Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Never give up

The following is excerpted from a Gospel Coalition internet article by Sarah Eekholf Zylstra.
Pastor John Piper gave a sermon on May 20, 2000. Five minutes in, he laid out a comparison nobody forgot:
Three weeks ago, we got news at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon. Ruby Eliason—over 80, single all her life, a nurse. Poured her life out for one thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the sick and the poor in the hardest and most unreached places.
Laura Edwards, a medical doctor in the Twin Cities, and in her retirement, partnering up with Ruby. [She was] also pushing 80, and going from village to village in Cameroon. The brakes give way, over a cliff they go, and they’re dead instantly. And I asked my people, “Is this a tragedy?”
Two women, in their 80s almost, a whole life devoted to one idea—Jesus Christ magnified among the poor and the sick in the hardest places. And 20 years after most of their American counterparts had begun to throw their lives away on trivialities in Florida and New Mexico, [they] fly into eternity with a death in moment. “Is this a tragedy?” I asked.
The crowd knew the answer, calling out, “No!”
“It is not a tragedy,” Piper affirmed. “I’ll read you what a tragedy is.”
He pulled out a page from Reader’s Digest.
(“I don’t know where I got it, because I didn’t subscribe,” Piper remembers now. “I must have found it in a doctor’s office somewhere.”)
He read it to them:
‘Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.’
“That’s a tragedy,” he told the crowd.
And there are people in this country that are spending billions of dollars to get you to buy it. And I get 40 minutes to plead with you—don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you—don’t buy that dream. . . . As the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did: “Here it is, Lord—my shell collection. And I’ve got a good swing. And look at my boat.”
“Don’t waste your life,” he said, the words quietly tucked in before he barreled into another memorable anecdote, this one about a plaque in his home featuring C. T. Studd’s poem, “Only one life, twill soon be past / Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Note: Piper later goes on to say that he is not talking about those who are not physically able, he's talking about those who are able-bodied.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Surgery in Texas

I flew to Texas on Friday, February 10th. It's a strange thing to leave China at 5:30 p.m. and arrive in Texas around 3 p.m. the same day. I arrived before I left. Or something like that.

The following Tuesday, in Houston, I had cancer screenings, checking the places where cancer reared its ugly head in 2014. It's still all gone!

Then on Wednesday, I had surgery to correct some things from the last surgery. Now I'm back at my parents' house recuperating from that surgery. I have pain. But the surgery went well. I may have to have another surgery another time (another year) to finish up the necessary corrections.

I'll return overseas in early April.

Mimi's in good hands back in the Middle Kingdom, and my parents' new dog is trying to keep me company in the meantime.

My parents are both ill right now with bronchitis. Here's a sample conversation from this morning:

      Mom: Are you feeling better?
      Me: Better than who?

Hopefully we'll all be on the road to health very soon. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Quiet holiday

I look forward to Chinese New Year. I have my own traditions, many of which involve photography, eating out, soaking in the culture, and chatting with minority groups (for instance, Tibetans or Muslims) that mill around town because they don't celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

But this year, I missed the holiday. The flu bug bit hard. Instead of running around town, I stayed indoors with the heaters running full blast and a fuzzy doggy warming my feet while I laid on the sofa. I finally had to go out a few times: to get medicine, to buy some veggies when I could find a market that finally re-opened, and to pay my phone bill. The roads seemed deserted. I'd never seen the city like this before. With the ban on fireworks in the city limits, it was eerily quiet. No one is scaring off evil spirits as they re-open their shops after the holidays. No one is inviting the "money god" to bring him riches by setting off the loudest pyrotechnics. I really don't know what everyone did this year. I missed it completely.

Hopefully I'll get another chance to celebrate next year.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Year of the Rooster

Today is Chinese New Year. I have my usual rituals for celebrating the day, but this year I've set them aside so I can recover from the flu. Yesterday I rode my e-bike on the deserted streets a few minutes, just to soak in the peace and quiet that only comes once a year, and only for a few hours.

I have a cough that is aggravated by cold air and talking. So I'm camping out in my cozy abode this holiday. I hope everyone out there is having fun as they usher in the year of the rooster.

Monday, January 23, 2017

I've got the flu (and a Facebook rant)

Burning fever, chills, aches and congestion started Friday night. These led me to believe I had the flu. But because I'd had a flu shot on December 22nd, the doctor thought perhaps this was some other type of virus instead. The nurse did a blood test and a nose swab this morning, and it has now been confirmed. I have the flu.

