Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quiet Time (NOT!)

"The farmer couldn't get any sleep. Such a Noise! So he went back to the wise man..."

The construction crews start early in China. They have a great deal of "catching up" to bring their society into the 21st century. Here on campus is a small picture of what is taking place in cities all across the nation. The older socialist style block housing units and business structures are being replaced by modern glass and steel structures that dazzle the eyes.

Traditional centuries-old neighborhoods are being leveled to make way for "suburbia". The elevator at the University hotel has a perpetual advertising screen playing commercials for "whiter skin" products, spa treatments and housing communities that look like any neighborhood in the USA, complete with manicured lawns and neatly trimmed shrubs.

Being here in the midst of change has been interesting. Six years ago the questions of the students quickly gravitated toward Christian morals, philanthropy and benevolence. This year, it hasn't taken long before Hollywood depictions of American life-style surface. "Are there really so many homosexuals in America? Are children having such bad relationships with their parents?" Hard to fight a steady stream of imagery from HBO.

I told the old Jewish Folk Tale "Such a Noise" to the orphan children in Taian. I had them teach me the Chinese word for "noise". "Chee-uuh" they would repeat until I mastered the right tonality (until I had to say it again 5 minutes later.) The farmer complains to the village wise man and receives advice each night in an effort to help him get some much needed rest.

The first night his complaint is of his nagging wife and whining children. The wise man tells him to bring in the cow. Each subsequent night he is advised to bring in an animal until all his barnyard friends are in his house, mooing, oinking, clucking and neighing. "Such a Noise!" At last the wise man tells him to put his animals back in their stalls. The farmer has his perfect sleep. The next day he inquires why the wise man had given such strange advice, to which he replies "Just so you know, things can always get worse!"

Certainly, I am praising God things are not worse here in Jinan. So many ways the accident could have had far more serious results. I am trying to stay on track and look forward to the tasks the Lord has set before me. But there is always "Such a Noise!"

What I am able to block out externally by shutting the windows, does not stop the internal noise going on. Only when I bathe myself in His Word, am I able to establish my spirit "beside the still waters."

My friend in Sri Lanka sent me some verses to read for the day. Although the "noise" is all around me - I will quiet myself with this:

"When you go looking for your old adversaries you won't find them. Not a trace of your old enemies. NOT EVEN A MEMORY. That's right. Because I, your God have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting you go. I'm telling you, "Don't panic. I'm right here to help you."
Isaiah 41:10-14 The Message