Monday, May 29, 2006

 

I'm Back

After a week in Turkey with no access to the Internet I am back at the computer.

I'll have more to say about Turkey in the next several days but need to catch up on my job right now.

I also received a rather scathing comment on a post from a couple of months ago that I'll need to respond to as well.

So, I'll be busy posting over the next week or so but that will have to wait.

For now all I'll say is that I'd rather live next door to a Turk than a Brit and I'd work in Turkey before I'd work in France.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Globe Trotting Blogger

Saturday, May 20, 2006

 

One is the loneliest number

President Bush signed a Tax reform package this past week that removes the housing allowance deduction from expat US citizens. The US is the ONLY developed nation that taxes expats. What Mr. Bush just did is create about three million tax cheats or ex-Americans

Until Next time
Fai Mao
The over taxed blogger

Friday, May 19, 2006

 

Spring into Summer

I always enjoy the first couple of days after a spring typhoon in Hong Kong. The typhoon blows all the air pollution out to sea and the sky is blue and my eyes don't itch.

The government is beginning to look into ways to reduce the air pollution but the problem is they are just "looking."

They know what needs to be done. It doesn't take a Ph.D. to know that when 70% of your air pollution is from coal burning power plants that you need to put pollution controls on your power plants. But, they don't have the spine to say it. That would mean standing up to Li, Kai Shing or CLP or Hong Kong Electric. The power plants here have absolutely no pollution control. The busses have only minimal pollution control.

Heaven forbid that some shareholder in the UK should loose a single penny because the public utilities and transportation system has to abide by the same environmental regulations that other modern nations require.

The government officials don't want to have to tell their golfing buddies that the electric companies cannot make a measly 17% profit anymore.

If I were Donald Tsang, I'd tell China Light and Power, Hong Kong electric and the buss companies to "Clean up in 18 months or we will nationalize your assets and sell them to someone who will. In the mean time you will not have a rate increase and all of your stock is frozen. It cannot be bought or sold." The shareholders who have allowed these companies to put profit over the well being of Hong Kong citizens should be made to bear the cost of the clean up.

I am in no way, shape, or form a socialist. A socialist would do this because they think the government would do it better. I think if the government kept the utility companies the problem would get worse. What I am suggesting is that the government nationalize these industries and then sell them to another corporation that would do a better job.

Oh well, I'll enjoy the clear days while they last.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Breathing Easy Blogger

Thursday, May 18, 2006

 

Hypocrisy

A Sermon presented in High School Chapel
Chapel May 18, 2006

C. S. Lewis once said: “that if you ask a middle-aged moralist to speak you shouldn’t be surprised if he engages in middle-aged moralizing.” Well, I’m middle-aged and with a Ph.D. Educational Philosophy my credentials as a moralist are firmly established. So, you will have to forgive me if, true to my age and training, I sound like I’m moralizing.

Once again following Mr. Lewis, I believe that moralists like to talk about one of three subjects that the King James Bible calls “The World, The Flesh and the Devil.” I could probably pontificate all day on any of these; but, because we have limited time and I know that many of you have somewhere to be today after chapel, I’m going to choose only one and be brief and to the point.

In fact I’m only going to speak about a very specific part of one of these. I am going to speak to you today about the sin of Hypocrisy of the heart which I think should be placed under the general rubric of “The Flesh.”

This type of Hypocrisy is a sin of the flesh because we treat our hypocrisy as though it were an adulterous lover not a spouse for this Hypocrisy is both unfaithful to us and causes us to be unfaithful to our true love. Hypocrisy of the heart brings us nothing but sorrow and tears while promising pleasure and love. It leads us to misery and ruin; yet, we are blind to our love’s faults and wait eagerly for even the most casual of glances or roughest of touches because we long for the security and praise that we hope our love will provide.

The type of hypocrisy that I want to speak of today is the hypocrisy of the heart that we commit when we selectively compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others to make ourselves look better, morally superior or to justify our sinful lifestyle. I am not speaking of the hypocrite for whom there is merely a behavioral disconnect between belief and practice. But, the Hypocrisy that allows us to believe the lies we want to believe about ourselves.

