You Are The Man!

Spoken in modern times, this is usually a compliment;  you are the only one who could have done this!  No one else is as good as you are at this, etc..   But in 2 Samuel 12, the prophet did not think highly of the king to whom he said this.

Where do you take hurts so deep that you can hardly express them to someone as close as a spouse?  How do you stop crying when part of your life that was a significant evidence of your redemption turns out to be a lie?  “Who can ease the pain?” David asks in Truth of Truths rock opera of 1971.

https://www.amazon.com/TRUTH-TRUTHS-CONTEMPORARY-ROCK-OPERA/dp/B002GC6568

David had sinned with Bathsheba, committing adultery with another man’s wife, then had the husband killed, not to mention a bunch of other guys caught in the coverup of how he had him killed.  Confronted by Nathan, the prophet, “You are the man!” he knelt down in tears and repentance, but God still exacted a harsh punishment because of David’s sin (2 Samuel 12:7).

Pain like David experienced because of his sin is part of the package when we think, “How would God know?  Does the Most High know anything?” (Psalms 73:11)  There is judgement, and it usually follows those who are disobedient, but not like a mean warden who administers beatings or solitary confinement on a belligerent prisoner.  God wants more than anything for the unrepentant to turn and live! (Ezekiel 18:23)  More often than not, His judgement is simply a removal of the protection of the Holy Spirit and His angels who otherwise attend to us. (Psalms 91:12)

But in our stubborn hearts, we think we can get away with our little excursions into sin.  We think this little thing will not matter to Him.  But His eyes are not shut.  He is not a god of stone or metal or wood, whose ears are deaf and whose mind is only in the imagination of the ‘worshiper.’  He IS the God who sees.  And as we have noted before, “God does not hate sin because He is holy any more than a mother hates cancer because she is healthy.  She hates cancer because she sees what it does to her children and He hates sin because He sees what it does to HIS children.”  (Steve Elliott)

So long after we may have forgotten our sin; long after the consequences seemed to have been muted, the fruit of our misdeeds come back to embitter our taste and make our teeth hurt.  Although God forgives sins and forgets iniquities, it often does not remove the consequences, which we see as God’s judgement.  As a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba, he experienced a great deal of pain: among them: a son’s death; internal family feuding that resulted in the death of another son, Amnon; the verbal abuse by Shimei; abuse of his wives; public humiliation; disrespect and death threats of Absalom; the death of his beloved Absalom; then conflicts over his successor.  ALL so he could have an hour or so of pleasure.  And if our sin continues beyond a couple hours, how long can you expect the pain to continue?

It may come back to haunt you, as it did David, just when you think you can see the light at the end of life.  Forgiven, many of us will enter Heaven with scars and wounds that only appearing before our Master will heal.  But how much better if we could avoid those scars and the damage we do to others?

It is never too late to turn and set your heart on what God wants for you instead of what you think will be more “fun;” instead of thinking you know better than Him who created you what will satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.  And if you do not turn away from sin, you may simply expect that there will be unforeseen consequences that will break your heart into crumbles finer than you realized it could be ground.

Remember, “Sin will take you farther than you ever intended to go, it will cost you more than you ever expected to pay, and it will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay.”  (Kay Arthur)

China Travelogue – 05/31 to 06/01

2017-05-31
“Last things” begin today, as this was our last trip to Nanling Campus.  Anita’s students were a smaller group than usual as this was her final exam.   A couple of the original students had dropped due to schedule conflicts; another was just auditing for exposure to English; another claimed he forgot because he had attending the Dragon Boat Races!  Sounds suspiciously like some American undergrads Anita has encountered; I guess excuse-making goes back to Adam and Eve and is universal!  I tried encouraging the students with a couple of quickly selected quotes on the power point.

As we left after the exam, I noticed a professor that had been at the workshop and stepped in her class to take a couple of pictures during the break.  She was doing an outstanding job teaching ESL.  Her dedicated students took the break as an opportunity to catch a couple of much-needed cat-nap winks!  But by the time she resumed her lecture, they were up and attentive.

