Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's China

I finally made my decision the other day, and now have perfect peace about it.  In just over four months, I'll be moving to China!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm a Pencil Pusher!

Ever wonder how universities get all those sharpened #2 pencils for Assessment Day?

Some graduate assistant gets to sharpen them.  All 3,640 of them.

Fortunately, I also get to watch NCIS (with headphones) while I do it.  Well, only about 3,000 to go!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


It's one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made in my life.  Never have I felt such an inner struggle over which way to choose.  The choice boils down to two countries.  I have two solid offers, and a third one likely coming (based on what I've heard).  But which do I choose?  China or Cambodia?

My heart positively bleeds for Asia.  Its a continent that got under my skin and stayed there.  God put that love there; I always thought Europe was my love when I was younger and playing with atlases (okay, I admit it, I still play with atlases).  Since coming back from Korea, I doubt that I have gone more than two weeks at a time without dreaming about being back in Asia.  I check the BBC news on Asia twice a day or more.  I think about the people over there in need, and sometimes I just start crying.  So many millions, so many souls to be reached, so many tragedies . . . so much need.  I could give my life to Asia in a heartbeat.

But which do I choose?  China or Cambodia?

Cambodia has suffered so much.  War, genocide, governmental instability, poverty, disease (it has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world) . . . the country is full of need.  The school that offered me the job is a small school in Sihanoukville.  They have daily power outages.  They can't attract highly qualified teachers because teachers with higher qualifications want more money, and the school can't pay very much.  The school lacks a lot of resources, and they need a creative and innovative teacher who could build up a curriculum and take what she's given and make something more from it.  I could make a difference here.  I could use my God-given gifts and give to students who need good teachers if they're ever to get anywhere.  I could use the pain from my past to empathize with souls in even more turmoil.  I could meet Jesus when I die and tell Him that I fed His sheep.  But they can't pay very much, and I have student loans.  Could I live off the low pay after meeting the loans?  Yes, but it would be tight.  There would be no extras, no savings, no luxuries.

China has been through a lot as well.  The cities that I would teach in (there are a few possibilities) are financially well off, but still in need of good teachers, and desperately in need of God.  Communism makes it difficult for the spreading of the Gospel, but dedicated people keep at it.  I would earn decent money by local standards (little by American standards, but that's never bothered me).  I would be comfortable and taken care care of, although I would of course be under considerable restrictions.  Still, I would have more than I needed.  I would teach in a beautiful school full of every resource I needed.  I would still be using my God-given talents for good and for the spreading of His Word.  I would still be able to meet Jesus one day and tell Him I fed His sheep.  There are just as many needs there as Cambodia; some are different and some are the same.

My heart aches for both countries.  Somedays I wake up with China on my mind; some nights I go to bed thinking of Cambodia.  I would be serving God in either location.  I would be needed.  I could fall in love with little Cambodian elementary students, or I could fall in love with international middle school students in China (Christian schools aren't allowed to teach Chinese students in China).

But which do I choose?  China or Cambodia?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Days Tick by . . .

I have eleven days left in which to make my decision regarding the job offers I've received.  It may not seem like enough time, but honestly, it is.  And besides, I can't be unfair to schools and hold them in limbo just for me.  They need to fill their vacant positions, and the sooner they are able to, the less stress there is upon their directors.  So, I'm currently a location-researching-machine.

Thus far, I have offers from two different countries, each with their own sets of pros and cons.  I can easily see myself in either location.  Next Friday, just to add to the mental process, I have yet another interview, which I have quite a good feeling about.  On the bright side, it's the first time in my life that I've ever had more than one job offer at a time.  At the same time, I've always found multiple options to be a bit . . . well, stressful.

So what are my priorities in this job hunt?

