Tuesday, 23 March 2004

A More Personal Update (March 23rd 2004)

This one got more and more personal as I went on, so
pardon the initial cuteness; I decided halfway through
that it was only going out to a very short list of
people. it's a little long, but i've never been one
to apologize for that. please bear with me. this
letter is not for bulletin boards or public
discussion. it's more so you can know how your
prayers for me have been answered.

OK, so here are some advantages and disadvantages to
living alone:

advantage: you can do whatever you please at home
disadvantage: this usually means nothing interesting

a: you can go to bed whenever
d: korean meals are often designed to be eaten by two

a: you can walk around wearing anything you want
d: there's noone to be shocked or surprised or
disgusted or any such thing

a: you pick what movies to rent
b: you can never think of anything you want to see

a: you don't have those pointless small talk
conversations about whether its better to push a chair
in with your foot or your hands
d: those conversations are fun

a: nobody knows, or checks, where or how you are
d: nobody knows, or checks, where or how you are

a: privacy
d: nobody has a backup copy of your keys (funny typo
there: I originally typed "eyes" instead of "keys")

a: long showers
d: it takes initiative to hang out with someone
a: which means you get personal stuff done
d: or waste untold amounts of time on pointless fluff

a: you can keep it as clean as you like
d: you can keep it as dirty as you like

a: no one else can take credit for the decor.
d: no one else can take blame for the smell.

and so forth.

I've been sick for quite a while now -- it seems that
just as I was recovering from that last cold, I caught
another one, or something like it. All my co-workers
are sick. There's this stuff called the yellow dust
in the air right now -- it's dust blown in from (I
think) the Gobi desert in China, and it's a fine dust
that makes the air hazy for a few weeks every spring,
and people with asthma are told to stay indoors (or
wear these cute surgical masks that you can buy at any
convenience store -- remember pictures from Shanghai
during the SARS scare? Exactly like that -- just not
as many). It also makes sore throats and head colds
increase, and makes sore throats (like mine) heal
really slowly. Kids miss classes, the local news
gives air quality indexes, and if it's too high,
school is cancelled (but not private academies like

I'm having a lot of fun with my classes right now. I
have one trick where i tell students to touch my nose
(then I wonder why I'm sick), and make some animal
noise; then I say "Do it again" and repeat. Then,
after three or four repetitions, instead of meowing,
or clucking, I shout "BOO!" and startle the dear
child. I had one student who's the most vocal student
in my class -- good attitude, sense of humor, but
loud; I had just shown the rest of the class my trick,
when she walked in late. She says "Why is everybody
laughing?" and I said, "Come here and I'll show you."
And I did. Great times -- I really enjoy that class.

In another class one of the students was reading
something about bumper stickers, and the "I Love New
York" sign was in the article -- the I heart NY one.
While he was reading he came across this sign and
instead of saying "I love New York", he sounded it out
and said what sounded like "I hurt knee."

That was the class where, because I was tired at the
end of the day, I offered them bananas and kept
calling them "umbrellas" -- and you know how once you
get the wrong word in your head, you're GOING to make
the mistake again. So now we have a running joke
where if I can't think of the word for something, I
call it "umbrella". And there's this girl named
Christine in that class who just goes into hysterics
whenever I do something funny. They're also quite
smart. Then somebody misread "soap on a rope" as
"soup on a rope" and what could I do but crack up?

There's also a student in that class who's so
obssessed with Lord of the Rings that his name is
Aragorn. Every writing assignment I give must have
qualifiers like "design an invention to make your life
easier. that's YOUR life; not the life of an Orc
warrior or a white wizard." It's actually quite funny
though. He's a really bright kid, and he said he
wants to be a writer. He's talented enough (at age
14) to give it a go.

Last weekend I went to Everland (an amusement park)
with a new friend named Colleen. Colleen is cool.
She's good to talk to, a bit older than myself, an old
hand at living in Korea, tolerant of my weirdnesses,
and smart as buttons. (really smart buttons) She
also appreciates my jokes, and lives close enough to
hang out on weeknights (though since we're not close
enough friends yet to spend a lot of time at each
other's houses watching movies or eating cheese-free
nachos, hanging out usually involves a little money
these days). Everland was cool, though she was afraid
of some of the rides. But a good time was had by all.
So far we've discovered we can spend a lot of time
together without getting sick of each other, and so
far our age difference (not shocking, but more than
three years) hasn't shown itself in any major way. I
think we're both glad to have a friend nearby, and
we've both been pretty good about nurturing a good
friendship without moving uncomfortably fast or
frustratingly slow.

Living alone has meant I spend a lot more time writing
than I did before. This is a very good thing.

Finally, I've had a revelation, possibly because of
the alone time, and possibly because I've started
spending more time in the Word, and in prayer (another
advantage of living alone, especially without cable
TV: nobody to distract you).

And here's how it goes. this is going to take a
while, so buckle in and get comfortable. maybe print
it out and take it to the dentist's office.

My oldest sister and I have a years old debate about
whether Christians ought to read books/listen to music
full of discord and hurt etc.; I argue that they're
part of the world where God has placed us, and part of
the human nature God put in us, and that more learning
happens along the lines of tension than along the
lines of harmony; Rebecca answers that being exposed
to, and turning my mind toward sometimes squalid
aspects of life can be damaging to my soul. Maybe
it's just that Rebecca's way of becoming available to
God is to seek out peace and quietness and wait for
God's whisper, while my way, traditionally, is to
stare into the storm to wonder at His splendour.
Revelation has come both ways (Elijah and Job)

I think it's a good debate for both of us -- iron
sharpens iron, and I think both of us benefit from
each other's insights. Often it seems that we are
arguing two sides of the same coin, and Rebecca
reminds me to fix my eyes on heavenly things, for
that's where we're GOING, while I (hope I) remind her
(how presumptuous I am!) to keep her eyes on the world
around, because that's where we ARE; fire is beautiful
because it's fire, as well as being beautiful because
it's a metaphor for the holy spirit. It can, and
should, be enjoyed for both, I think (am learning).