Before leaving Nanling for the last time, we stopped by a student dorm to take a look at how they survive four or more years of university life here.  After walking through the pristine dorm, Gan showed us a typical dorm room.  Like many in the US, except the students are four to a room, the “guy’s” room is always a little messy, too.  But they rarely have roommate problems as each has his unique space with a desk under his bed, and is only responsible for his quarter of the room.  The biggest difference with US dorms is that each room only has a toilet and lavatory, without a tub or shower.  The campuses each have communal showering facilities that any student can use for a few cents, so we often see students on the main campus walking along with their toiletries of shampoos and soap in small buckets.

A wall of encouragement of bright and smiling students helps keep morale up while slogans of historical figures, some great, and some not so much, also set a tone for the value of education.

We noted a fuel station as we walked back off campus.  Not used to driving, we had not noticed these before.  Standard octane ratings of 87, 95 and 98 headlined the pumps, and uniformed attendants took care of the cars like we did in the 1950s.  Gan took us back through the tunnel again and dropped us off at the North Gate because Anita needed to go to the Din Xin Building for grading.  I took some more pics of the models and decided I reeeeally need to build a model cement truck when I get back to Kentucky! 😉  The movie outside the faculty “office” was one of the Fast and Furious franchise, none of which I have seen.  I will not make you guess what the snaky thing is, like I did with the purse.  This is a flex-conduit for running wires through, either from ceiling or floor to a desk.   Again, graduating students were engrossed in taking last photos of friends before leaving JLU!

We again ate at the Student Center, Anita’s “tasteless soup” 🙂 , and I had some Changchun version of Dol Sol Bi Bim Bob, a favorite Korean dish we buy in Lexington at Han Woo Re.  Downstairs often “serenades” us, as there is a music studio students rent by the hour, to either take special lessons or rehearse.  The piano, not a big deal, but the drums often move us to other parts of the diner! 😀

2017-06-01
This Thursday Anita spent the day grading exams and finishing up details for her course.   The students who took the exam did quite well, even as ESLs, but she has to report grades even for the students who “dropped” as they apparently did not do so officially.  The couple who did not take the final did rather poorly, of course, but it did not matter for the auditor, and the other student who “forgot” the exam because of attending the Dragon Boat Races still passed with the homework he had completed.

The only other thing on our agenda was to treat her TA and LA to supper at a nice restaurant.  We planned to go early to Fusion, a very nice place in the Happy Mall, as they are not a large restaurant, and seating is almost always a problem after 5pm, even on a weekday.  But Yvonne texted that she would be a little late due to an accident with her car!  We were relieved it was only a scratch she had received in a parking lot, but it took her a while to try to figure out if there was a way to track down the culprit who put the first scratch on her front fender.  Though Yvonne would drive to the June Hotel, parking is such a pain at the mall that we chose to walk the ten minutes there.

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In the meantime, Gan and I walked to the mall to get a table at Fusion, where we would wait for Yvonne and Anita.  We arrived just in time to procure the last table before a line would start forming, and felt relieved we would not have to wait for dinner.  However, looking over the menu, there was only one dish there that Anita might be able to safely eat.  So while we were waiting, I made a quick perusal of another restaurant on the fifth floor Anita and I had noted before.

It was a lovely buffet, but Gan had noted that he forgot today was Children’s Day in China, so kids were in tow with their young parents all over the mall and in the buffet as well.  Returning to Fusion, I made an “executive decision” to change our venue.  The menu at Fusion looked very delicious for anyone who likes spicy food, but and from our track record of getting Chinese cooks to recognize her allergy, I did not want to spend one of our last nights exploring the Changchun medical system.

Just as Yvonne and Anita arrived, Gan and I were heading for the door, and it took a little time for us to discuss my decision to go to the Buffet what with kids scrambling everywhere around the mall.  By the time we got to the Buffet, it was crawling with the little twerps 😉 , and there was a small line of families waiting to get in.  We took a number while a nice host brought out some free samples of melons from the Buffet.  With so many children around the samples did not last long, but long enough for us to get a taste of a delightful watermelon and something that looked like cantaloupe on the outside, but soft sweet green like honey-dew on the inside.

