One Year Older…and Hopefully Wiser!

28 Nov

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We celebrate another birthday in China; chocolate cake with cherries on top and whipped cream is equally as good here

I celebrated my birthday (61st) in a country other than the United States for the initial time and enjoyed a special time with our Chinese English-teacher friends. After a Good Life study, we went out to eat for lunch and the chocolate cake with whipping cream and cherries was awesome for dessert. They insisted upon paying for the cake, which was OK but not part of our plan when we invited them to be part of our meal together. As one said, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do…it is the Chinese way.” 🙂

I received a “Happy Birthday” email from, with my name on the back of a Dolphins jersey…of course, they are winless this year so why would anybody buy one of those this season?

Terry had a “Girls Only” movie night at the end of the National Day holiday and showed Love Comes Softly…lots of popcorn and tissues for this one. We had 16 in  attendance when it began and it grew to 27 within a few minutes, which is about seven too many for our small den/living room/dining room area….but a good time was had by all. I watched episodes 1-2 of NCIS season 9, my favorite show. We have five of the series now with Chinese subtitles, so we’ll offer them as other options in weeks ahead…great to stimulate conversation about life in the real world. We also showed Little Women two weeks later, and it was well received.

I have an advanced video listening class, which is designed to give them practice listening to English-speaking people on video and then analyzing the theme content as it relates to today’s China and the world. Some of the films chosen in the book were not suitable to show, and I was given some options; I showed A Walk to Remember and used it as a source for a midterm speech.

I apologized in advance for the 7-8 curse words, which I could not take out since our TVG video player is in California storage…but it provided some good values to discussion. I told them I wanted to see their mind (what do you think?) and heart (how did it make you feel?) in their report. I was pleased with the outcome and most made very high grades. Howard and Lily have been a big help to find the movies on the internet with Chinese subtitles.

One of our students brought some tangerines from her hometown, where they have “lots of trees growing many kinds of fruit.” She said they were oranges but they looked, smelled, peeled, and tasted just like our tangerines.

We went to the KFC for some tasty chicken nuggets and fish portions on our monthly 40-minute bus ride to the Da Ren Fa…and enjoyed the ‘local’ ketchup…let us get a taste of America, which seemed necessary on this day. It still gets our attention to see both English and Chinese on the packages.

It happened again this week? Terry and I sat in our favorite student-supported restaurant and we realized we were not able to communicate with a single person in there, except through a few menu items we had written down on a card we carry in our wallet….not uncomfortable in the least, but it does hit us every so often that we are not in Kansas 🙂 anymore.

We had a tragedy at our front gate: a city bus was on fire (see previous page) and was completely ‘gutted’ before the fire trucks were able to extinguish it. Activity brought quite a crowd to see it, and traffic was blocked for over two hours for proper cleanup…cause to be determined. We found out later the driver and  a passenger got into an argument and the passenger threw some cooking oil into the bus and set it on fire, killing several people since they could not get off the bus.

We were told today that we need to be making up our mind about 2012 plans by lmid-November (this is being sent out after the initial “best case scenario” deadline), which is much    earlier than I had hoped. IF you plan to be a $$ partner with us next year, which is the only way we will be able to return, we need to know about it now…just a pledge is needed now, but something more final is needed….communicate through Eric at The school has made it official: they want us to return. 🙂

I have found an inexpensive source for modi books (work on my kindle) here so we have been enjoying some books during the holiday free time. In My Time by Dick Cheney lets me complete all the known books written by George W. Bush cabinet officials, which let me see that eight years ‘war period’ up close and personal.  I have always enjoyed any information on Abraham Lincoln so Killing Lincoln drew my attention, as well.

We were without electricity for just over 12 hours for two days this week…no cooking, washing, air conditioner (only 82 outside)..and this campus is really dark at 6:45 p.m. with no lights!

As we were walking toward the apartment, in the dark, one of the   nights,  we noticed a full moon high in the sky…Terry said “there was a time in our universe when it wouldn’t matter if we had lights or not…”

Of course, she just finished five hours of afternoon classes in front of 103 students…getting off the bus at 6 p.m.with two more classes the next two mornings…..well….