This is the true reason we love Hypocrisy. It allows us to ignore the ugly truth of our sin.

You, I, and everyone else in the room are this type of hypocrite at some point, probably many points everyday. Hypocrisy of the heart is, in fact, our first love, and the love we need to leave. Because we treat Hypocrisy as our love it would not be amiss to label hypocrisy a form of spiritual adultery. Indeed that is how I am approaching the subject today.

I am not moralizing about hypocritical Christians per se, but the hypocrisy all of us engage in, regardless of our religiosity to boost our own self-esteem or as an excuse for our own moral failures. This is the most basic of human flaws and has been committed by almost everyone throughout all time

We not only love Hypocrisy, we are jealous paramours who actively seek out and expose others who are involved with our love. We do this because we need our love to tell us that we are unique, special or better than all the others who seek our love’s favor. We are always willing to excise the love of hypocrisy of others but never deal with our own. Because taking Hypocrisy as our love allows us to sooth our conscience, sanctify our failings and ignore our guilt.

A prominent example of a hypocrite in this regard is actually the Apostle Paul. Look at the different picture that Paul paints of his actions before he became an apostle and the picture that Luke paints of some of those same actions.

Paul says of himself in Philippians Chapter 3:

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”

The career of Paul in a slightly less rosy light in chapter seven of the book of Acts where Luke writes:

“When they had driven Stephen out of the city, the Pharisees began stoning him; and the Pharisees laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

Paul, or Saul as he is known in the Passage, was a hypocrite of the worst kind. We can, perhaps have some respect for the actual Pharisees. They were obeying the precepts of their religion as they understood them. As murder was against the law in the Roman Empire it took some courage to stone a man to death in public. But, it is hard to respect Paul in this. He just held the coats. He wasn’t even a diligent Pharisee. I can just hear his thoughts. “If the Roman soldiers come and arrest someone for murder I can say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t helping, what could one man do to stop this anyway? But, if they don’t come I can say I helped kill this guy’”

Paul was not only a hypocrite, he was a coward. So, even as a Pharisee, much less as an apostle Paul was a hypocrite. He wasn’t blameless; he wasn’t even as good as the Pharisee’s. To be honest, I am taking Paul’s words in Philippians slightly out of context but the point is still valid.

This first love, our hypocrite nature, deceives us even when we are doing evil. Hypocrisy allows us to believe that we are both better and worse than we really are. What vile companionship hypocrisy actually provides us!

All of this, while important is secondary to my point today which is: we don’t want to find non-hypocrites. We don’t want to find them because we know how badly both we and our love would look in comparison. Non-hypocrites reveal our love as self-centered, cruel and untrue. They would reveal us as weak, trite and immature. We also suspect that if we find a non-hypocrite we will be compelled to leave our hypocritical love but, are too afraid to because we enjoy the comfort we wrongly think that hypocrisy provides.

Luckily for you and me the non-hypocrite is a rare breed indeed.

In the whole of the Bible there are only three people, that I know of who were not hypocrites. Each one of them has something to tell us and, if taken chronologically, each one makes us more uncomfortable than the last.

The first non-hypocrite mentioned is Enoch. He appears for only a few verses in the chapters four and five of Genesis. The last mention of Enoch is in verse 24 of Chapter five:

“Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch never died. He was taken to Heaven and as lovers of hypocrisy, this bothers us. We don’t want to meet a non-hypocrite because they remind us that while Hypocrisy may be our love here; that love cannot continue beyond death. We are, as the philosopher Martin Heidegger reminds us, utterly and irrationally afraid of death. Heidegger understood that our fear of death is part of what defines our humanity. Indeed, it is one of the things that sets’ us apart from animals. What Heidegger did not understand is that we are afraid of death because we are hypocrites not because we cannot understand it. As hypocrites, we understand the nature of death far too well.

We know, at a very deep level that this lover in whose arms we sinfully lay will not protect us from death. We find it disturbing that there are, or might have been people like Enoch who have not experienced death which shows us how weak our love really is. We are afraid that there is a love more permanent than ours and we are, by turns desperately wishing to find that new love and terribly afraid to discover that we may have to abandon Hypocrisy when we do.

