July 29, 2007

away with the things of old

"he was appealing to my past life."

(a) he was bringing up or invoking the old me

(b) he was attractive for the someone like the person i used to be

away, devil. (devils.)

like what i told a dear friend, "i know my weakness and my weakness knows me."

am i glad that even if my heart's literally not into it, i could ask help from God to do the right thing. am i glad that even if i'm a bit sad that things did not happen the way i wanted them to --- exactly because God answered my prayer for help --- God's ways are best. it's just a matter of time...and faith.

this morning we went to an English worship service in the midst of Beijing, the capital of communist "there-is-no-God" China. what a wonderful surprise to see many non-Chinese singing and praying to God side by side with the locals. truly God is great. truly God is sovereign in the affairs of kings and men.

the key verse for the service was Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

ouch, ouch, triple ouch.


oh, man. ever gracious, God doesn't rebuke me except in the gentlest, most loving of ways. i kept on thinking that i just needed patience (to hold on until the right one comes along, yihi!), self-control (i indulge too much), and focus (i need to work, plus i need to "distract myself from my distractions").

but all this time i've been lacking faith.

sorry God.

please give me more faith.


and lead me not into temptation.

You, i, and the devil know i'm not that strong...


...though recent events have shown me triumphant (thank God!)...

...(triumphant despite myself!)...

away with the things of old. i'm not the person i once was. and even now that i have to admit, shamefully, that part of me wants to go back to my old ways (15%? 10% 5%), the fact that i am now experiencing a moral and spiritual dilemma just shows that --- at the very least! --- God is changing me for the better.

i've told people (i think) that the U-turn is the hardest part. someone on a one-way street may finally realize that he was
going the wrong way, and turn back to move in the right direction, literally.

i've already made that U-turn. but sometimes i see friends happily going the wrong way still, maybe even making fun of me (ironic isn't it?). and the pull of my friends plus the
appeal of the wrong direction (is the one-way street upward? is it way easier to slide down the wrong direction?) makes me slow down...

have i stopped? have i gone backwards, or turned back completely, returning to error and peril?

i know better now.

the Bible says,

Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8)

yup, i have tasted and seen :) and nothing else can compare with the One True God. :)

away with the things of old.

spending time living my new life as a child of God makes it all the more easier to do so.



by the way,

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

to all. i hope you think about that. i hope you do something about it. away with the old life. :)

Your Love is Deep

Your Love is Deep
by Jami Smith

(listen here)

Your love is deep
Your love is high
Your love is long
Your love is wide
Deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I travel
Wider than the gap You filled
Who shall separate us
Who shall separate us from Your love
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from Your love

God and teci sing bryan adams :)

(except for the "i'd lie for you" part... :) )

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You
by Bryan Adams

Look into My eyes - you will see

What you mean to Me

Search your heart - search your soul

And when you find Me there you'll search no more

Don't tell Me it's not worth tryin' for

You can't tell Me it's not worth dyin' for

You know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

Look into your heart - you will find
There's nothin' there to hide

Take Me as I am - take My life

I would give it all - I would sacrifice

Don't tell Me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it - there's nothin' I want more
Ya know it's true

Everything I do - I do it for you

There's no love - like Your love
And no other - could give more love
There's nowhere - unless You're there
All the time - all the way

Oh - you can't tell Me it's not worth tryin' for

I can't help it - there's nothin' I want more
I would fight for you - I'd lie(?!?!) for you
Walk the wire for you - ya I'd die for you

Ya know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

July 28, 2007

You are my King (Amazing Love)

You are my King (Amazing Love)
by Newsboys

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken

I’m accepted, You were condemned

I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken

I’m accepted, You were condemned

I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, would die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

In all I do, to honor You

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken

I’m accepted, You were condemned

I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, should die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

In all I do, to honor You

In all I do, to honor You

You are my King

You are my King

Jesus, You are my King

You are my King

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, should die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, to honor You

In all I do, to honor You,

In all I do, to honor You,

In all I do, let me honor You.

come as you are

Come as You Are
Performed by Jaci Velasquez
Music by Rudy Perez
Words and Music by Rudy Perez, Judith Volz, Loren Balman

