Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Favor of God

Maybe you're wondering why the urge to blog has come upon me so much this week.... well look at my to do list: clean apartment, go out in rain to mail letters, write lesson plans and test questions.... blogging has never looked so attractive!

I received a book for Christmas from a very well-meaning friend. It's a book by megachurch leader Joel Osteen called Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential

If you know me well, you'll know that I'm the kind of person that will deliberately NOT read or watch something, just because everyone else is doing it...
Anyways, I saw smilin' Joel on Larry King Live a couple weeks ago, and their church services are broadcast in Taiwan on the Christian channel.. so I did a little google 'research' which tells me what I kinda suspected just from reading the title of the book.... they lean a little (or a lot depending on the source) toward the "health and wealth" gospel.

But I figured, since I have the book for free, I might as well give it a try.... It has a good basic message, but a lot of red flags come up, usually when he puts in part of a bible verse (footnoted so verse references don't clog up his text) and I think... I don't remember that verse having that meaning!

I can see both sides of it, and he does have a lot of positive things to say. But the danger comes when people who don't have very deep theology/understanding of the bible read this pop spirituality stuff without a discerning mind.

Here's a quote from the book:

"The Bible clearly states, 'God has crowned us with glory and honor.'(Psalm 8:5) The word honor could also be translated as 'favor' and favor means 'to assist, to provide with special advantages and to receive preferential treatment.' In other words, God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages." (Page 39)

Ok, God wants to have life to the fullest, we are his creation and he cares about us, I can agree with that, but God wants to make your life easier? Trying to think of a biblical character this principle might be found in... Job..nope. Ezekiel..nope. Jeremiah...nope. Hosea....Paul....Jesus... nope, nope, nope they didn't seem to have easier lives, they all faced persecution and suffering.....
He later goes on to talk about getting parking spaces, talking his way out of speeding tickets, and getting job promotions all as examples of God's favor.
He does note that the favor is not because of anything we've done but because we are precious children of God.. ok I can track with that. But it seems like God's favor doesn't always come in the form of material blessings....

Joel Osteen says: "you will often receive preferential treatment simply because your Father is the King of kings, and His glory and honor spill over onto you." (Page 40)

Jesus says:
1"0Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:10-12)

Warning his disciples on their way out to minister:

"22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matt 10:22-23)

Talking about the end times:

9"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." (Matt 24:9)

And it's not just in Matthew... check out Luke 21:12-19
and finally John 15:18-20
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

Ok I think I've made my point... the truth is, God DOES bless his people, but he also tests them. He tells us to expect persecution, not a bigger house. When God said "set your mind on higher things" he wasn't talking about a job promotion (Though Osteen would have you think so).

Now I have to admit, I have readily seen God's favor in my own life, but he uses it for the purpose of increasing HIS kingdom, not MY wealth. If he heals me, it's not for the sake of my inner spirit realizing I'm a winner, it's so I can go out and declare his healing to others.

I just have a real problem with the health and wealth gospel when I see third world believers living in poverty, Christian leaders dying of cancer and the persecuted church... it's popular in North America where the Christian "club" is looking for any way it can to get members (and donations) but God is not a good luck charm or a magic genie, and bad stuff will happen to you, even if you "conceive it, believe it, and declare that God has more in store".
He mentions this problem a little but doesn't deal with it very satisfactorily. Granted I'm only on page 40, but already enough objections have been raised in my mind that I couldn't recommend or give this book to someone else.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Spring __________

Despite reports of -40 to -50 windchills back home, I must say that spring is coming here. I spruced up blog a little and hopefully will spruce up my house soon....

Spring Cleaning
this week I have no classes, so I need to do a number of things, including putting away my Christmas decorations, cleaning my house, and getting organized for next semester

Spring Festival Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival. It's also Chinese tradition to clean one's house this time of year, and buy new clothes (like I ever need an excuse for that!) . I'm going to decorate my house a little. All of Taiwan is on holiday (except poor 7-11 workers I guess) from Feb 7-11. I'll share my plans for the holiday later. Also I'm trying to send out some Chinese New Year cards or other mailings that I should have sent at Christmas (sorry). If you want a card and you're not sure I have your address send me an email or a note on Facebook!

Spring Flowers The picture above is plum blossoms on a tree. This is also the season for Sakura flowers or Cherry blossoms, which turn the landscape pink in some of the mountains here, like Ali Mountain and Yang Ming Mountain. There are also a few places near Yilan I heard have awesome scenery this time of year!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy Birthday dear Zak-O!

Today is my "baby" brother's birthday! This year he is 14 years I ever feel old!

