Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Green tea, milk, and Apple Jacks...together in the same bowl?

I had a fun weekend hanging out with one of the Chinese teachers that I worked with at my old school here in Taiwan. Her name is Sandy. She became like a big sister to me, when I was here the first time. We had fun recalling funny memories at the school I taught at with her. And we also enjoyed a day going all around Taipei. She took me to many places- the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial, a big night market (that I can't remember the name to), and a big, famous temple called Longshan Temple.
I have seen many temples before, due to the fact that they are almost on every corner in Taiwan's cities. Many people's homes even have one of the rooms dedicated to housing shrines to the family's gods. However, upon entering this temple I began to feel a very strong heaviness in my heart. I physically felt this- like a huge weight on my chest. And even though I physically felt this, I really think it was a spiritual factor. I tried to explain this feeling to Sandy after we left the temple, but because she is not a believer she really couldn't understand.

Two main bodies of Scripture came to mind as I was observing these people pray to "gods" made by their own hands out of wood, metals, jewels, etc.

One passage is the "Armor of God passage" in Eph.6:10-18, for obvious reasons. That we are at war with the spiritual rulers and principalities of the world, not just flesh and blood. There is a major war going on for those people's souls. May we as Christians take a stand in the strength of His might and fight for them in prayer (Neh. 4:14), and go out and be bold and compassionate witnesses for His namesake!

Another passage, the main one that was sort of playing in my mind, as I smelled the incense and watched people bow to these lifeless statues praying to them and asking them to bless and help them, was Isaiah chapters 41-45. Here is a portion of Isaiah 44:10-20:

10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit him nothing?

11 He and his kind will be put to shame;
craftsmen are nothing but men.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.

13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in the form of man,
of man in all his glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.

14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

15 It is man's fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.

16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
"Ah! I am warm; I see the fire."

17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
"Save me; you are my god."

18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.

19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
"Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?"

20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
"Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"

Wow. Our hearts are so deluded, so deceived by our own misconceptions of God, by our own wants and desires, the things we think will satisfy and help us to just "be happy." Yet, even in the midst of our rebellion, He extends His mighty arm of salvation! Praise Him!

I say all of that to say that even though I was here years ago and I learned alot then about Taiwan and its culture, it never ceases to amaze me how God will bring you back to a place again and again and still teach you so much as if you had never experienced it before- that goes for any life lesson. I am glad He is patient enough to work with me since I am so dense and it takes me forever to learn things He tries to teach me. I don't know all that I am supposed to learn from having to come here again, but I'm glad He knows-- that takes alot of pressure off of me!

Side note about the title of this post:

My friend Sandy that visited me this past weekend has some interesting taste preferences (as do any of us that are used to the food we grew up with). She is used to a traditional Taiwanese breakfast (that would probably consist of noodles, eggs, vegetables, etc.). Not something I am used to, hence the reason for Apple Jacks and milk for my breakfast. I felt bad because I didn't really have anything prepared for her visit. So she had some green tea and said she would also have some Apple Jacks. So I handed her the box of AJ's, and gave the jug of milk...and then she proceeded to pour her green tea in the bowl of AJ's and milk. Needless to say, I was shocked by this combination...but hey...to each his own. And I know there is a saying of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"...but I really didn't want to do as the Taiwanese do...so I didn't. The end. =)

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