Do they give refunds for defective flu shots?

The flu is rough on anyone, but they are especially concerned for me because my immune system has been through the wringer in the past couple of years.

I saw the doctor in time to benefit from taking Tamiflu pills. Have you ever had those? Rather quickly after taking my first pill, I developed nausea and then uncharacteristic incessant belching. Nice, huh? I hope this five-day round of medication does the trick. I have a trip to the U.S. coming up in less than three weeks. I need to get well fast.

While waiting for my lab work to come back at the doctor's office, I scrolled through my Facebook account and unfollowed anyone who had a political post. I didn't unfriend anyone, I just stopped following them, which means we're still friends, but my newsfeed won't show anything they post. I can change this at any time, and I can also still look on their Facebook home page to see what they've been up to.

Overall, this makes me sad, but I couldn't take the tension and negativity anymore. I'm halfway around the world and still it eats at me to read all of these online shouting matches that have escalated over the weekend. I do hope this is just a temporary thing and I can add people back little by little. I'm not opposed to people having or expressing opinions, I am just opposed to having unnecessary stress in my life and this is one small thing I can do to alleviate it without cutting myself off from the world completely.

I did not unfriend my mother though, of course.💗 She didn't have any political posts today, but even if she had, I wouldn't have unfriended her! Never. But everyone else was fair game.

Now all that's left on my Facebook feed are cat photos, how to make an old guitar into an overhead light fixture, recipes, quilts, baby announcements, and who has been Facebook friends with whom for the last 4 or 8 or 11 years (why does Facebook even do that...who cares)? I just want to see when people have babies, get married, pass through the pearly gates, have anniversaries, need prayer, and/or have something personal, interesting, fun or positive to talk about.

I'm in search of a better way to live, and although I'm not sure what I've done will help, it was worth a try.

And, now that I have better internet, I hope to spend more time on this blog anyway.

I hope this finds all of you doing well, and if you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, please consider doing so sooner rather than later!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on January 28, 2017.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Holiday buzz

There's a buzz in the air as people travel to their hometowns for Chinese New Year, which falls on Saturday, January 28th this year. School is out for a month. The train and bus stations are packed above and beyond normal capacity.
All through town, you see people rolling their luggage. Everyone is on the move!

People are also stocking up on food and supplies, because even though most stores are only closed for three days, many businesses will be closed for two full weeks during the holidays. Even the ones that are open will be short of supplies like meat and produce, because their suppliers are on vacation. I'm stocking up on bottled water, toilet paper, light bulbs, and groceries. No need to stock up on coffee. Starbucks here is open 365 days a year.

People are also buying gifts, in the form of food items in gift boxes. The food may be cookies, cakes, fruit, nuts, wine, etc. Chinese people give the gifts to family members and to people that they visit during the holidays. The beautiful boxes of gift food are often re-gifted. These gift boxes are not cheap, and people need to buy quite a few. Homemade gifts are not considered appropriate. 

This year, fireworks have been banned in the city limits. No fireworks' stands line the roads as usual. I'm pretty excited that I won't have to bring in everything off of my balconies this year. (I have had flaming bits of paper land on my balcony before, so the risk of fire was real.) But I cannot imagine Chinese New Year without massive pyrotechnics. It seems like the mature thing to do, to ban fireworks. But I'm afraid it won't be quite the same.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The birthday girls

Mimi and I share a birthday! 

I've been homeschooling her lately. Most of the time she sleeps during class -- but when class is over she eats her homework. Mimi is 12 years old now, equivalent to age 74 according to the veterinary charts for small dogs. 

I chose her tiny furry body out of a cardboard box on the sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon in early 2005, and it has proven to be one of the best things I ever did. I thank God for this warm fuzzy blessing in my life. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

On the streets

You may have heard that the air quality in China has been very poor this year, more so than usual. When I lived in Bedrock, it was extremely bad all the time, but since I've been in Bamboo Forest, I've found it much more bearable. But when fog rolls in and stays for weeks, it traps the pollution and creates smog; most of China got hit hard this year. After all these years, I just last week got an indoor air purifier. In less than a week, the filter, which should last four months, is already black. It is an uphill battle to try to stay healthy and breathe clean air.
I like all the sidewalk shops in the city. This one sells dolls. As you can see, backpacks are very popular and practical for city living.        
On a cold rainy day, there aren't many customers, but the owners stand guard out front anyway, full of hope! 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Subway dreams

Commuters endure a long ride on a Sunday morning subway. Everyone's in their own little world.