Christ managed to do both -- he brought peace to those
who needed it, and created harmony where there was
discord, but he also destabilized some people who were
too complacently secure, and often associated with
people who moved along the ragged edges of life.
Somewhere among the stances we argue is a way of life
that is harmonious and peaceful as well as challenging
and growing.

(sorry if some of this commentary is old hat for some
of you; writing it helps me work through it; that's
how I come to understand most things in my life.
Maybe, if anything, I should apologize for wrestling
my angels and demons in front of all of you.)

Anyway, I'd mentioned a while ago to rebecca that of
my family members, I think our minds operate most
similarly. Since then we've both looked at the
similarities between us and learned a few things, and
seen a few things in ourselves that we hadn't ever
thought to look for in ourselves before.

She said in her last e-mail that

"I think you are right that
we think the same way, but the
difference I see is in what we
think about." (see also: Phil. 4:8
"Whatsoever things are true, lovely,
honest, just etc think about such
things." "by beholding we are changed."
2Cor. 3:18: "But we all, with open
face beholding as in a glass the glory
of the Lord, are changed into the same
image from glory to glory, by the
Spirit of the Lord." )

So I wrote in my journal about that, and had a
realization (here it is, finally.)

it's hard to admit this, because rebecca and I have
debated this exact thing before, with me vehemently
defending myself.

confession time.

Music has become a god to me. I was so busy thinking
about my ambition to be a writer, and wanting to make
sure God came before writing, and that if He asked me
to put writing aside to further His kingdom, I would,
that music snuck in the back door and became the thing
I didn't want to give up.

The thing is, there are the priorities I'll tell you
if you ask me to list them, and there are priorities
you would discover by drawing a pie chart of how I
spent my time, money, and thought. If there's a
discrepancy between the things you say are most
important, and the things you live as if they were the
most important, obviously you are lacking either
vision for your life, or commitment to that vision.

so I've decided to stow my CDs and my speakers and my
player for an indeterminate amount of time: it will be
more than a month, but I don't know when it will end;
basically, until I can listen to music without it
possessing my thoughts and causing me to spend
inappropriately large amounts of time, thought or
money on it.

I'm going to miss music a lot -- I can only think
it'll be like quitting smoking; everywhere you go,
someone's lighting up and making you miss that
feeling. Except it'll be even harder to defend,
because music isn't inherently bad for you; even the
music I listen to. I am not backing down on the
points I made in discussions about the value of
certain types of music; I'm just recognizing that, as
defensible as such music is in general and in
principle, in MY life, at this time, its presence
represents something other than a means to enjoyment
and (sometimes) learning about the world, and those
principles fall to the greater principle that "You
shall have no other gods before me".

I've been thinking lately about the idea that God is a
jealous god. I want to make sure that I am not
misunderstanding or underestimating God's (justified)
possessiveness over what calls itself His.

so pray for me. pray that ALL my values get realigned
appropriately, because I've been easily distractable
for a while. Living alone means I have a lot of time
where me and God are the only ones in the apartment.

This is pretty big for me. Most of you know how much
I talk about /listen to music. Most of my casual
spending money was spent on music last year. I don't
quite know yet what I'm going to do, or where my mind
will go when I stop thinking about that song on the
radio, but I'm kind of excited to find out -- because
I don't think God will disappoint me if I give Him all
that now(soon)-free space in my mind to do with as He

The thing is, even if it's OK for Christians to go
into the world and engage with the things and ideas of
the world (in order to understand the people of the
world and better show them Christ's love, among other
reasons), this requires -- REQUIRES (and pardon me if
this sounds cliche; it's just becoming new to me
again) that we be absolutely anchored to God before we
make such forays.

You can't stand against the flow of a river if you
don't have a solid footing (and preferably a rope
around your waist that's tied to something even
bigger), and I was so busy saying that it's OK for
Christians to stand in the river that I forgot to
check whether my rope was secure. So now I'm at least
aware I was drifting, and looking to get that rope
tied tightly again. This will take time. Hopefully,
as I continue to spend time with God, He will move
more mountains in my life, and maybe by the time I get
back to Canada, you'll barely recognize me. Maybe.

So I'm asking you to pray for me. And thanking you,
for the prayers you've already done. I've been placed
in a spot where I don't think I've ever had so much
quiet in my life, and I can't wait to hear what God's
been whispering while my life was too loud to let me
hear. There are other areas of my life, I'm sure,
where I need such radical shifts and new insights, and
pray that I'm willing to go through those shifts, and
that I make no excuses. (that was how I knew music
was too important in my life: I started making excuses
about why I didn't REALLY have to cut back on my music

anyway, it's an exciting time spiritually. I haven't
been this deep in the Word since my second year of
university, and I don't know if I've ever prayed even
this much (and believe me, there's room for
improvement). but for the first time, I can say I've
prayed recently for all the people on this list. I'm
not quite up to praying for each of you daily, but
weekly is better than my former "twenty seconds after
I finish reading your e-mail, with few exceptions"
rate. God has this snowballish knack for picking up
momentum as He goes, so who knows where this will end.

I love you all.

Becca: you asked for my response. I guess this is
part of it. Any thoughts?

Dan: in case I forget later, happy birthday, dude.
and mom and dad: happy 30th again.

Take care.


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