You are the reason

For blue in the sky

Yes, you are the reason why

Snow covers winter

And melts into Spring

And rivers meet the sea

God is here for you

And you were made for Him

He'll give you more of everything

'Cause He has always loved you

His promises are true, so true

If you

Come as you are
Don't change a thing

Open your heart

He'll walk right in

Come as you are

No alibis

His love for you

Will never die

There is a heaven

Open your eyes

And there you have no disguise

He'll never leave you

No need to hide

He's always by your side

If you just believe

There is a way you'll see

It's just one step to eternity

And He will always love you

This promise will be true, so true

If you

Come as you are
Don't change a thing

Open your heart

He'll walk right in

Come as you are

No alibis

His love for you

Will never die

optimize your search

"don't look for Me where I am not," God said.

it was one of those times when i knew He was speaking, but the content of His message sounded more like the words of the Sphinx in Mystery Men. (sorry God.) or maybe i was hallucinating. i was on a four-hour flight after all.

but as i said, i knew that it was He who was speaking, and soon enough i learned the truth of His words. you see, i went to *the* happening nightclub/bar/disco in the city, and i totally felt like i was in the midst of a worship service to...hmmm, some god or goddess of fertility? of wine and celebration? of sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol? to sum it all up, i went to a temple worshipping the self, and --- as much as i enjoyed dancing with some friends --- i felt shame at the blatant indulgence of it all. to be honest, in preparing to go there, i talked to God but did not consult Him: all the while i was telling Him, "oh, but God, i want to go, i really want to go..."

two weeks later i learned the meaning of what God was saying, all the more clearly. as i got to know who my wonderful classmates and teachers are --- they truly are my friends now --- i also have come to see who they are not...or, more specifically, Who is not in their lives. it is an absence that goes beyond culture shock; i am not talking of difference in culture, or academic background, or personality. God is not there.

surely God is everywhere, but He gave us the freedom to choose, to open the doors of our hearts to Him, or not. as one of the very few Christian friends i knew here put it, it is not people's fault that they don't have God in their lives. well, let me modify that a bit. maybe they don't know about God (yet), or maybe they have already made a decision to not recognize God as, well, God. but in any case, where there is life, there literally is hope --- it is not yet too late for them to turn to God, to let Him save them from the (just) punishment of their sins so they can spend an eternity of goodness and joy in His presence.

i am neither good nor sinless. but i can say what i do because i have seen the miracle of a transformed life --- that of my own, only through God's power, and God's mercy.

how can i feel God's presence where He is not?

maybe, instead of expecting those around me to reach the standards of perfection in goodness and holiness...*i* should let God shine through *my* life more.

then it would be easier for them to realize that God exists, that He is all-powerful, that He is all-loving.

then it would be easier for them to bow down to Him, and follow His command, to love God and everyone else.

then it would be easier for me to feel God's presence and bask in His love.

optimize my search.


opening my heart

"Open your heart
He'll walk right in..."
--- Jaci Velasquez, "Come as you are"

"opening my heart":

(A) acknowledging Jesus as the rightful center of my being

(B) dethroning my former (and current) idols. anything else that i've worshipped, that became a "god" in my life, has to be surrendered to the One True God.

"war of the wills":

it's a phrase that repeats itself over and over this week. we have all heard about the battle between good and evil, maybe you've also heard of angels versus demons or God versus Satan. but to be completely honest, the battles i've often fought are those that occur inside me.

we want to do good yet we want to do what is not good.

we want to be good but we want to stay "true" to ourselves: no conflicts, no dilemmas...no conscience.

people who know me know that when i "want" something, i really want something. so for me to give up something i really want, in obedience to God, is a really major sacrifice.

well, that's why it's called "sacrifice"...

i want to obey God but, many times, it seems that it's only on a theoretical, lip-service basis. because here comes the opportunity to choose God over myself, or the world, and suddenly i hesitate, falter, make compromises, rationalize and justify what both God and i know should not be.

and so i prayed. even if only on a theoretical, lip-service basis. deep down my mind knew that God's ways are best. but my impatient, impulsive heart only seeks to indulge itself, in the here and now.

more than once i've told God, "but i really want this."

eventually, i've realized, that i didn't really want it after all.