The buffet was very good food, with lots for Anita to choose, as well as some spicy dishes for the rest of us.  One pays as you go in, and you have to add a 200¥ deposit per person in case you waste a lot of food; obviously no carry-out bags here, either.  If you finish within an hour you may take a bottle of wine with you, although it is free to drink during the meal; if you finish within two hours, you can take a wine cooler sort of drink, even though, again, you can drink as many as you wish during the meal.

It was a very pleasant meal, even with all the urchins running around, except for an occasional announcement over the PA.  When the children would run or start playing in the aisles, a VERY LOUD announcer would request parents to maintain control of their children. 😀  It was so loud, Gan, Anita and I would cover our ears for the duration while Yvonne would simply wince.  Just when we thought the announcement was over, the speaker would pick up another diatribe for a few more instructions.

After the feast, I started taking pictures of the piles of food on the buffet and several of the staff who cheerfully smiled for the only Westerner in the establishment.  Just as I was taking the last photos of one of the cooks, a young man in a tie and wearing a restaurant badge came over and clearly indicated taking pictures was not allowed.  So the only photo missing is from this cook’s finished product of fishballs, from the last pic in the set above.

IMG_0018Before exiting the mall, I needed a quick bathroom break, and steeled myself for the smoky smell one often finds emanating from the men’s rooms.  As I passed the No Smoking sign into a cloud of cigarette dust, I looked across the room and realized why the smoke was so terrible here: there was a special Smoking Room attached to the men’s room, and the smokers were obediently smoking there and not in the mall.  However, the door to the Smoking Room was wide open!  As Dr. Johns used to say, “The trouble with common sense is it just is not common enough!”

Heading home one of near the end of our visit in Changchun, we noticed an unusual bread making machine spewing out some kind of bread which was then cut or rolled into bags, but the baker’s technique was leaving something to be desired as he did not seem to notice his strand was reaching the ground before he would cut it into portions for the bags.  Another night in Changchun, China.

Oh, and I found MY coffee cup, but I will pass on the kafeluka coffee, and not just because of the animal cruelty involved in making it, but well . . . just look up 猫屎咖啡 on the web, or “cat-crap-coffee” if you do not type in Chinese!

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Immortal

“There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Have you ever read Ezekiel 1?  Someone once commented that they wanted to get ahold of whatever “weed” he was smoking!  After all, what Ezekiel saw seemed like some wild hallucinogenic visions, at least in that first chapter.  Except that a hallucination is a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind.  But his vision did exist in the Heavenlies!  What if he was not hallucinating but seeing things “mere mortals” cannot see.

You see, we are not meant for this world, at least not the way it is now.  We wonder what the world would be like if Adam and Eve had never rebelled in the Garden; if The Creator had continued “evening chats” with His created human.  Would we have made tools or microwave ovens?  What forms of transportation would their descendants, our ancestors, have come up with to get around the world?  Or would they have just taken their time walking?  After all, the men and women of the original race lived hundreds of years, even after the Fall; by eating from the Tree of Life, they would have lived forever . . . as we will when we eat of that Tree in the New Earth when Eden is restored. (Revelation 22:1-2)

So what did Ezekiel see in his vision in chapter 1?  Who could make plain what John saw when he recognized Jesus at the beginning of his Revelation; or what did he witness when he was called up to the Throne Room in Heaven (Revelation 4)?  Both of these men, and Isaiah as well (Isaiah 6), saw things that were indescribable in human words.  Like trying to reveal a rainbow to a man born blind, or communicate the taste of Dragon’s Eye to someone whose only exposure to fruit has been apples and oranges.  How do you explain something for which there is no point of reference, for which the reader has no experience?

So the prophets did the best they could to disclose the other-worldly views that they were allowed to experience firsthand, and coming back to us who are like blind men and women, put into words the indescribable so that we would understand.

