Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

Since Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year were on the same day this year, I decided to do two separate posts to honor both equally. Chinese New Year rotates around the lunar calendar and there are 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac. Every 12 years is a rotation and this is the Year of the Tiger. Many Chinese are very superstitious and have long standing cultural traditions which they religiously follow at this time of the year. People prepare for the new year by sweeping and cleaning the house. They wash their bedding to get rid of all the bad spirits, and welcome the good ones; much like our spring cleaning with a superstitious twist. They do whatever it takes to get home to their families in this annual mass migration of sorts. Most everyone buys new clothing to indicate the change of seasons from winter to spring, even if it is still really cold outside. It is more about the hope of forcing the spring to come by buying things associated with spring. If you were born under the Year of the Tiger, it would be especially important for you to wear red underwear all year to guarantee prosperity and good luck. Last year my teacher and I discussed that we were both born in the Year of the Ox, last years's lucky animal . Even though she is young and educated, she took great pride in telling me about (and showing me) the red chord she wore around her waist and NEVER removed to ensure that she would not have any bad fortune this year. Before Chinese New Year last year, I actually tried to buy my size red underwear as a joke, but no such animal existed. I did however get a kick out of watching the store clerks faces when I asked about it. Giving red envelopes (hong bao) with money inside to co-workers and relatives, eating jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) at midnight and lighting off massive firework displays to scare off the evil spirits and welcome all things good, are all time honored traditions in the Chinese culture. Of course, I bought few choice rounds of fireworks from the local street vendor. I had to do my part in adding to the celebration. Just before midnight, a couple of my foreign friends and I rode our bikes through the streets of Tianjin watching the amazing flurry of spectacular firework displays all simultaneously launching an intense barrage of pyrotechnics. It was a sight to behold. We could see at least 18 different shows at once, lighting up the skies above us...and those were just on our side of town! While stopping periodically to view one of these from a closer range, I could feel the debris falling on my head like rain and was choked by the massive amount of smoke that filled the air. I donned my face mask and covered my head, but still managed to get covered with soot and flying ash. To be honest I love this kind of over-the-top spectacle. It makes me laugh with joy and amazement in what I would call the Chinese version of “Shock and Awe.” It begins with loud firecrackers for hours before and intensifies up to the moment it hits midnight. Then it’s just an all-out war zone. Fireworks are non-stop for about 40 minutes and then start to dissipate over the next 5 hours. It really is an amazing sight. It was an illustrious start to 2010. The things is, we never really do know what the new year will bring, do we? We can prepare and hope, or do certain things to try and sway the future to be prosperous for us, but in the end, it’s not about what we do. It’s about what He’s already done. When we recognize that we have a future and a hope in spite of the good or bad that may come in our future, then we have peace. So even if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year like I do or like the Chinese, I wish you peace and contentment in this new year, knowing your future is not left to chance.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Cheers to all of you who find yourself again in the midst of celebrating that time honored tradition known as ‘Valentine’s Day.’ This post is a tribute to all those who are ‘in love’, are considering love, or who are in love with the idea of being ‘in love’. Let’s face it~ Love wins! As a Christian, I believe that this is because we were created by One who is the very essence of’s in our DNA. Everyone wants to be loved and to have someone in their lives that they can give love to and receive love from. It’s in our nature. Love is what makes us laugh and cry, brings joy and sorrow, and causes us to do both the stupidest and most courageous things imaginable. Love is what fuels our passion and allows us to sacrifice for family, friends, and even people in need that we’ve never met. Love is a healing balm after a devastating tragedy. It’s a high ideal that inspires us to be more and embrace more life than we ever dared to. Love is a choice that pushes us beyond our own selfishness and challenges us to risk far more than we have the emotional or physical resources to give. Real love, true love understands that its source doesn’t come from human will or determination. It doesn’t come from altruism, from a pure heart from within our own humanness, but rather from the One who is Himself, love personified. As He pours into us, we can pour into others. If you don’t know or receive from the Source, then you don’t know true love...only a form of it which will inevitably run out or be compromised by human frailty. I have been very blessed to have come from a family who knew this reality. My parents have been an example of true love for the past 53 years of their marriage. They have walked it out in front of 5 watching children and thousands of other people in those 50 plus years, and are still happily doing it today. Can I say that they did it perfectly? No. Can anyone? Were there times of gritting their teeth and choosing to love in spite of themselves...I’m sure! But in the end, what I see are parents who spend just about every waking moment together. They live together, laugh together, take care of each other, finish each other’s sentences, and wouldn’t have it any other way. They are the proverbial “two who have become one.” Without their knowledge of the Source of their love, would they have made it 53 years? Maybe, maybe not...I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that because they do know where true love comes from, they have lived well and loved well. They have left a legacy of love that their children have also followed with 20-30 year marriages of their own. So here’s to you Mom and Dad! Well done...and Happy Valentine’s Day to two true sweethearts!