God knows me better than i know myself. if only i opened my heart, and eyes, and ears, and my whole being, to Him more. maybe sacrificing my false gods would become easier with practice. or maybe not.

thankfully He's ever present and willing to protect me --- to protect us --- from ourselves. regardless of our past, present, even future behavior. He is Good and Great,

and He even gives us the intention and the ability to follow Him.

God even helps me open up my heart to Him.

and in the meantime, His angels are working overtime to protect me.

July 26, 2007

He's too much of a gentleman to tell me this but...

He's too much of a gentleman to tell me this but i think it's true nonetheless...
(besides i need to hear it...)

"Stop telling Me what to do." --- God


God's presence :)

[message i sent to someone who just felt God's presence in such an overwhelming way that it still brings tears to her eyes. she was comforted and she felt God telling her that everything will be good :) ]

hi ______ :) am so happy for you :) just continue sensing God :) i pray that you'll DROWN in His presence over and over again :) we can't get enough of Him...and besides He is more than we can handle or contain ^_^ everything will be great :) God bless and may His light shine on us even more brightly! :)

July 24, 2007

celebrating YOU :)

dear Father, help me to just worship and honor You.

i am happy that Jesus is my friend, that i can communicate with You anytime *i* wanted to...

but help me worship You

as my God and King.

help me serve You

according to *
Your* purposes

the major Will

the tiniest details

i submit to You



no more claims.

no more plans.

(of my own)

let Your will be done, Lord.

in my life as it is in heaven.

let Your Kingdom come

save us all, my God and King.

Lord, You have said

that neither death nor life

not angels nor demons


can separate us from Your love

i marvel...and yet i cannot fully comprehend

and i thank You that it is true

that i do not live in a world of worthless accident.

that i can be good and do good

ONLY because i put my complete trust in the good God.

Lord, i thank You for my life

for my 25 years of existence

for Your 25 years of being good, wonderful, great to me

thank You for a promised eternity that is far greater, way better, utterly richer than what i have experienced so far

thank You for always extending Your hand

even as i jumped wholeheartedly into sin, darkness and despair

thank You for graciously letting me decide for myself

yet never letting me go

so that when the time came

when i can't handle things anymore

You were there to break my fall.

i praise You God,

because there is nothing else that i can do

and on this, my day of birth,

there is nothing i can do but celebrate YOU.

thank You so much. i love You.


same data, different conclusions

one of my teachers said that people have the same data, they just form different conclusions about them.

in the same talk, he denounced the concept of intelligent design (and subsequently, the notion of God) because of the random accidents that (he thinks) led to our current existence.

interestingly, he was saying many things that showed that even if he didn't believe in God, he was quite open to the possibility --- but maybe in such a subtle way that he didn't even recognize it.

like he said so himself: same data, different conclusions.

during the same talk i drew this: (i was inspired by what a classmate in a Bible leadership class said about what we see around us and the speculations --- and yup, conclusions --- we draw from what we see):

such a cute drawing (if i do say so myself!) ... anyway, so simple yet i hope succinct.


while reading Psalm 23...

everything else seemed like --- was! --- a memory.
what mattered was the here and now.
i was walking beside my God, my Shepherd-King, along the waters of Paradise.
nothing else could be more important.
nothing else really mattered.


this blog CANNOT be read in china

i can't view my blog here in china.

(fortunately i can still edit and post entries...)

the most obvious example of restriction that i've encountered here so far.

BibleGateway can't be opened here too.

too much "God", "Jesus", "Christ" in the text maybe.

well, i only have one answer to that.

God God God.

Jesus Jesus Jesus.

Christ Christ Christ.


Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel -- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18)

July 22, 2007

in His own timing

everyday i am learning about God's perfect timing.

there are times when an idea pops into my head, and i don't know whether it's my own, or God's, or the devil's...

and there are times when the distinction is all too obvious.

just recently i wanted to speak out. yup, *i*. but quietly, oh-so-silently, i felt that God wanted me to do something else entirely. the more i let my thoughts become still, there was this unspoken feeling that...

"now is not the time to speak..."

"this is not the time..."