The point is that we are made for another world, another whole type of existence, to which Adam and Eve were just living the preface.  The real story was yet to unfold . . . but they never got past the Table of Contents!  They chose to trust their own ideas rather than God’s idea of what was best for them.  They preferred to believe He was keeping something from them, and so they ate from the one tree, the only fruit in the Garden, that they were not supposed to eat.

Is this not the very heart of sin?  The Original Sin?  Every man and woman thinks at some point in their lives that “we know better than God” what will make us happy.  But in the end, we will find the bleak truth that He really did know best.  This is clearly represented by one form of sin in Proverbs 5:2-6:
“The lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
    and her speech is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
    sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
    her steps follow the path to Sheol;
she does not ponder the path of life;
    her ways wander, and she does not know it.”

We can make all the excuses in the world: well, my parents were bad; I grew up poor; the schools were lousy where I grew up; my teacher abused me; you do not know how miserable I was . . . and the list could go on.  But it is not the circumstances of our lives that determine our reaction to them.  Our reaction comes from within.

It is not even a matter of what stuff are we made.  It would be easy to blame the Creator, and say, “He made me this way.”  That did not work for Adam nor Eve in the Garden and it will not work for us.  The CHOICE is ours to make!

“What do you people mean by quoting this proverb, ‘The parents eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  As surely as I live declares the Sovereign Yahweh, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child – both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.  (Ezekiel 18:2-4)

But death is not always what it appears to be! (See December 6, 2015)  It is not the end of existence, but a change in relationship.  Nor is sin very original.  It is almost always simply a warping of something good that God created.  Lust is simply a selfish twisting of God-created desire that should find its expression in love between a man and woman.  Greed is only a distortion of the Lord’s created desire for good things.  Sloth is the natural inclination to take rest, and then amplified to an obnoxious inconsiderate degree.

And like a distortion it has its consequences in our relationshipsGod does not hate sin because He is holy any more than a mother hates cancer because she is healthy.  She hates cancer because of what it does to her children, and He hates sin because of what it does to HIS children.” – Steve Elliott

This blog is kind of ‘all over the place,’ but it comes at a very rough time in my life.  Having viewed some effects of my redemption, I see an Enemy hand at work, trying to destroy the good that God intends.  So my mind is wandering all over the place in the old blogs, and my mind is wondering how God can still bring beauty from ashes.  But I know He can when we decide to follow Him, even if it means following Him to a cross.

Do not forget, YOU are immortal.  Every decision you make reverberates into eternity like a rock in a pond moving circles outwardly.  What kind of Immortal will you be?

“[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.  To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power.  To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.  Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.  Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance.  It won’t last forever.  We must take it or leave it.”  C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

 

Summary of The Disciplines of The Spirit

2017 Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life summary:
Dr Don Whitney.jpgThis week I am stealing another Crossway blog that coincided with my series on Spiritual Disciplines.  This presentation is by Don Whitney, the Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  He is the author of  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which was originally published in 1991, and then revised and expanded in 2014.  Dr. Whitney is also the author of the new book titled, Praying the Bible.  Unfortunately I did not know about these books till near the end of my series and have not read them . . . yet.  Now I am anxious to do so, to find out if I hit the nail on the head or just made marks in the desktop! 😉  Nicely, I had planned to conclude the series with Perseverance, as he does his book, so I figure he must be pretty intelligent to have figured out the same thing. 😀

Crossway asked Dr. Whitney the question: In general, what are the spiritual disciplines? The following is his answer:

“The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times. I describe them several ways — 6 aspects of that description.

“First, the Bible prescribes both personal and interpersonal spiritual disciplines. There are those spiritual disciplines that we practice alone and those that we practice with other Christians. So, for example, we are to pray alone. That is a personal spiritual discipline. We are also to pray with the church. That is an interpersonal or congregational spiritual discipline.

“We are to practice both, because Jesus practiced both (we could give examples from Scripture of that) and because the Bible prescribes both of those for us. So we don’t want to think of spirituality and the spiritual disciplines just as something we do by ourselves. We are to also engage others in the practice of the spiritual disciplines.

