Thursday, January 12, 2017

Because God is Good

This week, two of my K3 classes had to reschedule (just to days later this week) due to activities going on during their regular class times. This is not entirely unusual with K3 (or any kindergarten class), since there are sometimes field trips planned where all three K3 classes (or nine kindergarten classes) go, or they have something special going on as they prepare for "graduation" at the end of the year. This morning, I had a make up class with Bee, and out of the mouths of babes...

Since Christmas, we've been looking at how Jesus is God's Son. We talked ever so briefly about the gifts the wise men brought: gold (because Jesus is a king), frankincense (because Jesus is God), and myrrh (because He was the sacrifice for our sins). We looked at Simeon and Anna, who were awaiting the birth of God's Son and celebrated how God keeps His promises when they saw Jesus at the temple as a baby. We read about Jesus staying behind at the temple when He was 12 years old, and how He said, "Didn't you know that I'd be in my father's [God's] house?" And last week, we looked at Jesus' baptism ("This is my [God's] Son") and temptation.

It's always interesting to me what my students pick out from the stories. Although they didn't know the word "Satan" or "devil," they instantly recognized him in the book as "the bad man." Using five different pictures, we retold the story. The first picture is of Jesus sitting in the desert, and the story begins... After Jesus was baptized, He went into the desert. He stayed there for 40 days. It's hot in the desert, and there's no food. So, Jesus was hungry! The students are listening by this point. I was surprised how many of them remembered the forty days. And then, comes the second picture, the bad man arrives. And while He was there, Satan came and said, "Jesus, if you're really the Son of God, why are You hungry? You can do anything. Just turn these stones into bread." But Jesus said, "No! I trust God." The kids all like saying, "No!" with me. The next picture goes on the board. Next, Satan took Jesus to a tall, tall building. He said, "Jesus, if you're really the Son of God, jump down! You won't get hurt. You're God." But Jesus said, "No! Don't test God." Again, the children all chime in with the "No!" Some of the students with this one even help out with the, "Don't test God" line. Up goes the third picture. Then, Satan took Jesus to a very tall mountain, and He showed them many beautiful cities. "All this {arms sweeping} I will give to you - these beautiful cities, You will be so rich and handsome and strong - if you just pray to me," Satan says. But Jesus said, "No! Only pray to God." The kiddos exclaiming, "NO!" The final picture is put on the board. Then Satan left Jesus. He'd be back later. And God sent angels to take care of Jesus. And, Satan wants us to do bad things too sometimes. He doesn't want us to listen to God. But, we can say, "No!" just like Jesus. God will always help us. 

This morning's make up/rescheduled class was the fourth time we've looked at this story, so the students know what's coming by this point. And Bee class is usually the most rambunctious of all my K3 classes, but every class when we get to this story (in Bee and my other K3 classes) the students settle down. They're happy to say, "No!" but then they also go back to quietly listening. But today, much to my interest, various students of Bee class thought that the line "(because) God is good" should be added. "...But Jesus said, 'No! I trust God. Because God is good.'" "...But Jesus said, 'No! Don't test God. Because God is good.'" "...But Jesus said, 'No! Only pray to God. Because God is good.'" 

Because God is good. 

And to me, this was especially interesting, because it isn't a concept that I've talked about a lot. We've talked about how God is strong, how God does what He says. We've talked about Jesus' birth. (Maybe one of their other teachers talked more about God being good?). And sure, it is sometimes said in class, "God is good," but as far as I can tell, they more or less tied it to this story today on their own. God works in many and mysterious ways.

He is many things, and there are certainly some bigger theological words that can be used to describe God's attributes. But, right now, for my five year olds, I can be content that one of the things they learn about Him is that: God is good. And that they know that even though life isn't always easy or perfect, God will always be there to help them. It's not always by sending angels or doing miracles, but that doesn't mean He's not there.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spending the Day in 台南 (Tainan)

Saturday I had the chance to head south for the day to visit a friend of mine, Emily, who's now living and serving in 台南 (Tainan), a city of about 1.8 million people, so it's much larger than where I currently live. She's currently studying Chinese at Cheng Da (功大學) University through their language program, along with serving at a local Lutheran church leading a Friday Night Bible study and helping out with their Saturday school program.

We spent the afternoon exploring the city. The university is right next to the train station, so we started by her giving me a campus. Similar to larger universities in the States, Cheng Da (功大學) is composed of several campuses spread out through the city. We walked around the Arts campus, and she showed me the building her classes are in. 台南 (Tainan) has an interesting and varied history, including forts from back when the Dutch had colonized parts of the island, and there were old walls running through campus. Emily also pointed out that due to being one of the few places with open green space, the University is a very popular place for local families to come and let their children run around, and, in the morning, for people to come and do their exercises.

As we were deciding what to do next, Emily asked me, "Do you like second hand books?" To which I replied, "Most definitely!" So we headed down the street to a nearby second hand book shop. I wouldn't have even known it was there if Emily hadn't guided me to a small set of stairs leading down from the sidewalk. The store itself was underground. But it had quite the cozy and comfortable atmosphere, along with having a wide and varied selection of English books, probably a combination between the University being right there and the fact that there are just more foreigners that live/pass through larger cities, like 台南 (Tainan). Emily walked away with one book, and I walked away with two (anything less than five, I consider myself having shown restraint :)). We headed to a nearby department store for some Cold Stone ice cream, before catching the bus back to Emily's neighborhood. After that, next stop: coffee. But since the place was full, we ordered ours to go, and wandered around the park across the street while we drank it. We sat and caught up a bit, before heading out to dinner. After dinner, it was back to the train station for me.

