Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bullying Other Birds

Here's my final tribute to the bird that flew the coop yesterday. As you can see from from this end portion of a video I did a month or so ago for a prayer group back in the States, the bird was feisty-- clearly the boss of much larger birds. My kindergartners ask me every week to bring it back to class again. The other two birds I keep here aren't nearly as much fun. I'll miss it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another Culinary Adventure

Those of you who have been following this blog recently are aware of some of the recent countryside "delicacies" I've tried recently.  Sunday night I was going to go for venison with a neighbor, but the place was closed. I declined on an additional invitation to try sweet country rat again as a substitute (once was enough).

Today brought a different kind of dining adventure. My kind and sharing neighbors who do a very good job of taking care of me brought over a large plate of food for me at lunch time. They had prepared it for people who came to worship the gods at the neighborhood temple yesterday and had tried to share it with me then, but I wasn't home.

After praying and thanking God for His provision and sovereignty over all things, I ate some of it, but stopped before consuming several strange-looking items I had never eaten before (I did take one small nibble)... I asked about them later. Chicken testicles. Finally a countryside culinary delight I wasn't terribly interested in trying!

Free as a Bird Now

This afternoon I let one of my three birds, the yellow love bird I hand-fed as a baby last December, out of its cage while I cleaned the cage. It's become a daily ritual in the last month. As usual, I did this outside as the bird habitually sticks close to me. I walked over to say hello with my neighbors and asked their grandchild if she wanted to play with the bird.

First the lovebird fluttered a foot or two above me and returned. It then uncharacteristically flew up an extra couple of feet and then returned again. The third time, it lifted up about 20 feet and moved away from the building, at which time it quickly caught a wind current which my southern-exposure house had been blocking and soared away. I watched in semi-disbelief as in about 10 seconds it flew at least 300 yards with the strong stiff wind and came to land on the top of a duck barn far south of here. I figured that if it ever decided to fly away I could catch it, but didn't count on the help of the wind! The fact that the bird is yellow and the sun was glinting off it brightly is the only way I managed to keep it in my vision.

I should have known better. A few days ago when I took it over to visit a neighbor's bird, it seemed slightly more independent that before, and a lot of sparrows have been coming over to make friends recently. I drove over on my scooter and looked for it about an hour. I actually spotted it another 50 yards or so further away in the next field over, but by the time I had found a path I could drive over on, I lost sight of it forever....

I'm reminded again of the loving Father who waits at the door for His prodigals and goes running out to meet them when they return.

With so many major tragedies the last few days (cyclone in Myanmar, horrific earthquake in China's Sichuan province, and, on a far lesser scale but of no less import to those who were victims,  the weekend tornado disasters back in the U.S.) I'm reminded of those who ask, "if there's a God, how could He let bad things which result in so many deaths happen?"  In contrast, as I watch podcasts of the day's news events,  I'm reminded of a grieving father's pained as he reflects upon the suffering he knows his children have and will endure.

"How He longs to care for us! "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matt 6:26)

Even though summer is approaching, I wonder how long the lovebird will last out in the wild... it will probably fly over and land on the head of the first person it sees.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mini-Power Encounter

Many people who come to Christ in this part of Taiwan do so in response to experiencing dramatic answers to prayer, miracles, or a power encounter of some sort or other. As a Taiwanese seminary student wrote in a paper I read a few years ago after he interviewed pastors in this area: "spiritual warfare is more pronounced in the rural setting" (translation mine). So I've been praying for opportunities to take steps of faith to prayer for people, especially if God gives me chances to pray for healing.

Well, it wasn't exactly Elijah versus the prophets of Baal material, but today God gave me a chance to call upon the name of Jesus. And,yes, He answered!

Two acquaintances whose kids I teach on Saturday, sometimes drop by to hand off snacks, tomato soup to lower my cholesterol level (don't know if its working!), or for tea. Two weeks ago they invited me to go to a musical concert with their family. The husband freely talks to me about the Lord when he comes over but always in a joking tone of voice and not in a serious context (I asked for prayer for this some weeks ago).

This afternoon his wife made what was intended to be a 30 second drop-off with a piece of mother's day cake, but she got locked out of her car with the engine still idling. She and her husband scrambled to find an extra set of keys, but an hour later they had still not had any luck. So he came back over with a friend and a coat-hanger to try to pick the lock.

They labored in vain for about 10 or 15 minutes and then I gave it a quick swipe, also without having any luck. Then the Holy Spirit led me to spontaneously pray out loud in the name of Jesus Christ that God would open their car door for them. You guessed it: my very next swipe the door lock came right up! God's timing was impeccable, as both the man and his friendly yet gangster-looking Betel-nut-chewing buddy were quick to observe. As they soon as they got back home my friend told his wife, who then gave me a quick call to ask me to thank God for them. I told them they could do it themselves (she had said my doing so would be more efficacious).... and could take this as an opportunity to begin to know Jesus. Don't know if they will.....

Whether you believe the episode described above was a mini-act of God or merely coincidence, it collaborates nicely with what I believe God may have been telling me this morning in the portion of scripture I reflected on in Numbers 21. As I read about the people of Israel eliminating the kingdom of Arad in Canaan and also Sihon of the Amorites and taking over their territories while they were still out wandering in the wilderness, the thought occurred to me: How could the people  always be complaining about the lack of good food, meat, supplies, etc when they had the resources of both of these kingdoms at their disposal? Sure seems like a blatant contradiction.

Upon reading from a companion commentary I've been following along in, I realized these events didn't come to pass until almost at the end of the 40 years of wandering, even though they were just spaced by a few chapters from the events years before. The thought that I think the Holy Spirit gave as I went off to church this morning was this: the period of wandering here is about to come to an end. Jesus is going to establish His church. God's Holy Spirit is on the verge of guiding people here into his Promised Land. All we have to do here is sit tight and be ready to go along for the ride.

As I write these final sentences, an idol procession complete with drums and lots of very loud firecrackers parades loudly in the street behind me... by far the loudest that has ever passed by since I have been here. The battle belongs to the Lord.