Zak was born when I was in grade 6, and was in kindergarten the year I graduated from high school! We've always had a special bond, maybe because I changed so many of his diapers, or maybe because he's a lot like me ;)
We had a baby we could play with and later on a slave we could send on missions (Zaaak... go tickle ______ (insert name of target sibling), weren't we awful! But he's a very cute and affectionate kid.

Last year Zak came to Taiwan with my parents for a visit, and he got to celebrate his 13th birthday here! My first birthday overseas was my 22nd (in Brazil) so he's doing pretty darn good!

Zak made lots of Taiwanese friends when he was here, and discovered (or reaffirmed) his love for instant noodles. I think he'd move here just so he could eat instant noodles every day!

He also loved the little basketball machines they have everwhere here that let yoou shoot hoops and keep score (and even compete against other people) for just 10NT.

I hope he can come back to Taiwan again to visit, maybe even start his own private tutoring service haha! One of my Taiwanese friends joked that if he came back they could start a conversational class in their living room where he just plays with the kids for an hour or two, of course in English, since he doesn't speak Chinese, though he's been learning a few phrases from me here and there!
Like xie xie, zai jian, and wo ai ni! (謝謝,再見,我愛你)Which of course mean thank you, goodbye, and I love you!

I have a little video in my archives of Zak (in the back) playing basketball at one of the machines in Hualian. It pretty accurately shows his expressive personality:

P.S. The blogger upload video function is really cool, but I have NO idea why there's a still picture of the video right below, nor do I know how to get rid of it... blah

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Charlotte's speech translated into English with footnotes for those who don't know much about politics in Taiwan

Hello everyone! I'm the next president of Taiwan! Our slogan for this year is "Make Taiwan Lovable"1 (literally cute). This of course needs to start with the Taiwanese government, so my first act in office is to move the Parliament (I know I'm using Canadian terms) to Hualian, because Hualian is the most beautiful place in Taiwan. Then we can invite Hu Jintao (the leader of Mainland China) to come and see Hualian's beautiful scenery and fresh air, taste it's specialty food, go to Taroko Gorge, and watch fantastic aboriginal performances. He'll be so touched that he'll immediately cancel all plans to bomb Taiwan with missiles!2

Even though the government is in Hualian, the president won't forget the needs of the rest of Taiwan. Here's my plan. The most important is to finish the MRT system, taking it even to more remote centers on the east coast like Jilong,3 Hualian, and Taidong. Then I can go on vacation whenever, wherever I want! no no.. what I meant to say was conveniently serve all people great and small. How will I serve them? Well the government can't just arbitrarily decide what to change. We need to do some polls to find out what the TRUE needs of the Taiwanese people are. The people need to know that the president cares for them and is warm-hearted.

On the way to "Making Taiwan Lovable" maybe we can use popular cartoon character Doraemon4 to redecorate the legislative house. Think about it: if the government members are happy every day they're less likely to have fist fights in the assembly!5

Apart from these "small changes", we mustn't forget Taiwan's most famous and influential person. So I propose we build a memorial hall6 in honor of this person. Who is it? Wang Jien Ming: the light of Taiwan!7

If I become president my family and I are willing to serve the country. Many people say that all politicians are corrupt. I PROMISE you I'll do a great job! And I'll never waste Taiwan's money!8 So, if I want to buy anything, I'll only go to the night market!

When the next election comes, I'm sure you'll elect me again! Especially because just before the election I'll make a lot of positive changes.9 For example: English education, taking care of the Elderly, cutting taxes, lowering train ticket fares, standardizing the pinyin on all road signs, adding more garbage cans on the street, buy one get one free on gasoline, and limiting the price of green vegetables to 5NT!10

Come on and take my hand! Let's make Taiwan more lovable together! If you agree say "Yeah!"

1. Make Taiwan Lovable is the name of a song by Studio Classroom, and is what the characters on my poster say.

2. Reportedly, Mainland China currently has 800-900 missiles aimed at Taiwan in case it makes any move toward "independence"

3. Current presidential candidate Ma Ying Jeou once suggested the MRT could be extended to Keelung, about an hour from Taipei

4. Doraemon is a popular cartoon character from Japan. How can you NOT feel happy when you look at him?

5. The legislators in Taiwan are notorious for getting into verbal and fist fights during sessions. It's a common sight on the evening news.

6. This past year there's been controversy about the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which has now been renamed National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Ha
ll. See here if you really want to know more.