“A second characteristic of spiritual disciplines is that they are activities. They are not attitudes. Disciplines are practices. Spiritual disciplines are things you do. They are not character qualities. They are not graces. They are not the fruit of the Spirit. They are things you do.

“So you read the Bible. That is something you do. That is a spiritual discipline. You meditate on Scripture. Your pray, fast, worship, serve, learn, and so forth. These are activities. Now the goal of practicing any given discipline is not about doing as much as it is about being: being like Jesus, being with Jesus. But the biblical way to grow in being more like Jesus is through the rightly motivated doing of the biblical, spiritual disciplines.

“The key verse in all this is 1 Timothy 4:7, which says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). The goal is godliness, but the biblical means to that is to discipline yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit rightly motivated. We are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. The practical ways of doing that are things that you do.

“Strictly speaking, joy is not a spiritual discipline. That is the fruit or the result of discipline done rightly. So it is that distinction between doing and being. And the spiritual disciplines are about doing. You can do them as a Pharisee. You can do them wrongly motivated. But rightly motivated, they are things that we are to do in order to be like Jesus, to be with Jesus.

“A third descriptor of the spiritual disciplines is that we are talking about things that are practices taught or modeled in the Bible. The reason that is important is otherwise we leave ourselves open to calling anything we want a spiritual discipline. So someone might say: Gardening is a spiritual discipline for me, or exercise is one of my spiritual disciplines, or any other hobby or pleasurable habit they could call a spiritual discipline.

“But one of the problems with that is that mindset could tempt someone to say: Maybe meditation on Scripture works for you, but gardening does just as much for my soul as the Bible does for yours. Virtually anything being a spiritual discipline is one problem. The other problem is that it leaves it to us to determine what will be best for our spiritual health and maturity rather than accepting those things God has revealed in Scripture as the means of experiencing God and growing in Christlikeness.

“A fourth characteristic of spiritual disciplines is that those found in Scripture are sufficient for knowing and experiencing God and for growing in Christlikeness. We are told in those famous verses, 2 Timothy 3:16–17, that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” including the good work of pursuing the purpose of godliness, the good work of growing in Christlikeness. The Scriptures are sufficient for that.”

Wings Like Eagles – 20. Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life: Perseverance

Eagle1.jpgWhat do you do when winds of adversity blow against you as you try to live a godly life?  How do you hang in there when there seems to be nothing left for which to “hang?”  Where do you go for strength when your arms feel too tired to lift from your side?  What gives you the power to continue when it feels like you are running two steps forward and sliding back three?!  Jeremiah felt anguish as he lamented on hearing God’s voice speak to him:  “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (Jeremiah 12:5)

We have been talking about the Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life for 19 blogs, but here is “where the rubber hits the road.”  THIS IS THE DISCIPLINE THAT MATTERS!  Well, ALL the Disciplines matter, and there are many others that we are not even addressing.  However, you can fast (January 8, 2017) and pray (January 16, 2017) and keep yourself pure in the world (January 22, 2017); you can read and study (February 5, 2017 ) and memorize Bible verses (May 21, 2017) and find times of solitude (February 12, 2017) and worship in community (February 20, 2017, May 29, 2017) and exercise all of these 19 Disciplines and more and still find yourself lacking at the end of life . . . if you do not continue; hang in there; PERSEVERE!

In concluding this series on Disciplines of the Spirit-Led Life, I would be remiss if you were not reminded that none of these Disciplines earns eternal life (February 27, 2017, March 7, 2017!  That is a completely different story.

But to find the joy God has planned for us, to discover just how great His love is and how He wants to use us to bring glory to His name, to explore the ultimate purpose of loving and enjoying HIM forever, we must be disciplined followers.  If you give up, you may as well have never started.  The rewards of living for God are not to the ones who start, but to the ones who finish.  Athletes in ActionEvery athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

Esau was the firstborn of the patriarch, Isaac, but he sold his right to his inheritance for a bowl of soup.  Saul was a great “starter,” but in the end he lost his way, his authority, and his life.  Ananias and Sapphira began with great enthusiasm for the nascent church, but the love of money and prestige clouded their vision and they failed to see what it would cost them.  Paul warned the Christ-followers in Colossi, “He has now reconciled [you] in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (Colossians 1:22-23)  Though one cannot be “unborn” after being “born,” a child may die for lack of nutrition or disease.  In the same way, one “born again” can spiritually die for lack of spiritual food.