While this is a significant reason to avoid the non-hypocrite it is the least of the problems that the non-hypocrite causes us. Enoch makes us uncomfortable. The next person, Elijah doesn’t just make us uncomfortable, or remind us of our fear of death; he simply puts us to death.

Like Enoch, Elijah didn’t die but was taken directly to heaven. Unlike Enoch, the life and works of Elijah are described in some detail. In the first chapter of 2nd Kings we find one of the strangest stories in the Bible and this story shows us the power of the non-hypocrite. We will pick up the story at the point where Elijah is being summoned by a company of soldiers who have been sent by King Ahab to fetch him for an audience. Elijah’s response is frightening:

“And the captain of fifty went up to Elijah: and, behold, Elijah sat on the top of a hill. The captain spoke to him, “Man of God, the king hath said, come with me, you are summoned to the Palace.” Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your men.” And, fire came down from heaven, which consumed the captain and his men.”

This happened three times before Elijah finally went to see the King.

Elijah also prayed that it would not rain in Israel for 3 ½ years and there was drought that killed thousands, he called down fire from Heaven upon 450 prophets Baal and killed them, and prayed for what can only be described as a curse upon queen Jezebel so that her servants threw her to her death from a an upstairs window of the palace and her body was eaten in the street by feral dogs.

In Elijah we see that we do not want to meet a non-hypocrite because they have the right to judge us. We look for any flaw, any duplicity, any event in the life of a Godly person that will allow us to claim “See, they are no better than me! They can’t judge me!” We cling to our love and live in our sin because the comfort our hypocrisy seems to provide. We know our hypocrisy will not save us from the judgment of the non-hypocrite but we prefer to not think about it.

I think that many of us, me included are secretly happy there are not more non-hypocrites like Elijah around.

Elijah also frightens us because we see that our first love doesn’t die with us or aid us when we are threatened. This love of ours, to whom we would ever be true, simply moves on to someone else. Indeed, Hypocrisy has always been unfaithful, and never loved us at all. In the end, we are not even mourned by our love; Hypocrisy abandons us cold in the grave with no remorse and moves on.

Lastly, we come to Jesus. In many ways He is the most troublesome non-hypocrite of all. Jesus doesn’t bring our fear of death into stark and utter relief because unlike the other two he did die. But, He rose from the dead which is something done by neither Enoch nor Elijah. Jesus shows us that the non-hypocrite can conquer death and not merely avoid it. Worse, Jesus shows us that His love is stronger than the love provided by Hypocrisy.

Jesus disturbs us because He does not show us how to not be hypocrites. Instead, He was judged for our hypocrisy. In doing this He reveals how untrue Hypocrisy, our love is. Hypocrisy would never die for us but would have us die instead. Hypocrisy never saves us from judgment but brings us to ultimate judgment. The price that Jesus demands for saving us is high; for Jesus demands that we forsake our first love and follow Him. In exchange for giving up the cruel, weak and self-centered hypocrisy; Jesus offers us a love that we can neither deserve nor understand.

Jesus offers us, the singer T-Bone Burrett puts it; the true power of love that is the name of names; Who burns away our pain. The love Jesus can make a coward brave and a hero afraid a strong man weak and make a blind man see. The power of love can make a miser give, a skeptic believe and made this dead man live.

Isn’t it time we ceased looking at the hypocrisy of others and using it as an excuse to continue in our own hypocritical misery? I think so. I hope that after today you will too.

Thank you for letting this middle-aged moralist speak to you today. I’m always willing to talk about these things; so, if you’d like to talk more then simply come by the library.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Sometimes Chapel Speaker Blogger



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

Typhoon

There is a rather big typhoon bearing down on Hong Kong.

I know it is getting close because I had students in the library at lunch. They were holding a prayer meeting to pray for a typhoon day.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Tattle Tale Blogger

 

Turkey.

I will be a Chaperone for a high school trip to Turkey.

We will leave this weekend and return on the 28th of May.

I will post tomorrow and Friday. But I will be gone for a week

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The World Travelling Blogger

Friday, May 12, 2006

 

Day 6

I had to break the fast today.

