29 December 2006

X-mas Photos

I read an essay (via link from Dan and Angi's blog) on "being poor" One statement that struck me was: "Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner." Our friend, Ralph, picks up John and Brittney (pictured above) and brings them to church with us. Smart kids! One time they came over afterwards and had pizza with us. They loved it and we played a couple of card games with them, one of which was "Memory", and we walked down by the creek. John thinks salamanders are the coolest creatures. Unfortunately, we didn't see any salamanders, but we had a great time anyway. I think Ralph and John are coming over for lunch tomorrow.

This other photo is of my sister, Melissa, after she and Mom and Dad and brother, Stephen, went to the National Civil Rights Museum. It is built into the Lorraine Motel, where MLK Jr. was shot April 4, 1968. This was my fourth trip, I think. I could go several more times if you'd like to go with me. :-) I think it's free on Mondays and closed on Tuesdays. There is a booth next to the Museum (seen in the background to the right) where a black woman will tell you how the museum exploits the civil rights movement or something like that, I haven't actually spoken to her. (I think that is a run-on sentence.) I plan on speaking to the woman the next time I am in that area of downtown Memphis. Wanna' go with me?

X-mas Photo

The "X" in "X-mas" stands for the Greek letter "chi" which stands for "christos" which means "anointed one" and of course "the Messiah" and refers to the baby Jesus' birthday in this case. But of course this photo doesn't seem to have any direct relationship to Xristos. Still, I think the lighting and the snowman is a reminder of the seasons created and sustained by the Father of the Christ child. So I will call it a X-mas photo. Stay tuned for more X-mas photos . . .

19 December 2006

Song Sun

Last night (Monday) our friend, Song, died. He had lived 44 years and committed his life to Christ since 1996. When his daughter, Stacy, came home from school yesterday she saw him through the bedroom window. She broke a window to get in, called 911, and attempted CPR. Stacy's 6th grade brother, Jeffrey, and their mother, Tonya came home when they heard the news.

Stacy had called Honey Rogers who then left a message on our answering machine. Honey was sobbing. Later, when Nicole and I got there we were greeted by about 20 people. Tonya came out the door and hugged Nicole and was crying. We went in and Stacy and Jeffrey came and hugged us and Stacy was sobbing. I think we were there for a couple of hours. We were struck by how articulate Stacy and Jeffrey were about their grief. Jeffrey said he had been crying a lot and he cried several times while we were there. He said, "I usually spend Christmas with Ms. Anita . . . It's going to be a sad Christmas." Stacy showed us a picture and we asked if we could try to enlarge it and frame it for her. She said she would appreciate that. She cried on Nicole's shoulder and said, "I didn't get to say goodbye."

Eventually, the patriarch of the family (on Tonya's side) and his wife came (and their other children, Sokha, Sokhom, and Sop'ol). He is 97 years old! I had been looking forward to meeting him for a long time because I had heard his daughter, Sokha, and also Song talk about him. Song periodically sought wisdom from this man (I still don't know his name). He and his wife embraced Nicole and I as well as most everyone else in the house, especially Stacy and Jeffrey.

Mostly Nicole and I sat on the floor with the children. (Kun and her six-year-old, Jonathan, were there, too.) We cried. We laughed some. We talked about what they would do this week. Stacy has final exams this week. (She's 15.) Her three best friends since diapers were with her for most of the time while we were there. Jeffrey helped Jonathon with his homework.

I know that my own grief is very little compared with Stacy and Jeffrey. Still, I loved Song. Nicole did, too. He was my friend, especially for the past year and a half. Last year I often went to Song's house and we would talk for over an hour. He came to Bible class and church services every week. Miss Honey picked him up because he was legally blind due to diabetes. Still, he would bring his large print Bible and magnifying glass. I have so many good memories of talking with Song. He loved hearing Jesus' parables and I think he understood them better than I did. He had already heard many of them before, but sometimes there would be a new one. One time we were reading Luke 6:17-49 in Bible class. This was before he got a big print Bible so he took the paper home that had the verses on it and later that week asked Stacy to read those verses again. Song always rejoiced when he heard Jesus' teachings, even the hard ones like this one:

"Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your friend's eye, but you don't see the big piece of wood that is in your own eye? You say to your friend, 'Let me get that little piece of dust out of your eye.' Why do you say this? Can't you see that big piece of wood in your own eye? You are a hypocrite. First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to get the dust out of your friend's eye."

