Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Prayer Closet

I have been working on a list I call "Things to ask in the closet of prayer" for quite some time. Whenever a new one is revealed to me I write it in my notebook. Here is the list so far. I am posting it for the benefit of those who seek God every day. I would also like feedback for more prayers and any verses that would fit with each one. Thank you. First, a prayer upon entering this time with Him:

Let me be in the place your glory dwells. Let me behold your glory.

And then the following:

Remove the wicked way in me. Psalm 139:23-24
Immerse me in your Spirit.
Let me function in the gifts...especially prophecy. I Corinthians 14
Let me dream dreams and see visions. Acts 2:17
Give me a heart of repentance. Psalm 51:10
Reveal to me what you are calling me out of today. I Peter 2:9
Reveal what you are calling me into.

For many these might seem like "one-time" prayers, but they are prayers to pray every day. God called us out of darkness once, but He is continually calling us out of sin even today. Don't stop asking God to function in the gifts even after you believe you are functioning in them. Ask and keep asking. Knock and keep knocking. Seek and keep seeking. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Monday

The purpose of this post is two-fold. The first, and less important, is to introduce you to one of my favorite musicians, Devin Townsend. The second is to tell you about my Monday(s) and ask you for prayer.

My Mondays consist of teaching five 6 grade classes and not a whole lot else. I really don't know what 6 grade classrooms are like in the US. In Korea, they can be the ulcer-causing, head-ache inducing, chaotic nightmares. I really have no intentions of explaining what it's like further, so if you want to know, go ahead and message me. I'm just telling you because I'm scared....and it's not of the kids. I'm scared of myself.

Few things make me really mad. It turns out misbehaving Korean 6 graders are one of those things. I don't like to get angry, but nearly every Monday, I do. I shout (or maybe you would say scream?) and I lecture and pound the whiteboard with my fist. Today I took one of the students books and smashed it loudly on his desk. I HATE doing these things. Yet, I wonder, what else can I do? Twice since the semester began I simply gave up: I made everyone put their heads on their desks and we sat in silence for near twenty minutes.

I don't want to be the one who punishes bad behavior. I am a good teacher and I reward good behavior. I scare myself when I get angry at the kids. What scares me even more is the thought I had after classes today. What will I be like as a father who must discipline his children? I worry about that...

I can recall some memories of my dad getting angry with me and my siblings. There were times when I was very scared of my dad. I see my brothers discipline their children. Sometimes it scares me. I don't want to have to punish...but I know it comes with the job of being a father.

The look in the eyes of a child who is being punished has made me weep. I see the anger in the eyes of the punisher and the fear in the eyes of them being punished. I don't like it at all. Please pray for me as I deal with these things. Pray for my 6 graders.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The First King of Israel

The First King of Israel

Is this the title of a book or movie? Because it should be. I am studying the life and times of King Saul who was Israel's first king. I started reading I Samuel about 2 weeks ago and just wanted to share a few things on here about what I've been reading. First some thoughts regarding Samuel and some questions I have raised. 

Chapter 8 of I Samuel
One thing that startled me here is Samuel's family. The prophet Samuel had sons who "walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgement."(v.3) All the elders of Israel even knew this: "...they sons walk not in thy ways..."(v.5). Yet, still Samuel appointed them judges over Israel. Firstly, why did Samuel's sons not walk in his ways? Secondly, if Samuel knew they didn't, why did he appoint them judges over Israel?

According to verse 5, the aforementioned rebelliousness of Samuel's sons is part of the reason the elders asked for a king to judge them. Obviously, this request was not entirely a reflection of Samuel's failures. Had this been the case, they would have simply cast out Samuel completely and appointed their own king. They must have had some respect for Samuel to bother asking him. The Lord spoke to Samuel and said "they have not rejected thee..."(v.7) although it may have seen like rejection to Samuel.