"not now..."

listening to God seems tricky, especially if you've never done it before. but eventually you will get used to that still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) --- and the hard thing is how to follow it, especially if you don't want to :)

but in this particular situation, it was even trickier: i did not hear or feel any actual words from God. there was a feeling that i wanted to act on, and some other feeling that made me think twice, thrice...

until i decided, okay. i will not speak out.

for someone who loves to debate, and thinks she's pretty good at it, and writes and speaks a lot --- that says a lot. (plus the fact that i didn't explicitly hear God's instructions this time...)

but it took around only thirty minutes for that decision to be justified. the person i wanted to talk to was the one who approached us. and in the coming days, like clockwork, i did not have to do anything --- the circumstances approached me. they unfolded in the most "natural" way to the casual observer, which of course includes the person i wanted to talk to. knowing God, i can tell He was obviously behind all of this.

i got to talk, not just to him but to people important to him, not just once but a number of times. and though i still wanted to speak out about the truth of God, eventually i realized that God's plan was for me to show the love of God.

i am in the academe, and so was the person i wanted to reach out to. the intellectual/scholarly/philosophical approach to proving the existence of God seems like the reasonable thing to do. that's how i often did it anyway. (now that i think of it, when else have i stopped to ask God how He would have me do things?)

and so there i was. after the initia, tad-confusing moment of deciding to keep silent (for the moment), i soon felt God's love for this person. no matter that he denounced the idea of God in public. no matter that he probably did so all his life.

God loves him anyway.

and that thought just blew me away.

the saying "God loves us" becomes so cliche sometimes for me. i know it to be true but it loses meaning when i hear it over and over again...until times like this when, for an instant, i am once again overwhelmed by the power of that Truth that saves us all.

the intellectual debates and scientific proofs can happen later. besides, he's probably encountered that many times. (at the time i wanted to speak out, someone else actually did. others approached him too, but whether to agree, disagree, or ask questions, i'm not sure.)

but the love of God? that might be new. or just...forgotten.

i may not know all the details of his life or God's plan for him, but i do know that one time that i had to be silent.

and as the days passed by i got itchy: itchy to speak out, but in God's appointed time. gradually, as with many other things, God's will became my own.

sure enough, i got to see them one last time in the most "natural" of circumstances. in fact it was so "natural" that i didn't immediately recognize it as *the* moment.

"can i pray for you?"

truly God's ways are better than mine.


July 10, 2007

the esther moment, 2: use them wisely!

taken from http://monter.wordpress.com/2007/05/06/such-a-time-as-this/

Such A Time As This

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
The above words were spoken by Mordecai to Esther. Although the expression “Jehovah” or “God” is never mentioned in the book, it has been an example of God’s providence in caring for his people in captivity.
Mordecai is telling Queen Esther that God will deliver the Jews, but her position as queen may be the reason God has brought her to that position, to be Jehovah’s deliverer.
Sometimes survivors from a catastrophe, such as 9-11, a storm, or a war will wonder why they survived while others around them perished. They wonder if God has spared them so they can do some great thing. They go through life looking for that outstanding moment, but it never seems to come. In its absence, guilt sets in and the person wonders why they have missed out on doing what they were saved for.
Greatness does not always come in large packages. A smile that was given may have come at the right time for a stranger who needed it at that specific moment. A kind word may have meant more to the person receiving it than to the one who gave it. A person’s presence and a comforting arm around the shoulder of the person who was hurting emotionally, may have created a lasting memory to the receiver, but forgotten quickly by the giver. Yet, such small efforts on the part of the giver are outstanding moments not forgotten by the receiver.
In the words of Mordecai to Esther, “Who knows but that you have come to this outstanding moment for such a time as this?”
Use your moments wisely!


and my comment (i had to include this because it's what i'm going through right now. very apt you see :) )

first off, happy 50th anniversary in your walk with God! ^_^
i salute you for your sharp yet loving insights about God and the present world we live in :)
i saw your article while going around the web for that wonderful passage in Esther :) you see, i’m in an exciting time right now, being in an international interdisciplinary summer school as a researcher :) my research is something i’ve been passionate about since i first encountered it, but it was only recently that i heard God’s call for me to continue in this field. (well, i had to make sure of course! :) ) and now God is positioning me within spheres of influence that i didn’t even know existed, through the field that has always been the desire of my heart, that He placed there in the first place!
all reasons to praise God :) i’d just like to share that :)
thanks again and God bless! :)

we delight in the law of Your Word

We Delight
by Caedmon's Call
(Video here)