We decided to use a 126-seat multi-media room too show Little Women to our students on a recent Saturday night. We had 16 see it last week in our apartment and it was well received, and opened some good conversation topics….decided to open it up to others. It is quite nice to have the resources of the university to reach out through friendship fellowship to our students. Every movie we have shown has Chinese subtitles, so it helps them understand and appreciate the values introduced.

Greetings from Terry: I have a total of 191 students. Some of the more unique names are Echo, Cellery, Danly, Lemon, Domino, Icee and Eternity. The second day of classes there were so many loud fireworks going off for a celebration on the street. It was so hard to hear that I had to stand  right beside each student as they introduced themselves. It was annoying. I wished they had an ordinance against setting them off during class time.

Our National Day vacation was great. We thoroughly enjoyed the kind hospitality of John and Lily Zhong in Changde, Hunan Province. (Changde means “you will always have good fortune”). Our spirits have been refreshed and our metal sharpened (iron sharpens iron) after such a good visit. We got to meet some of their relatives, friends and coworkers; tried many new foods (Gary ate turnips and liked them) got a new recipe and saw many pretty sights.

The city is clean and well kept, many tree lined streets, more cars, less e-bikes and carts and traffic was more orderly. We were able to go to the hospital where John works, the University where Lily teaches, Yuan Jiang River Park where the Poetry Wall is and the Liu Ye Lake and Park. Liu Ye means willow tree and there were many graceful willow trees all along the shoreline and in the park.

There was a statue of the ancient poet Tao Yuan Ming who lived 700 years ago and wrote many famous poems. One was about a fisherman who lost his way returning home,  went  into a cave and discovered a beautiful land. There was also a statue of an ancient famous leader and mayor of Changde, Liu Yu Xi who lived 1,300 years ago.

I finished reading Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth Jones. It is perfect weather today; sunny (see next page) and not hot or cold. We had our third movie night in our apartment. We watched Love Comes Softly.

Because of friends bringing friends we ended up with 27 packing the living room. They all watched with rapt attention, laughing and catching their breath at the appropriate places so we know they (next page)  were able to understand it. Of course the Chinese subtitles helped. But you never know if the small things    of culture will come through. It was fun to share it with them.

Sometimes it’s hard to find a time to share anything with them. They have two mandatory elective classes they attend during the weekend as well as regular classes Monday through Friday. Even with all that, we have had at least three new ones wanting to have important discussions in the past week..all three are juniors so they are mature in their interest and thinking.

Yea! All of my classes have been changed to room 202, which makes it a lot easier. I am thankful.

I finished reading 24-Hour Counselor by Pat Clendinning (very good). Our busy schedule continues with weekly classes, discussions and studies. Yes, we are tired at the end of each day but it is a good tired. It is good to know we are not only making a difference but hopefully an eternal difference. We also had thirteen girls over to watch the movie Little Women, which we all enjoyed.

I was invited to one of my freshman class picnics for a BBQ on Saturday. The class monitor, a female named Hugh, sent the location in Mandarin by text to my cell phone. When I secured a taxi I showed the driver the text on my phone and he took me to the site of the “BBQ”. As it turned out it was outside the city next to the interstate and down a hill next to a cow pasture.

The class was huddled in small groups around five hibachi-type grills BBQing meat and vegetables on wood skewers, brushing on oil and spices before placing it on the grill. I was offered a skewer from each group, (chicken, rabbit, crab, eggplant) and a cup of soy milk. It was good to see them enjoying themselves laughing, talking, cooking and joking with each other.

They were so excited that I had come to their picnic. Many had their picture taken with the foreign teacher. I just stayed about an hour. I was a little concerned about how long it would take to secure a taxi for the trip home in such a remote place but as soon as Hugh and I climbed the hill two taxis came by. The second was unoccupied. I showed the driver my address card (written in Mandarin). Hugh gave him verbal instructions and he took me safely to my gate at the central campus. It was time well spent. — Love, Terry.

Guests rush from nuptial to nuptial armed with cash-filled ‘Red Bombs’ — The 25-year-old Shanghai native Liu Yiwei has had an exhausting holiday during the past seven days. Rather than traveling or working overtime, she was busy hopping from one place to another arming “red bombs” with piles of cash.