They wanted a king because all the other nations had one. They did not hide their reasons: " all the nations."(v.20). So Samuel told all the people who had asked for a king the words the Lord had spoken to him on the matter (v.10). The people's response is found in verse 19-20: "...we will have a king over us; that we may also be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles."

It seems that Israel is a reflection of the heart of people everywhere. Even Samuel, who was quite obedient to the Lord, yet failed at teaching his sons to do the same, was imperfect. And so the people of Israel had no mortal leader at this time, saw that all the other nations did, and wanted that for themselves. They were God's chosen people, but rejected what could have been in favor of their selfish desires. In essence:

They wanted someone to do for them what they didn't believe they could do themselves.

Yet, so is it in the church today. Yet, so is it in my life today. We want another to go out before us and fight our battles. So we elect our spiritual leaders and have them tell us what we should do and how to live. We have them preach to us over and over again because we can't read the Word for ourselves. We want a king, but not the one that pierces our hearts, convicts us, causes repentance and then makes us holy. That sort of king has no business meddling in my personal affairs. I want a king that is like me. One that suits my needs.

God help us.

Hear the Word of the Lord spoken to Israel through Samuel in verse 18: "And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day."

For me, the Lord is saying: There is a true King that wishes to rule in your hearts and change you into His image. Will you take the king made in your image? Or the King which will make you into his?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Feels like the Beginning (Part 2 - Beyond Busan)

Part 2

What a beautiful place Geojedo is! It is the second largest island in Korea, after one of Korea's most famous places, Jejudo. Just beyond Busan at the southern tip of Korea. We arrived at our hotel right next to the sea and checked in. We went to dinner shortly after. The atmosphere was relaxed and I felt, for the first time in a long time, at ease. It was this night that my attitude changed. What was uncomfortable became enjoyable and, though I'll never be one, I felt Korean.

For me, this trip was about taking a step of faith. Once I took that first step, the boldness began to flow. One of the teachers at another table sent me a text message during dinner: "Im worried about that you could be bored." I replied, "Bored right now or bored after work?" "both" she responded, "I feel sorry for that. i wanna talk to you everytime dont hesitate to talk to me." Beautiful 은, so sweet to think about that. I told her not to worry and that I was having a good time. 은 invited me to have dinner with her on Tuesday. (I can't Romanize her name because it's too difficult)

So dinner was a spectacle of merrymaking. Everyone jovial and lively and though most of the teachers speak little to no Korea they were not afraid (for some, thanks to the alcohol) to speak to me what they could. And me, with my ever-expanding Korean vocabulary, held one or two word dialogues with them. I learned so much from my table of English-teaching coworkers about what they thought of me when I first arrived and answered so many questions they seemed as though they had been dying to ask me for a long time.

After dinner we moved on to the 노래방 (song room) for karaoke. I know I would be asked (forced) to sing so I grabbed the enormous song book and flipped to the English section. I picked out a classic song and rocked out to a room full of screaming teachers. It was quite the experience. If you want to know the song, you'll have to send me a message. Out of all the embarrassing things I've done since I've been here, this one takes the cake.

So midnight came and we left to walk back to the hotel. Or at least, that's where I thought we were going. We wound up at another restaurant for another meal of seafood. I would have escaped back to the hotel (for as tired as I was) but 행님 would not permit that. He declared himself my older brother that night (he is actually the same age as my oldest brother) and we walked arm in arm or shoulder to shoulder for the rest of the trip. I respect the man's leadership at the school. He planned the trip and, as you know, organizing events is something I love doing as well.

The next morning we were up early for breakfast and the rest of the day was spent sightseeing around the island as well as a boat ride to another smaller island. The day also served as a historical lesson, as many areas we visited were landmarks of past wars. That day I chose to walk with many different teachers. Some were not as courageous to speak with me, but one woman in particular was receptive. She could not speak a lot of English, but she could understand me well. Later that day she asked me, "Do you miss your family?"
I said, yes, of course, but I said that meeting friendly people like her helps me live better here. After dinner that night, she handed me my shoes at the restaurant. It was a very small gesture, but its always the small things I remember.