We delight in the law of Your Word
We delight in the Son that was perfect from birth
We delight in the day He's returning to earth

We will bow our hearts because we are free
As we raise our hands to give You glory
Father of life and love and infinite worth

We're delivered by blood that flows from the tree
Draw us near to You, vessels of Your mercy
Before the invention of man...the glorious Trinity

We will lift our eyes to the cloud and the flame
Lord, You guide our steps and restore us again
The nations of man will rejoice in the God of the Wilderness

a new kind of prayer...

(...at least for me.)

rc, this is for you. :)

Father, let Your will be done in the life of ______.

may You use people, including myself, and circumstances to speak to ______ and enable ______ to realize Your overwhelming love for ______.

Lord, it is You who causes things to happen: in the world and in people's hearts. Father, i join You in reaching out to the multitudes who are still not in Your house, whether by circumstance or by choice. i especially pray for ______, as Your love for ______ comes over me as a wave that i cannot contain. i can only imagine how grieved You are for ______ to finally turn to You, freely and completely.

oh but dear God, if there's one thing i know, it's that Your ways are higher than my ways and Your thoughts higher than my thoughts. i take refuge in the knowledge that You are All-Powerful and always, ever, Sovereign over All.

i rest, and yet, i stand. i fight.

in Your Mighty Name.

for ______.


the esther moment, 1: because i'm a scientist

taken from http://www.wheaton.edu/ACG/essays/suppe2.html

Who knows, but for such a time as this?

Why We Became Geologists...

John Suppe1

Each of us looking back can tell some story-true or otherwise-of how we happened to become geologists. For some of you it was quite premeditated but for me it wasn't. In high school I was interested in a variety of subjects, including international relations; but geology wasn't one of them. Who knows, perhaps I would work for the State Department? As it turned out the photography teacher got several of us short-term jobs in the summer between high school and college with United Press International at the Democratic National Convention. I was excited and proud because I got to work on the convention floor with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. My job was to run the exposed film to the photo lab where it was developed and printed in just a couple of minutes to be rushed still wet onto the wire machines. John F. Kennedy was nominated at this convention. I remember seeing his brother Ted and also Eleanor Roosevelt.
What I learned on the convention floor was that I didn't have the personality to deal with politicians. So when I went off to college in September I had no idea what I would study, except that it wasn't political science or international relations. In our college you had to major in something the first day; that's how you got your academic advisor. I chose geology knowing absolutely nothing about it-perhaps it had something to do with mountain climbing and back packing. I changed majors several times in college but eventually geology stuck.
I've heard a lot of stories about how small events have steered our lives and I'm sure you have as well. Some have been steered near geology but then away again. Yesterday I bought a suit from an old-time Princeton clothier. He's a talker, so I found out that as a young man he worked as an oil-well driller near McKittrick west of Bakersfield. Drilling didn't stick and he spent his life fitting suits and selling ties. We all live fairly ordinary lives-we're the ones that happened to end up geologists rather than clothiers.
Yet as Christian geologists we are children of the King and we need a Christian vision for our place in the world. Why did we become geologists? Like Esther we need to be told, "...who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"2
Two weeks ago I got a phone call from a Korean pastor out in Los Angeles. I barely know the man-I met him only once-so I was surprised. He wanted me to give a talk to a group of Korean college students on "Can a Scientist be a Faithful Christian?" Now this man is a real man of God led by the Spirit; how did he think I could give a talk to a group of students 3000 miles away? Yet the fact was I would be in Los Angeles the next weekend. I had geologic meetings on Monday and Tuesday and was staying over the weekend to get a cheap airline ticket and visit my mother. I gave the talk.
So my question is why did I become a geologist? And why did this pastor 3000 miles away who barely knows me call me up just before my trip to Los Angeles? The answers are "chance" and "coincidence" according to the common intellectual world view. "Yet who knows but that [we] have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
I remember reading of a former Secretary of Agriculture, who had a very hard life as a young man before becoming successful. In his most difficult years his family and employer actually tried to do him in, yet he still was faithful to the Lord and honorable. He even ended up in prison on false charges. Nevertheless these terrible events eventually led to his being Secretary of Agriculture at a time of national crisis because of very low agricultural production. He dealt with the problem successfully. Then he was able to say to those who formerly had tried to do him in, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."3 He certainly believed that he had come to 'royal position' for a time such as this.
Few if any of us are in high position like Joseph and we likely never will be. We aren't in high position like Daniel and likely never will be. We are not in royal position like Queen Esther. We are all fairly ordinary geologists. Nevertheless each of us has come to our position in the Royal Geological Survey for a time such as this.
We are God's men and women of the hour.
1. Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544
2. Esth. 4:14b.
3. Gen. 50:20.