  • Need.  I'm going into this as a ministry, so I want to go to the place that needs me most, a place where I can make a real difference.  In other words, poverty is an attraction.  I want to go someplace where I can be a blessing to a school that cannot easily attract good teachers.
  • God's Guiding.  If I cannot discern God leading me, then I don't want to go.  It's one of those life lessons that I learned the hard way. ☺
  • Opportunity for innovation.  One of my (many) complaints with the American educational system is that while it claims to encourage teacher creativity, it really doesn't.  In fact, many schools are currently following policies and curriculums that are downright stifling.  I suppose part of the problem is that schools don't really trust their teachers.  One of the best parts of working overseas is the opportunity to try new methods, create original curriculum, and exercise my creativity to the maximum, for the benefit of my students.
  • Support.  Wherever I go, I need to have a supportive base in the other faculty, the administration, and the local church or mission.  I also, sadly, have to have enough financial support from the school to be able to not only live locally, but also pay my student loan payments.
  • Housing.  I have to keep at least a little bit of safety in mind, so I'm only considering schools that provide housing.  Believe me, in the places I'm looking, this is a necessity!
  • Countries that are not presently at war with the US.  I figure this is a good general rule to follow, even though it would be phenomenal to teach in Afghanistan.  Well, maybe someday after my great grandchildren finish fighting that war . . . 

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I've had the song "Wildflower" by Point of Grace stuck in my head for the past few days.  It's one of those songs that really could have been written specifically about my younger self.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And So Lent Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Having only just joined the Anglican church last year, this will be my first year observing Lent, and I have been looking forward to it for nearly a month.  It took a little thinking to figure out the right thing to give up for Lent.  I joked that I was giving up my cell phone for Lent (those who know me well, know my hatred for phones)!  Of course, giving up something you dislike or only occasionally use completely misses the point of Lent, and those who do so miss out also on the blessings of Lent.  For myself, I decided at last to give up meat.  It's something that I will miss daily, something that I greatly enjoy, and something that will affect me without putting me in a hospital.  To avoid any health problems from this (I have a tendency toward anemia), I'll be taking an iron supplement and increasing my intake of non-meat iron-rich foods.

What is Lent all about?  From perusing some news blogs today, I noticed a common misconception.  Dear people, Lent is NOT just about "giving something up."  It goes so, so much deeper.  Lent is a forty day period in which to prepare your heart and mind for the observance and remembrance of Resurrection Sunday (no, not Easter.  Easter is the name for the non-Christian holiday that happens to fall on the same Sunday).  Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was the only perfect person ever to live (fully God and fully man), willingly took upon Himself the sins of the entire world - all people living before Him, at the same time as Him, and after Him.  Can you imagine the burden of that horrible depravity and filth, particularly upon Someone who had never committed any wrong?  That in itself was remarkable.  But Jesus went even further.  He allowed Himself to be the final sacrifice, the One Sacrifice large enough to redeem the world.  When they cruelly pressed the crown of thorns into His head and  drove the nine inch long nails into His wrists, He was redeeming souls - they very souls of those who killed Him, had they but asked.  Perhaps one or more of them did; we have no way of knowing.

No greater love than this can or has ever existed.  This is not a flippant "love" like one observes on The Bachelor.  This is not a love built upon our own worth or own own ability to earn it - quite simply, we cannot.  This is the deepest, purest, completely limitless and unending holy Love.  He didn't wait until after He had redeemed us to love us - He loved us right at the moment those nails were being hammered in, and the horrible insults shouted at Him.  He loved us while we were yet sinners (read Romans 5:8).

Just giving up something is insufficiently observing Lent.  Along with the fasting, one should spend greater time in prayer, greater time in devotions, and greater time in pondering the meaning of what we are observing.  We should also spend greater time in submission.  Lent is not about us, it is about Christ. In the midst of some of the biggest decisions of my life, I have been most eager for Lent.  Here is a time to really concentrate on God and His will, to give up something for Him and to listen to Him.  A time to ask for and, hopefully, to receive answers and guidance.  A time to tremble in awe of God, and to daily thank Him for his unmerited mercy.  "And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth [his] hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean." (Mark 1:41, KJV)

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the 
Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the 
Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the 
Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the 
Lord bless his people with peace!

~Psalm 29, ESV

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Perhaps My Math Isn't So Bad After All . . .