미란 (Mirahn) is sweetest person to me at school. She is a subject teacher and speaks almost no English. We speak back and forth in simple English and Korean. Enough to squeeze by. We did this a lot on the trip. She is has a strong relationship with God. She is one of those rare people you can see the Light in their eyes. She is thirty six years old. I told her she is my 누나 (Nuna, older sister for man), but she didn't like that. It's not right to use Nuna in many cases. I told her I understand why. Later that day she told me in broken English: "I know why I am your sister." "Because Jesus" was my simple reply. It's always the small things...

Which brings me to my last passage. The bus ride home was a time for many to catch up on sleep. My bus buddy this time was 미주 (Miju). I always have a great time with Miju. She loves to laugh and is always smiling through her bright eyes. She is my 누나  but only by two years. She fell asleep soon after we left. I was left to think about the trip and thank God for pushing me to go. I told Him I was sorry for the times I ignore His voice when I want to be comfortable. I thanked him for new friends. I asked him for one thing. I miss my family and friends back home because, when I see them, I can hug them. It's sissy stuff for a man to admit this, but I did in a moment of reflection and prayer. Miju nuna's head gently rested on my shoulder. I thanked God for my Korean sister. I will always remember that moment, because it was a small thing. I thank God for those small things. I'm learning to be more bold, thankful, and appreciative of the small things.
Miju, Mirahn, Soongmin, and Yunmi (the right two are co-teachers) on 
the boat ride to 지심도.

Feels like the Beginning - Part 1

This weekend I went on a trip to 거제도 (Geoje Island) with about 30 teachers and staff from my school including the Principle and VP. Everyone from my office came except my sixth grade co-teacher. Up until we departed, I had no idea what the trip's itinerary was. Nothing new there! I rarely know whats going on or what's going to happen next. Such is how life is here.

Initially, I did not want to go on this trip. I had plenty of reservations about going and even after I committed to going, I nearly backed out....with good reason! I developed acute tonsillitis this past week and had to take a trip to the doctors office (which is another post in itself!). By Thursday I felt much better and by the end of the day I decided to suck it up and go on the trip. You might be curious why the reservations. Though I've been here two months, I would hardly call the teachers I've met acquaintances, let alone friends! So it would be like going on a tour with a bunch of strangers. On top of that, Korea has a notorious workplace drinking culture - I'm not much of a drinker! In any other case, I would've said no to this trip. Something inside said "go."

Several weeks ago Yun-mi, my fourth grade coteacher and the eldest in our office, told me "It will be a good experience for you." Those simple words stuck with me. It will be a completely uncomfortable experience for me -this is what I kept thinking. Then I remember my good friend Tim Halverson once said, "God is more concerned with the message you bear than the comfort of your setting." So, as I said, I sucked it up and went.

Flash forward to now. I am 100% the heck glad I did.

We boarded the bus Friday at 3 in the afternoon. Normally I would have a 3oclock class, but the entire school scrunched all the classes into the morning so that the teachers could leave early. To heck with the kids, right? Well, I'm sure the principle going on this trip had something to do with it. So after some delicious birthday cake after lunch (a gift from one of my 5th grade students) I got on the bus, took a seat by myself, and prepared for a boring three hour ride down beyond Busan to an island I had never heard of until a few days before. After about 20 minutes into the ride, Mr 홍, who I will now and forever refer to as 행님(hang nim) which means older brother, got on the PA and told us (in Korean of course) we would now switch seats. We all drew cards and had to listen for our match.

This is when I met Sunny. Her real name is 순미. She is a 4th grade home room teacher. We are the same age and she can speak English very well. I recall seeing her maybe once or twice before this time. In Korean, I asked her name. That began a conversation that lasted the rest of the trip to our destination. It was the only real conversation I had with Sunny for the whole trip, but as soon as we arrived, I felt better about my decision to come.

To be continued....