and my email reply (i had to include this because it's what i'm going through right now. very apt you see :) )

I have just read "Who knows, but for such a time as this? Why We Became Geologists..." in the ACG website found in http://www.wheaton.edu/ACG/essays/suppe2.html .

I would like to commend John Suppe and your entire organization for coming together to glorify God in your field :)

Being a Christian physicist myself, with a fellow believer friend who is also a geologist, I firmly believe and have seen firsthand God's sovereignty particularly in the sciences. Truly it is a daily uphill climb but our love for our colleagues --- more importantly, God's love for them --- and the rest of our fellowmen keeps us going.

May you continue to glorify God as you stay in the center of His perfect will, in geology and beyond. :)

July 4, 2007

GOD *is* the Gospel :)

I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
--- Psalm 16:2

Everywhere I go God is reminding me of this :)

His greatest blessing, His gift from which others draw their value, is Himself.


By the way, "God is the Gospel" is a book by John Piper. :) I got to browse it a little in a bookstore :)

We must check our hearts. All we need is in God, so it's understandable if we go after the crumbs that lead to His feast.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. --- James 1:17

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. --- Romans 8:28

But in the presence of the Feast-Giver (whether intentionally or not on our part), God Himself...do we still stick around just for the food?

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you...
--- Isaiah 26:9

My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
--- Psalm 84:2

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
--- Psalm 62:5

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
--- Psalm 62:1

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
--- Psalm 42:2

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
--- Psalm 42:1

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; --- Psalm 25:1

I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
--- Psalm 143:6-8

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
--- Psalm 130:5-6

This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.
--- Jeremiah 9:23-24

Missionaries must be more than tourists from ivory towers :)

From the Christianity Today article in http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/july/9.34.html

Christian Vision Project:
From Tower-Dwellers to Travelers
Ugandan-born theologian Emmanuel Katongole offers a new paradigm for missions.
Interview by Andy Crouch | posted 7/03/2007 08:43AM

Christian leaders from five war-torn countries of East Africa gathered in Kampala, Uganda, last November to strengthen the church's witness in the midst of conflict. They were convened by Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest whose biography embodies both ethnic tension and Christian hope. Katongole was born and raised in Uganda, the son of Rwandan parents. His father embraced Christian faith as an adult, and his joyful seriousness about Christianity shaped Katongole, who joined the priesthood and trained as a philosophical theologian in Belgium. Katongole now teaches at Duke Divinity School, where he is co-director, with Chris Rice, of the Center for Reconciliation. He spoke with Andy Crouch about this year's big question for the Christian Vision Project: What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?

You've lived on three continents and in four countries, and your parents were from yet another country, Rwanda. How does your story affect your understanding of God's mission in the world?

Being an immigrant can be a blessing. God's mission, as I read it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, is new creation. God is reconciling the world to himself. And there is a sense of journey that is connected with that. When, later on, Paul says that "we are ambassadors of God's reconciliation, God is appealing through us," he is inviting us into a journey toward a new kind of community. People looking at Christians should be confused. Who are these people? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Americans? Are they Ugandans? In Revelation, John sees people drawn from all languages and tribes and nations: an unprecedented congregation. Living on three continents has deepened my understanding of the church as such a congregation; at the same time, it has heightened my sense of Christian life as a journey and of what it means to live as a pilgrim, a resident alien.

That is reminiscent of the name Christians gave themselves in Acts, "people of the Way."