However, Paul’s confidence in his salvation was secure.  About ten years before his execution at the hands of the crazed emperor, Nero, Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

He realized that the things you could see with human eyes and touch with your hands were transient, including his aging body.  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)  The unseen intangible things are eternal.  So when this life is over, He who made the first body for you in the womb of your mother, will create a new body for you , a whole new creation, that will never again get diseased or wrinkled with age nor shrivel up in the shroud of death.  There will be no more separation from loved ones, especially not The Loved One who loves you more than His own comfort or life!

From where does such strength, determination and dedication come?  Where is the confidence that our lives are hid in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3)?  The same wind that grounds the sparrow and makes a starling shiver in its house lifts the eagle to heights above the mountains.  The God Who Is There will give you everything you need to succeed, to be disciplined, but He will not force you to listen for Him, any more than He will make “dry water” to please a skeptic.  He did His part . . . on a cross 2000 years ago; from a tomb three days later, and by sending the Holy Spirit 40 days later.  There is nothing we can add to His completed work, but we also have a part: to choose to believe; to choose to trust; to choose to allow Him to work out His will in our lives, to let the winds raise us like eagles.

Eagle2

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for Yahweh shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

 

China Travelogue: 2017-05-29 to 30

IMG_8024At the end of the travelogue of 05-26, posted on June 7, I asked if anyone knew what this was?  Well, contrary to guesses that it has anything to do with Chinese Physics, it is a handbag that a shy student carried to Anita’s small Main Campus information seminar, thus:IMG_8027

2017-05-29 to 30
IMG_8550Another bright and sunny day, but nicely cool, workers are adding polystyrene (Styrofoam) boards to the exterior of apartments near our hotel.  Then they are adding a mesh and covering with stucco cement.  I wish I had been there when they added the Styrofoam to see how they attach it to the existing concrete walls.  Then mesh is just stapled to the Styrofoam and then coated with the stucco.

With the day clear of academic responsibilities, Bob joined Anita and me, along with our LA, TA and Joanne, an administrative friend, to visit the Changchun World Sculpture Park.  Only a 10 minute auto ride from the hotel, Joanne and Yvonne drove us there.  The following is a small sample of the sculptures in the park, which is HUGE!  Even with walking from 9-12, we only covered about half the park, but it accounted for most of the 5.8 miles (9.3 km) we walked that day!

IMG_8598.JPGIt is a beautiful park with a wonderful layout of the sculptures, far enough apart to enjoy each one, but close enough to entice you to keep on going to the next.  There is a large exhibit of Rodin’s in the front of the park, including one of his famous “The Thinker.”  Whenever we have encountered one of his “thoughtful statues” I like to pose with it, wondering along with The Thinker, where did he leave his pants?  “That was SOME party last night!”

Other Rodin’s included Confucius, who did not attend The Thinker’s party and has all his clothes.  We noticed many of the artists seemed obsessed with spring and one of our company noted many of them had “mommy issues.”  Occasionally, we heard music, from Chinese traditional hymns to classical Motzart to Broadway show tunes, coming from discreet speakers that were their own special art form: “The Sound of the Rocks.” 😉

As in Nanhu Park, the water here has been a problem, and the city is working on cleaning it up, so there is a lot of construction proceeding to improve the beauty and enjoyment of the park.  The black swans cannot find fish or food currently, so the administration makes sure they are well fed until the water purification project is complete.  In the meantime, I “cleaned up” some water and put it around The Girl on a Dolphin to see what the park will look like when it is finished.  Anita tried to figure out what everyone was looking at above.  I expressed communication with my dialogue but no one would listen to my opinion!  Anita was getting hungry and hallucinating.  Bob found some of his soul-mates among The Gentlemen by Huang Wensian.  However, nature provided the very best sculptures, whether trees, hedges, cottonwood seeds, or even dandelions!