Happiness Is a Snuggly Puppy

Of course, Chesterton on Kindle is a good addition as well.  And if you've just consumed a bowl of Graeter's black raspberry chocolate chunk ice cream . . . well that just makes it euphoria.

Wisdom from Chesterton

With all that I've had going on lately, it sometimes feels like there's no down time.  So, at night I have taken to reading for pleasure on my Kindle for about half an hour or so, until I fall asleep mid-sentence. ☺  Last night, I decided to start reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, a book that I've been meaning to read for years.  I am blown away by the man's brilliance.  I simply had to share a few quotations that I've bookmarked so far:

"Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?  For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of the Super-men.  The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums."

"If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.  Actors who can't act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay.  It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself.  Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness."

"If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two conclusions.  He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.  The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

Not quite the namby-pamby jargonistic self-esteem fluff that you were fed in public school, is it?  And that is one of the reasons that I love Chesterton.  He has sense!

Job Interviews . . . and Flu

Well, a flu-ish creature has decided to come and pay me a visit.  It's taken up residence in my chest and has made itself right at home.  The fever comes in handy for warming my coffee, and the chills are a nice break from the monotony of thesis-writing.  Of course, the timing could certainly be better, but the irony is rather funny.  If you recall, I got the flu right before the first time that I went overseas to teach.  Maybe it's a sign?

I have two phone interviews with overseas schools today.  One is with a school for Korean students in China that's run by some lovely British individuals (can't get much more international than that!) and another is in . . . well, I think I'll just keep the location of the other one under my hat for the time being.  It's a far more exciting location that probably will have to be broken gently to the family if I were to get an offer (suffice to say, it is a location that I would jump upon in a heartbeat).  So far, I've heard back from schools in East and West Java, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Senegal, Bangladesh, and a few other places that my mother probably wouldn't like.  ☺

Spring break is fast approaching (only one week away) and I, sadly, am probably going nowhere.  I'd like to drive up to Michigan to visit, but I just don't think time will permit, owing to all the problems my thesis and I have been having.  I've slowly grown to hate that wretched offspring of my feeble endeavors!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I'm Readin' a Book, Man, I'm Readin' a Book!

This is a video that's been a pretty big hit with some of my friends and me lately (most of us are working on theses at the moment):

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Inspiring Faculty Chapel

Since I am technically staff as well as a grad student, I get invitations to the faculty chapels.  Normally, I prefer to stay in my office, working at either projects or thesis (only when I'm not needed for something work-related), but today, there was a speaker I was dying to hear:  Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis's stepson!

Gresham is intelligent and witty, much like his stepfather was.  He spoke for a short while, then opened up the rest of the time for questions and answers, which was wonderful.  I loved hearing the personal, anecdotal stories about Lewis!  More importantly, Gresham had some brilliant advice for Christian writers, artists, and filmmakers - advice that happened to touch directly on some topics we've recently been discussing at Lantern Hollow Press.  I felt really inspired after hearing Gresham talk, and I also felt reminded of the noble goal with which we founded our press.  It's always great to learn that we're doing something right!

Perhaps One of the More Creative Reasons for Not Writing One's Thesis

'Twas a rough weekend.  A really, really rough weekend.

On Friday, a chipper little migraine arrived, informed me that he had come to derail my thesis writing, and promptly began drilling a hole in my head.  I countered with some effective meds.  The migraine, stopped in his tracks, was annoyed and sought revenge.  And that, I maintain, is how I managed to burn my hand with boiling water (in other words, I was cooking lunch while medicated).  I thought at first that it was a deep first degree burn, but later examination proves that I actually got a light second on a big section of the back of my left hand.

Needless to say, the pain was excruciating.  And typing was, sadly, not to be.  So that whole weekend, when I could have been furiously typing away at the thesis, I had to instead content myself with reading.  Owing to an accidental overdose of Lidocaine (a burn ointment), I wound up sick all weekend, so reading didn't progress all that far either.  In the end, I divided my weekend between laying in bed with migraines while attempting to read, drifting into fitful naps, vomiting, and trying to research while icing my poor hand.  Fortunately, I have a very sympathetic advisor.
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"