That is, the way of Jesus. I also take that to mean people on the way, on pilgrimage. We have settled too easily. Instead of living out that story of journey toward a new creation, we tend to live out the stories of nationality. And then we forget what it means to journey. It's not difficult to see why we settle, because our nations or tribes or races try to convince us that life can't get any better than this. They ask us, "Where would you want to go? Why would you want to leave?" This is not just something that happens in a superpower like America. Even small nations like Rwanda, even small tribes, have an America-sized imagination of themselves!

The challenge that Christianity faces in our time is the challenge of tribalism. There's a church in Rwanda where the baptismal font still stands. But it bears the scars of being hacked by machetes, and the church was littered with thousands of bones of people who were killed. You couldn't find a more strange and ironic and tragic image than that: a common baptism surrounded by killing in the name of Hutu and Tutsi.

Many of us feel we are beyond that, but the dynamics of national identity remain—even of ecclesial identity. We can be settled in our Catholic power. We can be settled in our Baptist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, or evangelical identity, and we feel a certain power from that. We think that our mission derives from that power.

The story of the tower of Babel begins with people settled in the land. The tower speaks of strength, power, and stability. It speaks of the ability to stand above the land and survey it. Pilgrims don't build a tower! In our day, I think what God is doing is exactly what he did for that tower—dispersing people, spreading them out, scattering them. Scattering, the way I read it in Genesis, is a good thing. It is part of God's purpose for God's people. It is meant to be good news for both Israel and the nations.

What's the difference between being scattered in that fruitful way and assimilation, in which cultures are subsumed and forgotten?

The drive to preserve culture grows out of the belief that the only way we can protect ourselves is if we consolidate. So even small nations try to build up their power—and even small congregations and communities try to mimic the powerful. This is happening today in African Christianity. "This is the age of Africa," we hear. Given the numerical strength of Christianity in Africa, there is a growing sense that this is Africa's time to flex our muscles. Africa has come into her own now! I think Christianity has been easily drawn into the language and grammar of power.

I don't think as Christians we are called upon to conserve our culture. We are called upon to share the gifts that we have received. Those may be from our culture, or they may be from another. Coming to America from Africa, I've come to appreciate pizza, so when I go back, I take a pizza home and say, "I want you to try this!" Likewise, when I come from Africa, I bring a song or a story to share with my American congregation.

But isn't there a place for preserving culture? What would you say to an ethnic group like the Kurds who are trying to survive amid dominant cultures around them?

The gospel certainly provides skills for resisting the power of dominant cultures. But this word culture can be mystifying. I don't know what it is. When the Kurds are living in their land, they're not "protecting their culture." They are feeding their children. They are communicating in a way they can understand. Certainly, we are right to be offended and to resist if anybody would forbid the Kurds to speak Kurdish or to play their music. But what needs to be passed on is not "culture" as a whole but specific cultural goods. We need to be able to dance, sing, tell stories, and pass along the habits of eating and cooking that have been passed on to us—but I don't know what "preserving a culture" is.

Are specific places and local identities important in a life of pilgrimage?

Absolutely. Pilgrimage actually makes us more aware of localness, because it brings us into contact with specific places and people. People sometimes ask me how "the church in America" should relate to "the church in Rwanda." But that level of abstraction grows out of a tower-building mentality. There are only specific Americans from specific places with specific gifts and stories; there are only specific Rwandans.

The language of culture actually prevents us from engaging other people. It leads us to see ourselves as permanently separate from them: We have our culture, and they have theirs. It keeps us from allowing others to radically challenge us—that's just their culture, you see, and it does not have anything to do with our culture.

What would it mean for Christians to have a certain naiveté about all these things called culture? How do we inhabit what we might call tactics instead of strategies? Strategy is the posture of an army, of a nation state, of a business that is able to conduct surveillance of its territory and all others. Tactics, on the other hand, are weapons of the weak, of those who have no place to call their own, who live in a territory that is surveilled and controlled by others.

Isn't that a waste of our capacity to think strategically?