There were people in Song's life who made it difficult to forgive. I asked Song, "How can you forgive them?" He said, "I had a lot of sins in my life. God forgave me. So I have to forgive others." He took Jesus' teaching about "the plank in your own eye" seriously and knew that it didn't come naturally for him to obey God.

I have another memory I want to share. Last year just before Thanksgiving I took Song to the emergency room. He had severe pain and his blood sugar level was super high. I sat in his room while they waited (I guess for his bsl to decrease). I mostly just listened to him talk. He had so much to say even though every once in a while he would wince from the pain. Eventually they took him to a room in ICU. That was more comfortable, but we couldn't spend as much time with him. He had quite a few visitors, though. At the time, one family member was worried about money, if Song would die. Song told her, "Why do you worry about those things? Money can't make you happy." When we were alone I asked Song, "Are you happy?" I don't know why I asked it. I've never really known what to do to comfort people. But Song said, "Yes, I am happy." Before I said anything else Song told me at least five things he was thankful for. He said he was thankful for me. I can't remember the rest, but I'm sure his children were on that list. I can't tell you how much encouragement Song gave me.

Last night (Monday), Sokha wanted us to pray before we left. She is the only Christian left in the family now that Song is gone. There were about ten of us in a circle. I know some people couldn't understand what I was saying, but we all held hands. I don't remember all of the prayer, but one part I felt compelled to say was something I had been thinking about since as soon as I heard the news of his death:

"I know that Song is right with you, God. And I believe that you will send your Son on the last day and that Song and all the dead will be raised. Then, Song will live forever because he believed in you and followed your Son." My hope for Song isn't based on wishful thinking. It's based on Truth. I have read Scripture all my life. I know what a disciple of Christ is and what obedience from a pure heart looks like. I also knew Song well. So I have confidence in God's will to raise Song to eternal life on the last day.

15 December 2006

Not much time left

Sunday Nicole said, "Not much time left," as she took a picture of the setting sun and then went to talk to some friends about coming over for some pumkin pie later. It just struck me again that I am mortal. I've heard people say, "The soul is immortal." I don't have a good reason to believe that. I think that without God's breath of life, my "soul", whatever that is, will perish with the rest of me. On the other hand, I think that since I have God's breath of life, I can expect eternal renewal. I don't have my Bible with me at the moment, but I recall some words from 2 Corinthians 4: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day." A verse just prior to this one makes it clear that one day we will be outwardly what we are with the gift of the Holy Spirit inwardly. It is only because of God. We have no eternal breath of our own to make our "material" or "immaterial" existence exist. We are completely dependent on God for life now and forever. I don't know if I would appreciate the reminder of our vulnerability and the brevity of the seasons of our lives except for this greater hope given by God.

On a completely other level, I must say that we haven't had internet access from home lately--bad router--until now. It seems as though we are back in business, so even though I ought to be writing or studying, I'm blogging. Here are some pictures of late:

10 December 2006

Niccum's Top 25

I took this post from Kurt Niccum's blog from a year ago. It makes me laugh.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thursday’s Top 25

This semester has proved to be the second most productive in my teaching career. Having sufficiently scared a large number of students, I walked away with over eight pounds of chocolate (actually about 6.5 after I finish eating lunch). My record still remains 10 lbs.

As you will see, the weight of the sweets does not nearly compensate for the amount of poorly written and poorly conceived material I must slog through. I love to teach, and I often mention that I would teach for free. I am not paid enough, however, to grade.

Of course my students, to a person, argue that I have created my own monster. If I would just choose not to make assignments and give tests, my life would be so much better. I would have to agree. On the other hand, I do prefer having hard evidence of the failings of the American educational system.

Still, this proves fascinatingly ironic. Of the 250 million surfers of the net in America, only 2% will be able to identify errors in the snippets below; even less will appreciate the humor. This number still exceeds the number of those who attempt to read my blog; so perhaps I should give up measuring student capabilities and composing blog entries. Until I decide… welcome to my blog all you foreigners! I hope you enjoy my tribute to America’s future.