“Red bomb” is the popular name for the red envelopes with money that are given as wedding gifts. “Weddings are supposed to be joyful occasions filled with blessings. But when too many pile up, you feel rushed to complete a series of tasks,” said Liu, who attended two weddings in the past week, one of which she was also “working” as the bridesmaid.

The weddings can also be a “burden” because, according to Chinese tradition, guests should give couples red envelopes containing money as blessings. “There are no rules specifying how much money you should give at a wedding. It’s generally determined by how close you are to the couple,” Liu said .”But the common practice is to give no less than 300 to 500 yuan ($47 to $78).”  As most of the eighties generation in China has reached prime marriage age, Liu, like millions of her peers, is seeing a new boom of weddings.

Solving Marital Conflicts

No matter how well we are communicating with our marriage partners, there are bound to be some areas of disagreement. I have heard some couples claim that they never had a difference of opinion during all their married life. What a drab and colorless existence they must have had! The couple either possessed very little personal individuality or else were afraid to express their true inner feelings. It is hard to believe that two people are so alike in every way that their opinions coincided in everything!

Disagreements will come. Any of several causes can produce them. The first cause could easily be the rude discovery that our mates do not possess all the glowing qualities we visualized in them before the ceremony! Since we want to see desirable traits acquired and distasteful ones eliminated, we mentally enroll our mates in our school of marital reform! Then we proceed with the monumental task of remaking them into ideal mates.

The wife’s favorite teaching method seems to be nagging, assisted by occasional ridicule, and, if necessary, by a periodic outburst of tears. The husband’s favorite teaching method seems to be the dig, that is, the cutting comment or sarcastic remark. He may also use an occasional angry lecture, interspersed with long periods of withdrawal and silence.

Two sinful self-wills, each of which is torn between love of self and love of mate, are now interacting with each other and testing each other’s right to self-determination, with each seeking supremacy in the relationship. The result is conflict.

At the heart of every conflict is self. Most people blame their conflicts on their circumstances: the unacceptable job, the small house, the fussy children, the poor neighborhood, the lack of money, the interfering in-laws. But the true problem is that the human ego wants unrestrained freedom to do as it pleases, expecting at the same time the unqualified approval of its mate.

In other words, it wants to be the sun around which its mate orbits as a devoted planet. If two such stars would vie for centrality in the same solar system, the results would be chaotic—but that is exactly what has happened in many marriages!

Sometimes young people are in a hurry to get married, often to escape an unpleasant situation at home. The real problem is not usually their home or their parents, however. It is their own sinful egos, and they invariably take them along with them when they get married! This ego begins to interact with another selfish ego, and the previous home problems are eclipsed by the new marital ones!

When meaningful communications have broken down in a marriage, arguments may erupt over the most trivial things, sometimes becoming so frequent and so heated that the couple begins to feel that they are incompatible. I seriously doubt that there is any such thing as incompatibility—just two wills that need to be conquered. When He becomes the center of the marriage, with each partner living for His glory, harmony and happiness will reign supreme.

Suppose the conflicts do exist, however, and the couple is willing to make the spiritual adjustments that need to be made. How, then, do we resolve the dissension in our marriages? We need to realize, first of all, that an argument need not always be a destructive force. It could be the very thing needed to open the channels of communication and expose the festering sores of the soul that have been widening the gap between us. There may be some changes that need to be made, but neither the nagging nor the cutting comments are making them. They only tighten the tension and drive us farther apart.

A good, lively discussion may be the only thing that will get our true feelings into the open. If so, then we need to get to it, to get started with the argument. But we must set some ground rules before we begin. Here are some suggested guidelines for a profitable argument.

First, we must establish as our goal a deeper understanding of each other. The goal of the argument is not to decide a winner and a loser. Nor is it to bring about changes in our mates. It is to gain fresh insight into how our mates think about the issues that affect us. It might be a good policy for each partner to restate the other’s point of view to his satisfaction. That will guarantee the accomplishment of this goal, at least to some degree.

Second, we must ask for help to control our emotions. We often say things under emotional stress that we do not mean, things that hurt and cut and destroy. These things are not soon forgotten. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, and we need to let Him manifest His calmness and control even in the face of unjust accusations or serious provocations. This is not to say that emotions should be excluded. We would probably never reveal how we felt in our hearts if emotions were not present.