Wearing down as we approached five miles (8 km) on my health app, we thought about “borrowing” some stilts, but they were anchored too well.  The comments could go on, but I will let you use your imagination for any I have not mentioned.

IMG_9122Back on campus, we went to the office and worked on the computers for a while.  Heading home, a student from the university was spotted on one of those Segway/Hover Board crossovers.

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Today was the day Ms. Liu had set up a tour for the group to attend the Dragon Boat Races.  These were to be held at Jingyue Park where there is a very large lake and a popular destination for Chinese on holiday, a fact we would discover when we tried to leave.

Our bus driver was a very kind gentleman and careful driver and allowed me to sit in the jump seat on the way to the park.  This afforded me an outstanding view of the road ahead, but most of the interest was in the conversations and visits with the professors and their LAs who attended the races together.  We learned that every police station has an “Eiffel Tower” for telecommunications.

Inside the park was a beautiful drive around the lake until we encountered some jamming at the site where the races were to occur.  We had arrived an hour before the official start time of the races, so we had time to explore the smoky bathrooms where the No Smoking sign was prominently displayed, and the staging area for shows that would coincide with the races.  Some martial artists were warming up and some musicians were getting in a last rehearsal before the shows would begin, but that was enough to satisfy me.  The erhu and jaunquan were played by very good artists even if they were not in full dress yet.

IMG_9180.JPGSpeaking of “dress,” our usually very professionally dressed organizer of the program had decided to make it a true holiday and dressed accordingly, in the youthful standard of artfully ripped jeans and bare shoulders.  One would have thought we were being guided by a teenager rather than college administrator, but she did her job excellently, as always, no matter the attire. 😉

As more cars piled into the park, the crowd around us thickened and I learned that none of the Chinese with us had been to the Dragon Races before.  Apparently the interest of several faculty asking about this had prompted the outing, which Ms. Liu had wonderfully put together for us.   So we stood on the bridge near the “finish line” where the boats would complete their races.

However, looking down the shoreline, I spotted what seemed to be another hive of activity and my curiosity drew me to the start line of the races.  There a newswoman was interviewing various teams who were giving their required “oompah” yells and pumping themselves up with their camaraderie and enthusiasm.  As I took pictures of groups around me, a couple of people who seemed surprised to see a Westerner enthused about their races started taking my picture, and asking to be photographed with me.  One mature gentleman in a team tee shirt approached me and asked in English if this was my first time to the Dragon Boat Races.  We hit it off and talked about our families, our jobs, our recreations, and being about the same age, felt like we had known each other for a long time, rather than just meeting that moment.

John, Anita’s LA, had followed me, probably to keep an eye on me and make sure I did not get into any trouble, since I spoke NO Mandarin, and most of the participants would not be speaking English.  So he was handy when “my team” was interviewed by the newswoman, who kindly agreed to have her photo taken with me.

As the races proceeded with the first round, I realized John and I were having too much fun without Anita, so we ran back to the finish line to retrieve her.  By the time we returned, “my team” wanted photos of both of us, but when it came time to rally the team, they wanted me to raise the flag and the team sign, and join in their cheers.  What a BLAST!!

With tremendous gumption, “my team” headed out to their boat, which was too far out to the end of the guarded pier for me to photograph, so I had to settle for a close up of a competing teams’ boat as they began their quest for the 3000¥ prize for the first round.  If they won the first heat, they would then get to compete for the 5000¥ prize!  Of course, when you divide by the exchange rate of 6.8, and then split that up between everyone wearing a team tee shirt, you can safely assume money is not the motivation for participation.  It is for the bragging rights of saying “I was on the team, whether we win or lose.”

