ has no barriers.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to encourage these girls in their walk with God. These next few years will be filled with some of the most important decisions they’ll ever make. I pray God uses me to lead them in the right directions when they’re looking for help along the way.

A Delirious Idea

So, the food here is really healthy. (See blog “How Do You Like the Food?“) I pretty much eat as much as I want and still find myself getting hungry. The problem is, I indulge in the evening a couple hours after dinner. It’s nothing serious or over the top, but still, extra that I don’t need. So, this week, starting tomorrow, I’ll be fasting from my “extras”. And contrary to all you “good” folks out there fasting for lent, this is merely to see what I’ll end up blogging about come “munch” time. I may just have to start praying come 7/8pm, who knows.

3/12/12: So much for staying away from my “extras”. Ayi (the cook, “Auntie”) made apple cake-crumb-half-baked-still-moist-in-the-middle bread to practice (only her second time baking, they don’t do much of it here) for tomorrow’s lunch with the big wigs. It was amazing! So technically, no, I didn’t eat anything else after dinner. Ha! I still win!!

3/13/12: Sadness cancels hunger. See previous post, “Nick“.

3/14/12: I had class until 7:30pm. I did 420 lunges today for time (17:03). I don’t care about anything else, but being warm and sleeping. (If I could comfortably sleep with my heater in bed with me, I would, but there’s just something about a big metal object that rubs me the wrong way, [no pun intended]…that, and being burned.)

3/15/12: “Mmm, this mochi tastes so goo…Oh yeah!” Today I failed. We (other foreign teachers and myself) went to Metro. (Our version on CostCo) We only go every 2 weeks and my treats I always get are mochi and dark chocolate, which I’ll probably eat tomorrow night. So basically this experiment just shows that I do not refrain, under any circumstances, from eating what I want. The good news is that I enjoy healthy food, but I do have a sweet tooth of which I’m willing to weigh 3 extra pounds for….or 5, whatever, as long as I can still throw myself around with no problem.

3/16/12: I downed some more mochi and opened the dark chocolate tonight…like, 3 hours ago. “Blog, what blog?” Oh yeah, and Aiyi made some banana bread. I usually write on this at around 7pm. It’s 11:48 because I almost didn’t care anymore. “Nah, at least I’ll tell the story of failure, rather than just throw the whole thing out” I thought.

3/17/12: I’m finishing my chocolate bar as I post this.

I’ll be making Quiz 2 today, people! Stay tuned for Hilarious Answers again! I can’t wait!

Never try and post when you’re tired. It won’t be funny and you won’t have any good ideas. You’ll even settle for less.

A Senior Moment

“Do you have class tonight?” Laihar asks me at dinner.

“No, I don’t. It’s so nice.”

“Oh good, you can have a rest then” she says.

******************* (Does this mean time lapse? Well, it does here)

I was in bed early tonight. In need of taking a shower, (yes, I was playing the shower game again. This is not uncommon people. You could probably just assume I’m dirty all the time and be right. See: Stinky Girl) I decided against it, “Ah, I’ll just do it tomorrow before class”.

I’m sitting in bed, computer in my lap, updating myself on all the awesome blogs I’m nerd-ishly following. I’ve got both my heaters on (in my room), mochi next to me for those times I’m waiting on my page to load and it’s a great time to reach away from the computer. I’m in complete and utter comfortable bliss…at 7pm. “Shoot! I forgot to set my alarm clock in the other room.”

*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*

Crap! Who the…What could they possibly need? “Hold on! I’m coming!” Dangit! I’m so comfortable, my sheets were just warming up, and here you are rapping on my door just to make me get up and let them get cold again….”Hi!”

It’s two of my students.

“You called us”, they say.

I give them a blank stare….”You need your test back?” I’m so clueless.

“No, many people downstairs waiting.”

“WE HAVE OFFICE HOURS!!”

I’ve been called an old soul several times. I love going to bed at ungodly hours (early, that is) and waking up at 5-5:30am. I’ve been drinking coffee since before I could talk (the last drops out of my grandmother’s mug). I still write thank you cards and keep a planner with pen and paper because technology irks me. I consider myself wise beyond my years (sort of), but tonight I REALLY PROVED THEM….right, 100% on the money. I completely had a senior moment.

PS: This is the one time deciding against a shower really paid off.

PSS: My alarm is set.

Beggar Lady

The other day while traveling back to campus from the Women’s Day celebration, we were hounded by a beggar. All that means is that she stood by us, shaking her cup of money saying “Xiexie, xiexie”. This beggar lady was pretty clever, however. The locals were quite embarrassed by her pestering foreign visitors so they’d give her money to leave us alone. She caught on, “If I keep standing by these white ladies, my fellow countrymen will give me money. Genius!” So she kept pestering us, and they kept giving her money to shew her away. I gotta say, good job Beggar Lady.

Taking photos of her made her shy away. I felt bad and thought, "I wonder how journalists feel when taking pictures of misfortunes and tragic events?"

As I take a second look at this photo it convicts my heart. Should I have given her money? Should I have told my fellow teacher friend, “You know what, you go on ahead. I’m gonna run and get her a bite to eat.” It’s not my place to judge what she might do with money given to her. It’s not my place to assume she’s made bad decisions in her life based on the fact that she’s asking others for money. There’s an infinite amount of possibilities of what this woman has been through. I could speculate all day and really, only God knows what’s going on with her.

I am, however, set apart, and called to take care of widows and orphans, to give money to the poor, and clothe and shelter those that have nothing and to visit those in prison. I must shamefully admit that I have never given money to the poor. I have never visited anyone in prison, and only a few times have I given clothes to those in need or meals to those who are hungry. What’s my excuse? My real excuse, not “because I was busy”. I know full well that when things are a priority, there’s always room in the schedule. Why didn’t my heart fill with compassion for her and find her a priority in that moment? Am I that selfish? Yes, and not because that’s what I think or want to believe, but because my actions spoke louder than my words that day.

I also have a hard time believing that giving someone money is showing the love of Christ. To me, it’s too easy. It’s like a man buying flowers for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. “Thanks Honey, you really went out of your way to show your love for me on the only day of the year that expects it of you.” Uh, no. The only reason people gave her money was to get rid of her, to make her leave, to “shut her up”, the same reason the man buys the flowers, so he doesn’t have to hear “Why didn’t you get me anything for Valentine’s Day?”…to “shut her up”. (Don’t get defensive, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone) What’s the intention behind the action?

There are so many mixed emotions about this whole topic. I don’t know what’s right, what’s wrong. I only know that I should be more sensitive to if and when the Spirit prompts me to take care of those around me, in whatever way that may be.