7. Wang Jien Ming is a pitcher for the New York Yankees, and a native Taiwanese. He grew up in western Taiwan before making it big in baseball. He's created a lot of national pride, and all my students call him "the light of Taiwan"

8. This past year has also seen a lot of scandal surrounding Taiwan's current president and use of national funds for personal use, and extravagant spending by his wife and family.

9. It's been especially obvious in the past 6 months here that current politicians are financing a lot of construction projects etc. and also the president has finished a number of things (like changing the memorial hall, and opening the high speed railway perhaps prematurely according to some) with hopes of re-election.

10. A politician foolishly remarked after a typhoon (when the price of produce skyrockets) that the poor don't need to worry about buying meat since green vegetables are 5NT for a bunch! (The actual price was much higher at the time)

Monday, January 21, 2008

"I saw you on TV!"

Ok here I am writing in my house coat, and comfy pajama pants (which I got for Christmas), because I've got stomach flu, and let me tell you, it's not fun. I can't remember the last time I was sick like this, must be high school.
I went to class this morning for the first two hours but had to go home early b/c i was throwing up in the bathroom... but enough gory details, what you really want to know is how the speech competition went!
Well let's start with last week... I spent a few days racking my brain about how to fill my remaining 2 minutes, and was a little worried about remembering it all. On Friday night I was feeling like I needed one more day to prepare (last the week the competition was on Sunday morning this week, Saturday), but I had to focus on bible study. Interestingly, the topic of the class was "The Trap of Perfection" about halfway through the singing our leaders got the idea that it would be really fitting for me to give my speech then, so with about 10 minutes notice I prepared to give it... great practice, right? So I gave the speech to an audience of around 300! They were a very friendly, supportive audience, laughing at every joke and cheering every time i spoke Taiwanese! Tons of people came up to me afterward and said they'd elect me for sure!

Sunday morning I got up bright and early, and ran into a fellow competitor on the way in. We talked about how nervous we were and then I drew number 12 (there were 15 speeches total), he drew #1! He actually did a great job, but I was really really glad our positions weren't reversed! A lot of people changed their speeches from last week, most significantly adding songs and posters, though a few had friends accompany them onto the stage too! Since the event was hosted in part by a radio station, they had two DJ's acting as MC's, intereviewing each contestant after their speech. I was a little worried they'd ask me something I didn't understand!

When it was time to give my speech, I actually felt much calmer than last week, and it went really well! I didn't forget anything, only stumbled over a couple lines, and my dramatic climax went off without a hitch. I bought a fake pearl necklace from the night market, and while I was talking about how most politicians are corrupt, but I won't be, and promising not to waste Taiwan's money, I ripped the necklace off. Later the DJ's comment was: This must be our richest candidate.!

Anyways, here's the result: I received an award for most "interesting" (humorous) speech! It came with a prize of $10, 000! Also I was the only girl to get a prize. The others also did fantastic jobs! I'm really glad I did it, even though I had doubts at first. Also, I was interviewed by 2 tv stations, and got my 15 seconds of fame on the evening news! What can I say? Taiwan's a small island... but a lot of my friends and students saw me, even though i didn't have a lot of luck finding it! I caught part of it once in over an hour of flipping through news channels on Saturday night!

So yay! It's over, it was fun, and I learned a lot of political vocabulary in the process haha! Unfortunately I don't have a video recording of the second speech, because all my friends were too busy cheering for me and forgot to record! haha, but I'm so thankful for wonderful friends who got up early on a Saturday morning to support me!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The speech contest.....

My speech went fei chang hao! REALLY WELL!
When I arrived, I drew number 42 to give my speech, meaning it would be a long wait and a long morning. Fortunately, I had some great people to wait with who came to support me. There were 46 entries total, though a number of them didn't come, so I'd guess there were around 35 speeches in all. There were lots of good speeches, and some people who really impressed me with their language ability. I was soooo nervous when I was about to go up, despite the fact that I teach my students not to be nervous...... my heart was beating so fast as I went up. Fortunately, I wrote my key points on my "prop" so I had them just in case I forgot everything. Also, every time I practiced my speech in front of others the previous days I kept forgetting my transitions. But the speech went quite well! Above is a video.
At the end we had to wait a looong time for the results, but I was chosen as one of 15 finalists to compete again next week! (If fewer than 40 ppl had registered, that would have been the end, so I really think it's too bad since in the end not all 46 people gave speeches.)
Soooooo I have to give my speech again this Saturday!!
Before they announced the results one of the judges gave a speech, and she referred to my speech twice (in a positive way) when she was giving tips on what to do! As I was leaving, a girl had the results printed on a paper and she showed me my score. I came in SECOND!!!
We also found out that next week we'll be given 2 additional minutes. So now I have to rack my brain for what to add. Now as long as none of the other competitors steal my jokes, I should be fine! Wish me luck on Saturday!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's New?