So when “my” race started, “my team” took an immediate lead of a couple furlongs, but by the time they had gone one quarter of the way, their energy kind of sputtered and they were outpaced by two other teams, coming in third. 😦   As evidence that participation was the goal, and not money, they regrouped after the race with the same bright smiling faces and joy that had launched them on their challenge.  At the end of the race, I asked how I could acquire a “Team Tee Shirt” and one of the younger guys literally gave me the shirt off his sweaty back.  If I had been thinking faster, I could have offered him my overshirt with its Kentucky Blue colors. 😦  My brain is just not fast enough these days.  If, as promised, my mature friend emails me, I will see if I can mail my benefactor a UK shirt to say “Thanx for the Team Tee.”

I should mention that after Anita had joined John and me with “my team,” Ms. Liu and the rest of the UK crew came down to the start line and she was wanting to invite me to join in a group photo, but I explained I had to support “my team.”  She laughed heartily and graciously acquiesced when she realized I was serious!! 😀

When we got back on the bus to leave, we discovered just how popular this park is to the Changchun residents!  Worming our way through stopped traffic just to get to our bus was just the beginning.  The two lane road would often be blocked by oncoming traffic when some bright bulb, seeing a break in the opposing lane would think he could pass a few cars . . . and promptly block everyone from moving until someone could finally let him back into his own lane.  Add to that the cars that parked precariously everywhere, there was almost enough width to park their autos, and . . . well, you get the picture.  The 15 minute drive out of the park took our bus over an hour!

At one point, the bus was simply stuck in the “parking lot” traffic, so a small group of us decided to walk.  There would be no other way for the bus to go, and we figured it could pick us up, or we could wait at the entrance to the park if we arrive there first.  A little further down the road we saw several of the scofflaws that caused the jams, and a couple of times we assisted in breaking the logjam by holding up traffic so someone could turn around or get back into his lane.  One fellow in a minivan had tried to park off-road, and become stuck in the gutter off the shoulder with his butt blocking the traffic attempting to pass.  Scott noted we had enough muscle to move him, so as a couple of us Americans and LAs began, several other passers-by felt encouraged to lend aid, and we had the poor minivan out in a few seconds.  No longer blocking traffic, it again began to move and our bus shortly caught up to us and we boarded.  Some Chinese folks looking at us boarding the bus came towards us intending to board, apparently mistaking our bus for general transport, but our driver had us on the road before they caught up to the door.

IMG_9635.JPGSeveral of us were longing for a potty-break, and Ms. Liu explained that as soon as we reached the entry to the park there would be a place for us.  As we left the park, we noticed a couple miles (2-4km) of cars backed up three to five thick, waiting to get into the park.  I was wishing there was a way to tell them how pointless their efforts were, because even after they paid the park entry fee, they would simply be stuck in traffic most of the time!! 😦

Back near the University, Ms. Liu had arranged with a Korean restaurant for a luncheon for the entire group.  We were careful not to take the “12 o’clock” position, as we had been instructed that this was the position for the host or hostess.  Though Ms. Liu did not really want that honored position, the faculty’s insistence prevailed.

An amazing soprano rivalling Eva Tsang entertained us with two songs, accompanied by an equally talented accordionist that actually made the instrument sound good!  The first was a traditional North Korean song and the second a traditional Chinese ballad.  Both were beautifully presented.  We also learned about a traditional Chinese drinking toast called “Gan –bei.”  One raises the glass of “China Water,” a potent whiskey substitute but with the clarity and alcohol content of Everclear (well, almost!!!).  You make your toast, and then call out “Gan-bei” which means everyone is supposed to drain their glasses in one gulp!  Only a couple of our group were able to actually do this, so we did not have a lot of “Gan-bei.”

We did have LOTS of food, though.  And Ms. Liu had courteously ordered several dishes that were completely free of spice and green peppers to accommodate Anita’s allergies.  Her thoughtfulness seems boundless.  None of the pictures captures anywhere near all the food we consumed that day, as it was delivered in small portions, would circulate on the table’s lazy-Susan, and then promptly be removed by our servers.  A lengthy discussion ensued over the term “lazy-Susan” which went on with avid interest until someone read its origins from Wikipedia. 🙂 By the time the day wasIMG_9698.JPG finished, I felt like a chemistry student who had licked the spoon, in spite of one of our LA’s tee shirt warning!