It is a 15 minute walk through Walled City Park from where I get off the bus in the morning to work. I started getting dizzy as I walked and was afraid I was going to fall. The dizziness didn't stop when got in the building and sat down.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

 

Babies

Simon World has a good post on the cost of having children in Hong Kong.

I haven't seen his blog before but if you are from Hong Kong or lived here for any length of time you'll know that he is right on the mark.



Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Reads Other Blogs Blogger

 

Day 5

I am really hungry today. Today is the first day that I've been tempted to eat. I guess that until now I was running on emotion. I kind of expected this to happen at some point.

I've had a headache since about 8:00PM last night; I don't know if that has anything to do with the fast or not.

I get dizzy when I stand up, that is probably low blood sugar and has everything to do with the fast.

Sleeping is another problem. Hunger is a good conversationalist. It keeps you interested in what it has to say and makes it hard to sleep. But strangly enough, I don't seem to need as much sleep. I toss and turn and think and plan and hope and dream of better things. I pray and weep and pray some more. Then the alarm goes off and I wake refreshed not knowing that I'd fallen asleep.

I don't understand. It is a strange sensation and if I'm not careful I could lose perspective on reality. Am I awake or dreaming? I am awake. Dreams don't last this long.

I'm not giving up.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Fasting and Hungry Blogger

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

Day 4

The fast is into day four.

Yesterday was still a tough day. Not because I was that tempted to eat but because the burden on my heart.

However, it got better as the day went on. I had an appointment with the Chinese bone-setter for an acupuncture session. During these sessions I have to lay face down on a massage table and not move while the acupuncture needles and heat treatment do their work. After the needles are taken out comes the massage of the affected areas. This all takes about 45 minutes to an hour. In a strange way it is a good time to pray. I can't move, I have to keep my mind off the pain from the needles and have nothing to look at except the floor under the table.

I've had a very heavy burden on my heart recently. The fast is part of helping me pray for that burden. Yesterday, while praying on the acupuncturist table the burden was lifted. Not lifted in the sense of removing but made bearable. It was as if God was saying: "Silly Fai Mao, why are you so worried? Don't you know I see, I know and I am concerned about this? Because I am worried about this you don't have to be"

I didn'?t break my fast. I am still fasting and praying but I no longer mourn. I still do not know how this situation will end. But, I now know that I can bear this burden.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40: 31

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Fasting Blogger

(Please not that several post regaurding this fast have been temporarily removed because they were too personal. They will be reposted at a later date as the situation resolves itself.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

 

Prayer and Fasting

I am in the third day of a time of prayer and fasting. I am taking no food. I am simply drinking water or other non-caloric liquids such as plain tea or diet soda. I will maintain this fast until God answers my prayer or until it becomes physically impossible for me to fast any longer. I can do nothing else but pray.

Before I moved to Hong Kong, for many years, I did a three day fast from dawn Good Friday until Sunset Easter Sunday. I’ve not done that in Hong Kong. I find that Hong Kong is a tough place to fast in. According to the South China Morning Post Hong Kong has more restaurants per-capita than almost any other major city. Wherever you go in Hong Kong you smell food. That I have not maintained my Easter fast is probably to my detriment but is simply the way things are. The busy pace and crowded streets are not conducive to quietude, contemplation or fasting for personal spiritual growth.

Fasting is a strange spiritual discipline. It is difficult to see or understand how it works or why it is effective. Does God listen more closely to my prayers simply because I’m hungry? Fasting seems to go against the very nature of the promise of Jesus that I would have an “Abundant life.” How does having the distraction of hunger make you better able to pray without distraction?

I don’t know the answers to all of those questions. But, I’m beginning to have some answers.