One of my 11th grade classes.

Sorry all, I've been mang de bu de liao....crazy busy for the last 2 weeks!
Since the calendar changed, I've been:
  • Finishing all my classes for the semester
  • Giving and grading tests
  • Calculating final grades
  • Trying to figure out schedules and plans for next semester
  • Finding out I'm doing a mini-camp on the 21-24
  • Hanging out with friends I haven't seen for awhile
  • Writing and practicing a speech for a Chinese speech competition
Anyways, my last class of the semester (except aforementioned camp) was on Thursday!! I finally felt like I could take a big breath. I love teaching, but there's a reason we have summer and winter vacation!

Tomorrow (Sunday morning) I'm going to take part in a speech contest!!
There have been flyers for the competition floating around the office and a few people encouraged me to enter. But the topic was one that I didn't think I'd be able to write about: If I were the president of Taiwan.
Personally I try to stay out of Taiwanese politics, though I do like to keep up with the news. The topic kind of deterred me from entering until my friend suggested that I just do something completely out there... and one day during the break between classes I got a sudden inspiration and wrote the whole first draft in about 15 minutes!
Since then I've had a lot of people offering their help to correct it and listen to me practice, including A-hsiang, Christine, my physiotherapist, Michelle from Yuli, and my coworkers!
I'm a little nervous, but first prize NT$50 000! It's definitely worth it!

My speech pokes fun at a number of political situations that have been taking place recently here in Taiwan. I'll let you know how it went! Oh yeah, and I'm going to use a little bit of Taiwanese in my speech to try to get bonus points. Here's the first thing I'm going to say:

Da gei hou, wa shi Daiwan bi lai ei zong tong! Which means, "Hello everyone, I am the next president of Taiwan"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 in Review!

Happy New Year everyone! 2008 is chilly so far!! It's gotten down to about 8 or 9 degrees which you really start to feel when you're doing something that doesn't require much movement, such as using a computer! I went to my new friends Wendy, Thomas, Beatrice and Seraphine's house for new years eve. We watched a movie, prayed and had Hungarian beef soup at 1am! Wendy and Thomas are missionaries here. He's from Germany. I've been getting to know them and their two daughters recently because they've started up an English fellowship at their house. It was a fun night. On Jan 1 I did something I haven't done nearly enough of this semester: I took the train to Hualian! I spent the day with some of my favorite people: the Yu's (Amy and Jack) and Ariel and Richard. Today was back to classes as usual....

Anyways, I want to share some highlights of 2007. I was going to do one picture, or the first sentence from each month, but I think I'll just do it in a more straightforward way.


I had surgery on my leg shortly after new years to take out two screws. After that began the long journey of being able to walk again!!

At the end of January my parents and Zak came to visit! That was probably a highlight of the year!


I returned home during the Chinese New Year break. And had to fly back to Taiwan all by myself!

It was worth it though because I got to see my grandma, great grandma, sister and brother, and even a couple of old friends!


It seems i spent the whole month blogging about my trip... hmmmm the best thing was that i got my lovely new laptop, which I'm still enjoying now!


We had fantastic weather in April and I did a lot of hanging out with friends and students. I even went to Taidong for Easter! My dad got a tattoo and Yilan got a Starbucks.. oh and I turned 25!


My bike was stolen and I was given a new one the same day!
The missionary boat Doulos came to Taiwan, and besides visiting, I helped translate for a team to came to share at my church, giving me yet another gem of an embarrassing story to tell at an opportune moment in the future.


June was busy! In addition to finishing the semester, I went to Taipei a few times, went to a graduation, went to western Taiwan for Dragon Boat Festival, where I saw a giant Buddha and the most crowded night market EVER, and finished the first year of my wonderful English bible study.

June was also the month that Jon-Eric was killed in a tragic accident.

July was the month of camps! I worked with a great team and did 3 weeks of camp in 3 different places. It was fun and exhausting.


I took a very important trip back to Canada to see Hope and to be the maid of honor in Johanna and Nolan's wedding! Everything about the trip was great except that it was too short!


New life, new classes, new roommates.. I started a schedule of teaching half time in Yilan half in Taipei. Ashley came to Yilan to celebrate Moon Festival with me!

Halloween party, huge typhoon, and celebrating that I can walk one year later!


Teaching at Friday Night Live and celebrating American Thanksgiving in Taipei!


Christmas activities pretty much right from the start, including parties, rallies, and an English service we held in Yilan!

2007 was a great year! Who knows what the future holds?