The train station near my apartment, waiting for the train to head south. 

We found this fellow in the park. 

It was a lovely day spent with a good friend!

"Christ, who said to the disciples, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends 'You have not chosen one another but I chosen you for one another.'" 
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Weekend

When you can't spend Christmas (weekend) with family, spending it with friends is a pretty great alternative - and that's exactly what I did.

The women's ensemble
Much of Christmas Eve was spent playing games with friends or FaceTiming with family, although it also included a Christmas Eve service in the evening. Growing up, we played a lot of word games in my family (Scattergories, Scrabble, Pictionary...) but last year and even more so this year, I've had a chance to broaden my table top games horizons, and it's been great! Saturday's games included: Mansions of Madness, Jamaica, and Bring Your Own Book. There was a Christmas Eve service in the evening, something that our church here just started doing last year. It's a special service that is a compilation of short Bible readings, followed by short messages, and a Christmas carol. This year, the final song of the service was a choral arrangement of Still, Still/Silent Night sung by a women's ensemble that I assembled. Before singing, six of us handed out lit candles to the church, so it still had that traditional Christmas Eve candlelight aspect. It was nice!

Candles waiting to be handed out
Playing "Bring Your Own Book" after the service

The Youth Group and Saturday School kids
Christmas Day was a fairly standard Sunday, and after all the busy-ness of the Thursday and Friday before, it was a nice change of pace. I was the pianist for the service, but I didn't end up getting the hymns until 7am Sunday morning (the service was at 10am). I showed up to church early thinking that I could get some practice in, but it was already beginning to fill with people. Thankfully, Christmas hymns are pretty standard. :) At the end of the service, the Youth Group and Saturday School kids combined in a performance of "Mary's Little Boy Child." After the service, there was a big meal for all to enjoy who wanted to stay. In the evening, a couple of friends and I met up to watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." All in all, a very chill day, but much needed.

Church Christmas morning

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas, Day 3

Christmas, Day Three - kindergarten Christmas, looking at trees in the daytime (more than once), and caroling with F.N.B.S.

It was another earlier than usual start to the day today, since the Dove Skit that was performed yesterday, was also performed this morning. However, this time it was for a group of sixth graders who are thinking about coming to Concordia Middle School next year, so they were visiting the campus (Some middle/high schools in Taiwan actually do recruiting). The neat thing about this though was that we were able to watch the J2 (8th grade) choir perform, amongst other things, because this was a little Christmas themed recruiting show.

My K1 Cherry Class students are lined up and ready for the opening!
The big event of the morning though was the kindergarten Christmas, and it was all hands on deck. Tim led the opening, which included singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain," handing out bags of surprise Christmas letters to each student from a parent or grandparent (bags were handed out by class), and a prayer. Then each class cycled through three different stations: story, decorating a cookie, and pictures/make a picture frame. I was assigned to the K3 story center. Rachel had put together these neat re-open-able presents that assisted with the telling of the Christmas story, since most of us have been reading and talking about the Christmas story in class as well. There were seven "presents" for the kids to open. Each present contained an item related to some part of the Christmas narrative (the presents were numbered and labeled). Six of the presents were "To: Jesus" from someone (Mary, Joseph, the Innkeeper, the Angel, the Shepherds, the Wise Men), but the last present was different. It said, "To: You. From: God." The seventh present opened into a cross with John 3:16 and a picture of baby Jesus on it, reminding students that Jesus is the greatest gift of all. And it's because God gave us such a great present on Christmas that we give the people we love presents on Christmas.

Butterfly class is ready!
The presents the students "opened" during the story center.
Bee class making hearts from singing "Joy to the World" (which we sang with the angel's gift of bells).

Ladybug class also making hearts for "Joy to the World."
This afternoon, Tim and I had our Christmas CE1 class. Every year I am delighted by the trees that the middle and high school students put together for the Christmas Tree Judging Contest, but this year the students really outdid themselves! So, for the first part of class, Tim and I walked the CE1 students through all the older students' trees, talking about the Bible stories as we went. For the second part of class, we watched "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

Tim telling the CE1 students about Jesus walking on water... and catching Peter when he was afraid.

The story of the Coin in the Fish's Mouth was a very popular tree theme this year. Many of the students confused it with the Five Loaves and Two Fish, which has been popular in the past.

Several of my students from last year designed and decorated this tree!

These trees were also both very impressive!

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

The CE1 students had read about Jonah.

Moses Parts the Red Sea (also a popular theme this year)

Noah is always a crowd pleaser, because, as my E5 students reminded me, "The animals are so cute!"

I also took the E5 students out to look at the trees during their learning center time today. We split their class with me - half of it was reading and half of it was out looking at trees. Noah was very popular with the students, because the animals are so cute! But one of the boys said that his favorite tree was Peter in Jail, because God sent the angel to save Peter.

This evening was caroling with Friday Night Bible Study. Many of the members at church live in apartments within walking distance of the church, so we walked to four different apartment buildings tonight and sang carols in the common area. After singing, we returned to church where candles were passed out for a final singing of "Silent Night" with the lights off. Then, there was pizza (courtesy of one of the church members) and cookies (courtesy of Sara Joy). It was a lovely evening spent with friends! (I was holding music tonight, so no pictures).

"Joy to the world / The Lord is come / Let Earth receive her king / Let every heart / Prepare Him room / And heaven and nature sing / And heaven and nature sing / And heaven / And heaven and nature sing" Joy to the World