We begin with what I lovingly call the “duh” files. Students, afraid that I might not catch the fine nuances in their writing, often leave me explanatory notes. Here are just a few:

“Now we must examine who these people were. They were real people who came from somewhere and were going somewhere and most definitely were on a mission.” (Always remember: wherever you go, there you are.)
Second Peter 2:17 is in a portion of Peter’s second letter.
Peter is the last of the apostles, and with this in mind, we can come to the obvious conclusion that after Peter’s death, there will be no more letters from the apostles. (Excellent logic. Unfortunately, faulty premises and untrue “facts” are the bane of all excellent logic.)
This is the reason I do not seek to be an elder in a church, because I don’t care for or like a lot of people. (Sounds like he needs to be a Bible professor instead.)
Kids are just like people, only littler. (It’s not the size that endears kids to me; it’s that they don’t write bad papers.)
The structure of Romans 12:9-13 is a structure itself, within the whole structure of Romans.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is obviously in the form of a letter.
Service is a great way to serve God and other people.

And now for my top 25 student errors:

25) “The lesson I have learned that teaches me in Matthew is that you should not let kids suffer in school.” (Could we change that to “should not let professors suffer in school”? Please???)
24) “She is an outdoors woman that has fun hailing hay with guys.” (I just want to know if the hay ever responds.)
23) “She asked me what I was studying and I told her Psychology and I lighted up.” (Ditto. Or is that Zippo?)
22) “The floor and the ceiling cannot take your stamen and falling.” (It’s such a stigma to be caught bringing a pistil into Horticulture 101.)
21) “Like these women one needs to step up even if they are in the right and end this corral before the whole church ends up in hell.” (Women should never be allowed near rodeos.)
20) “Without God doing this we would not be able to have entrails life.” (It took a lot of guts to write that.)
19) “I went to him shortly after in an attempt to make immense with the person who had been offended.” (Proof that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.)
18) “If the other person dose not fully understand what you are saying then it was not an affective discourse.” (Obviously doctors with really thick accents and overly exaggerated gesticulations make for better communicators.)
17) “One should not presuppose that he foresaw the intuitional church.” (So, will the real clairvoyant please stand up?)
16) “In the NIV it says ‘witch is no gospel at all.’” (Perhaps the NIV should start translating for the third grade reading level)
15) We have a three way tie for biblical sports fans: a) “A phrase worth studying more in the Letter to Laodicea is ‘golf refined by fire,’” b) “The religious claims being made are ‘the Lord is God’ and ‘Ball is God,’” and c) “They were to take a pure white lamb without any sports or blemishes.”
14) “If people really followed it, the quality of our community would improve incomprehensively.” (It’s true! The same thing occurs with my student papers.)
13) “All of God’s profits were being killed.” (Talk about huge overhead – those heavenly hosts are expensive to keep up, and the Pension plan is humongous.)
12) “Misplacement does not mineralize its importance.” (I think this was about the prophet Mica. He was always taken for granite.)
11) “In the Greek manuscripts the periscope does not appear until after A.D. 900.” (So now we know which came first – the periscope came before the submarine.)
10) We have a two-way tie for reading oneself into the text: a) “Jess’s dying on the cross was so important,” and b) “The Children of Israel were promised an Inheritance in the land of Canaan just as Christina is promised a home with God in Heaven.”
9) “I saw my friend there helping the student with her reading and spelling and since I am pretty good at English so I asked if a boy could do some heavy lifting while I help with what I’m good at.” (I couldn’t have said it better myself, at least while heavily sedated.)
8) “What would stop someone from saying, ‘Hey everyone, Thor now indwells my rubber ducky!’” (Apparently from Bert and Ernie’s Big Note Song Book of Germanic Mythology)
7) “So God had Moses have the children of God wander around in the dessert until every fighting man of that generation had died.” (What a way to go! I personally hope to die in a bathtub filled with chocolate.)
6) “Jesus identified the beard with his body and the cup with the new covenant.” (Maybe that’s why the denominational world call’s the Lord’s Supper the Whischarist.)
5) Another two way tie; this one for cannibals: a) “We are individualistic and survival-minded people, who carve and starve for respect,” and b) “She told of eating pizza in an Italian Chicago family.”
4) “As much as making money and martial possessions for your family is important….“ (Nothing says I love you like a pair of handmade nunchucks.)
3) “I expected to see all the people being rude or depressed, but, to my surprise, they were actually contempt.” (There’s nothing like actually exceeding one’s expectations.)
2) “Every one in this story, living and not, was excited about the birth.” (It’s the first time Uncle John, bless his soul, has shown any excitement since the funeral!)
and 1) “I went to install hurricane clamps to the raptors.” (That must have been particularly dangerous. Without training I’m sure the result would be a lot of Tyrannosaurus wrecks.)

I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! (And if you are a student of mine, I look forward to you retaking my classes.)