There are two dominant models of mission in our time. There is the model of mission as aid, which arises out of the great need we see in the world—famine, AIDS, poverty—and also out of a recognition of how much American Christians have. So American Christians go to Africa to help. This can be criticized as giving a person a fish for a day, but if that person is starving, then this model of mission actually does some good. A lot of people are being helped by this kind of mission. But the problem is that from this mission, Christians return to a tower. Their world remains their world, and Africa's world remains Africa's world.

Then there is the model of mission as partnership. It arises out of a sense of mutuality and solidarity between churches in the North and the South. So churches develop sister-parish relationships and so forth. The hope is to teach people how to fish, to equip them to do the fishing.

But as far as I can see, the pond in which they fish is still their pond. Christians in America have their own pond. We are still talking about your pond and our pond!

This model also overlooks the difference in power between America and the rest of the world. One gets an impression that because of the numerical strength of Africa's church, Africans Christians can be equal partners with their Western counterparts. But we cannot pretend that the power of America does not exist. There is a new desire to learn from one another, but how deep does the learning go? I have a hard time getting a serious answer when I ask American churches what they have learned from their African "partnerships." Perhaps instead of spending $2.5 million on a building, they scale it down to $2.3 million. But they're still constructing baptismal fonts that automatically adjust the temperature! In a world where millions of Christians have no clean water, how much has been learned here?

Maybe they turn the temperature in the baptismal font down by two degrees.

Right! I'm not saying that either of these models is heretical—they have biblical foundations. Mission as aid often draws from the story of the Good Samaritan, and mission as partnership invokes Paul's image of the Body, which has many parts. It is only that these models do not go far enough in bridging the neat divisions or tribalism between "us" and "them." That is why we need to learn another model—mission as pilgrimage, which is based on a vision of the Christian life as a journey. This model grows out of the sense of being pilgrims together, pilgrims who feel the dust under their feet and come to know the places where they sojourn.

The problem with the world is not that we do not see others. We do. We know the needs of the world. But to feel the gifts and needs of the world—that means learning to journey with people in different parts of the world. This kind of journeying is slower than mission done as delivery of aid, slower even than partnership. It takes time just to learn the history, for example, of Gulu in northern Uganda, to learn what is happening there. But when we take time for that, it begins to transform the pilgrim. You have learned the names of people and places, these far-flung places with names very difficult to pronounce. You have inhaled the dust.

Mission as pilgrimage is about that transformation. It's not about fixing northern Uganda. You're not going to fix northern Uganda! It's not even about partnering with "northern Uganda." How can you partner with all of northern Uganda? Where do you begin? Instead, the pilgrim begins to know, to feel, that northern Uganda, with all its tragedy and terror, is a Christian story. That it is not just their story, but that it is our story.

Do Africans need to make pilgrimages to America as well?

I doubt whether many people from my village will be able to afford to come here. But when American Christians go to a village in Africa, it may not only allow them to see Africa differently but also allow Africa to see America afresh.

Most Africans see America through Hollywood or through the news about the war in Iraq. These Americans, people think, they are a war-loving people. But if they are able to connect with real individuals and to eat and drink with them, a new journey of mutual transformation might begin.

There is a Rwandan proverb, "Unless you hear the mouth eating, you cannot hear the mouth crying." You have to begin by eating together. Then you begin to realize that the dividing wall has been broken down, and we are no longer strangers.

Can short-term mission trips be understood as pilgrimages?

At their best, yes. But many short-term trips from America are based on a misleading sense of mission. They are based on a sense of power—that American Christians are going to do something for Africa, save Africa. Maybe it is America that needs saving, and this is a truth that can only be learned through a sense of pilgrimage.

You see, not every trip to a foreign land can be called a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a particular form of journeying that involves a number of elements, including encounter, reflection, transformation, and the readiness to be drawn into a new sense of community with those different from us. It is pilgrimage that gives rise to the church as a unique fellowship of people drawn from different nations, tribes, languages, and races.

Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today.

Emmanuel Katongole
and his co-director of the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation periodically post reflections on the organizations "Journeys of Reconciliation" section.

Katongole blogs at Africa Matters and has written articles on "wild spaces," "Speaking with an Accent in a World of Theological Blogging," "Reconciliation Amidst Violence and Racism," and "Postmodern Illusions and the Challenges of African Theology."

He is also senior lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University and founder of Share the Blessings.