Third, we must attack the problem itself—not the personalities or the motives. It is easy to become overly critical in any argument, and to make inaccurate character judgments of our opponent or to falsely accuse him of evil motives. When a wife fails to clean the house or a husband postpones some chore, the impatient mate may level an accusation like, “You’re just plain lazy.”

That may not be the problem at all, and such an accusation could cause a great deal of unhappiness for a long time to come. “You did that just to get back at me,” is a favorite when your mate hurts you in some way. But who made you a mind reader or gave you the ability to discern motives?

Fourth, we must remember that angry attacks against us are sometimes provoked by exasperating incidents totally unrelated to us. Often when husbands or wives are irritable, their mates just happen to be the most convenient target for their angry outbursts. For instance, the pressure of the house and the children may have been building up in a wife all day long. She is tense and on edge when her husband comes in the door, happy as a lark. He hangs up his coat as a thoughtful husband should, but forgets to close the closet door—and she blows her top!  A husband filled with God’s love and understanding realizes that there is something more behind this than a closet door, and he responds tenderly and gently.

Maybe the husband comes home acting like an angry bear. He is short with the children and critical of the dinner. A Spirit-filled wife understands that his actions are probably the result of pressure at work and not of hostility toward his family. If we would listen to our mates calmly and patiently instead of reacting indignantly at the first provocation, the real problem would soon emerge. Then, instead of an irate retort, we could offer sympathetic understanding, thus averting the trauma of an argument.

Finally, we need to learn when and how to bring an argument to a conclusion. Some fights never end; they just go on for years! Others seem to die without coming to a conclusion, thus deepening the underlying resentment. “Let’s just forget about it” usually means, “If we discuss this much longer, I may have to give in!” If we are wrong, we should admit it. If we need time to think about it, we should say so. “I’m beginning to see your point, but I need some time to think it over.”

Now the problems are out in the open. We have communicated with each other and therefore share a little deeper understanding. Now where do we go? How do we solve the conflicts? There are several biblical principles that should help us.

First, we should concentrate our attention on our own faults, thinking first of those areas in which we can improve ourselves. The temptation when conflicts arise is to sulk over the wrongs committed against us, rehearsing all the old offenses and injustices we have suffered through the years. Then we begin building our case for the next confrontation! Forget it! Turn your mind to your part of the blame, however small it may be. Our own self-will and pride are invariably responsible for part of the conflict. It may have been the little demands we made of our mates for our own convenience. It may have been the indifference we showed toward our mates’ needs. It may have been the coolness we expressed because our feelings were hurt. All of this is selfish pride, and all of it helped intensify the conflict. Whenever there is a conflict pride is the cause, .and each of us is usually guilty of some of that pride. We need to admit it.

It’s so easy to let our minds drift to our spouses’ part of the blame. We are tempted to think that we acted as we did because of what our mates said or did. We think they are really the guilty ones. But this is a ploy of Satan. He wants us to think about our mate’s blame rather than our own in order to promote dissension.

Let’s ask for help to acknowledge our own part of the blame. We must be ruthless with ourselves. It is so easy to be severe with others and lenient with ourselves. But this is egotism. True humility is tolerant of others and exacting with self.

Now that we have acknowledged our part of the blame and received His gracious forgiveness, we can ask Him to give us victory over our sinful self wills, so that we relinquish our craving to have everything our own way. We must ask Him to help us change what needs to be changed in our lives.

When we are in the middle of a marital crisis we usually feel that our problems would be solved if only our mates would change their ways. It seldom occurs to us that we need the changing!

By grace we can become new mates. We never really change others for the better by carping, criticizing, and complaining. We only deepen the wedge that lies between us. We must give our attention to the one thing that we can change—ourselves! He does not expect us to improve our mates; He expects us to provide for their needs. When we improve ourselves, our marriages will also begin to improve.

When our husbands or wives realize that we have stopped badgering them and have instead made significant changes in our own lives, they will begin to respond in kind. It will take terribly cold and callused hearts on their part to keep them from making some worthwhile changes of their own. What a gratifying reward for our unselfish attitude! (more to come)

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Jingzhou


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