Before, when I would fast, it was always because I was seeking some spiritual benefit for myself. This fast was undertaken because someone I know and love, someone close to me is in desperate trouble. They have made some lifestyle choices that are not just sinful but physically destructive. They have betrayed my trust. They have, evidently abandoned their faith. At this moment, all I can do besides pray for them is to fast. They desperately need some intervention which I cannot provide. Yet, I desperately want to do something. I can only do two things. I can pray and I can fast. Fasting may not help directly but it is what I can do. That may not sound like much. It certainly doesn’t sound like much when I write it down. It is huge. Fasting gives me control of a situation where I otherwise have no control. It makes the situation bearable. My hunger is comfort to my soul. What a blessing

Fasting also allows my physical body to mirror my spiritual state. We can sort of see this idea in the sixth Psalm:

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD --how long?
Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries.


Fasting is a way to channel my mental anguish into physical action. It allows me to control my grief by bring my physical state into alignment with my mental state. I am in mental aguish over this situation. I feel like I am going to die. Fasting brings the feeling home in a real and obvious way. It focuses my attention on the object of my prayers. What a blessing

Fasting reminds me that my prayers have a goal. I think that sometimes our prayers are too amorphous, jello like. We tend to try and cover the water front. “Dear God, bless us bla, bla, bla- rescue the perishing oh Lord, bla bla bla. How much more effective would our prayer be if we kept the goal of our prayers in sight? How much more fervent would our prayers be if we knew that each prayer weakened us physically? What a blessing.

Fasting keeps my grief from turning into self-righteousness. I am seeking the restoration of a loved one; not recompense or retribution for a wrong done. Jesus told us that:

"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17. "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

My fast is a secret, known only to a few people who need to know. By maintaining it in secret I keep my prayer pure. What a blessing

As can also be seen from the passage above, fasting in private prevents me from allowing my grief to control my life. In this case it is the only way that I could function in society. I cannot weep at my job. People depend upon me being at work. I am commanded to go about my business. Fasting keeps me from being consumed by bitterness, grief and sorrow. What a blessing

Fasting reminds me that prayers have answers. The fast will eventually end, even if at this point I cannot see when. God may or may not answer my prayers the way I wish. But, I will have an answer and I will rejoice in the graciousness of the Lord. When David’s first son with Bathsheba sickened David fasted and prayed. When the child died he rose and washed himself and broke his fast. I have always found this passage to be remarkable but I don't think I ever understood it until now.

2 Samuel 12: 16-23
16. David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. 17. The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. 18. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, "Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!" 19. But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." 20. So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21. Then his servants said to him, "What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22. He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, `Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' 23. "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

I will, God willing kept my fast until this situation is resolved or until I am physically unable to keep it any longer. But, I must understand that God may not answer my prayers in the way I would wish. The person I am praying for might or might not repent and be restored to fellowship with both God and my family. The situation may get better or it could get worse. But, when the time comes to break the fast then God will give me either comfort in full measure or reason to celebrate. What a blessing

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Fasting Blogger

Monday, May 08, 2006

 

Pins and Needles

I managed to tear a ligament in my elbow several months ago. This was a rather severe tear and almost required what is sometimes called “Tommy John Surgery” but luckily or perhaps unluckily didn’t. However, it does require some physical therapy and pain management. I’ve tried the standard physical therapy stuff for other injuries and while it worked it was a lot of trouble and rather expensive; our health insurance didn’t want to cover that much either. So, I took the alternative medicine route.

Acupuncture.

Wow, 10 sessions each about 45 minutes to an hour long. It would be hard to get this amount of attention for the cost from a traditional physical therapist. However, if the treatment doesn’t work then I’m still paying too much. To be fair, I can’t actually say if the acupuncture has worked or not. It is possible that the elbow and hamstring he is working on would have improved anyway. But, they have improved and the acupuncture does appear to be working. So, I can, I believe, rate the procedure at least a qualified thumbs up for pain relief

I’d heard that Acupuncture was a painless treatment. I heard wrong. Acupuncture, at least the treatments I’m receiving really hurt. Once all the needles are in, about the time I’ve managed to relax, the acupuncturist twist them for effect or possibly for fun so he can hear me howl; since he doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak a whole lot of Chinese I’ll never know .

Something that is kind of strange is that when all the needles are in my arm the arm is paralyzed. It hurts, I can feel it, but I cannot move it. The leg can still be moved.

Anyway, I have about 4 more treatments and am looking forward to a pain free arm.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The on pins and needles blogger

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