Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Deepness Defecit

The church is 3000 miles wide and an inch deep. ----Chuck Colson.

While I don't think that Colson's statement is totally correct, he has a valid point: the church lacks spiritually mature individuals. One one of the many books I've been reading recently is Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden. I've only read the introduction and first chapter, but already it's inspiring me.

I almost put in a whole section on these interesting statistics I read in the book. You know, how many Christians attend Bible studies (not many), how many know what their spiritual gift is (not many), and how none of those interviewed put anything about God in their life goals. Sad stuff. While all those statistics are interesting, we all know that depth is becoming rare and hypocrisy is rampant. We've all seen it. We've experienced it ourselves, I'm sure. At least I have.

When I write about these terrible Christians who lack maturity and never try to work at it, I know that I am also talking about myself. While I like to think of myself as a mature Christian, I have to ask myself, am I actively trying to grow? Is spiritual development a priority for me?

Sometimes it is. I like to read Christian books. I pray. I read my Bible. I have spiritual conversations with people. I go to church. But at the same time, it is not always. I do not read my Bible every day. I have not actively memorized Bible verses in at least two years. I have dropped spiritual practices like meditation. Especially when thinking about how mature my faith was when I was in middle school and early high school, I wonder how much I've developed since then. I know that I have, thanks to the grace of God, but maybe I could have gone farther.

In the New Testament, our faith is often compared to an athlete running a race. I know most of us have heard the "running the race" talk at some kind of FCA meeting or something, but ask yourself, is that really your life? Do you really PRACTICE Christianity? Are you actively growing?

That's one thing that I like about Eastern Orthodoxy. It's definitely work. Living the life of an Orthodox Christian is a little daunting for me because it is intense! They confess to a priest. They fast a ton (every Wednesday and Friday, before church, forty days leading up to Christmas, forty days at Lent, to name a few). They have prayers to say in the morning, at lunch, at night. They stand up during church! Being Orthodox is no picnic.

At the beginning of the summer, I was reading a book I got as a graduation present from one of the ladies at St. Nicholas'. It's called Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy by Frederica Mathewes-Green. Basically, it was the story of a Protestant preacher's wife who converted with her husband. He became an Orthodox priest and they both had to learn how to live the life. Very interesting stuff. Anyway, she said that joining the Orthodox church is kind of joining the Marines. It's intense, hard, and you have to commit whole-heartedly. But you're all doing it together and you become strong and effective. Your team becomes a family. Maybe that's the way it should be.

I think us Protestants can learn from that attitude. Maybe you don't like incense or fasting or crossing. That's fine. But how are you growing? What are you doing to become more like Christ? Are you encouraging others to do likewise?

Let's be deep. The end.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bus Runners

Hi. My name is Laura. And I am a bus-runner.

I never thought that I would ever, ever run after a bus, but I have joined the ranks of those sad individuals that chase after buses just to avoid a fifteen minute wait. I still haven't employed the tactic of running in front of the bus so that it can't drive away; I'm afraid that I'd end up a grill ornament. But I suppose there's time.

I still can't quite believe that I'm involved in such ridiculous behavior. In college (or university, as I must now say), I was a vehemently against running to class. Even if I was late, I would never stoop to dashing across campus, dropping books, spewing papers, breathing like chain-smoking grandma and arriving to class dripping with lovely Arkansas perspiration. Never. Anyway, I hate running.

When I first moved to Hong Kong, my dad asked me if I was a bus-runner. Of course, I answered no. But just a couple days ago, I surprised myself. I was going to Central, so I had to hike up our lovely steep, curvy stairs and then walk up a hill to get to the bus stop. I had just cleared the stairs and started up the hill when I saw my bus pulling up. Before I even knew what I was doing, my legs started booking it up the hill.

A little old man was in front of me, walking right in the middle of the sidewalk. Somehow, I'm not quite sure how, I leaped around him, pushed off of a rock (ducking a couple of grasping shrubs), and kept going. I think I saw the several hairs on his dome blow back as I passed.

Yes, I made it to the stop in time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grocery Store Fun

I love grocery shopping in Hong Kong. Well, let me clarify. I don't love it when I'm sitting in our air-conditioned apartment on the couch with my feet propped up and a good book in my hands. At those times when Mom asks me if I want to go to the store, my spirit groans a little. Usually out of a sense of duty (and some guilt over the fact that I haven't exercised all day) I agree to venture out into the open-air sauna that is Hong Kong in July.

Today's weather was a little different. A typhoon came near a couple days ago, bringing with it torrential rains. As my mom cheerfully pointed out to me as I was wilting on the sidewalk, the rain had cooled the air down a bit. Sure, it was cooler, but the air was even damper. I didn't think it was possible, but the humidity level was higher than it was before the storm. If it were any more humid, I would be swimming to the store. I focused on making my legs move and my hand wipe my gushing forehead.

We finally made it to the store. I stumbled onto the escalator that bore us up to the second floor, and then it was in the doors, embraced by the sweet air conditioner emissions. After basking for a minute, Mom and I grabbed a shopping cart to start the adventure.

From first appearances, Hong Kong grocery stores closely resemble American ones. There's the produce to the left, the display ends on the aisles, and stacks of green and pink gum by the cashiers. But then you look closer.

In the produce section, I pass kiwi and apples, grapes and oranges. But what's that? There's a weird spiky fruit that's red with green and yellow tips. A neat sign sits under the chaotic pile: dragon fruit. I was looking for limes without much success. Last year, I went through a bottle of lime juice at least every month or two. I use it in stir-fries, burritos, lime-garlic-chicken, and limemade. But this grocery-store didn't seem to care much about my lime-consumption. I looked all around the oranges, the lemons, and the grapefruit. No limes. Finally, I found a small box of Thai limes. And yes, they were very expensive. I might have to substitute lemon juice in the future.

Then there's the cheese problem. I am a cheese fanatic. Most of my dad's family is from Wisconsin. Dairy farmers, a lot of them. Cheese curdles in my blood. Well, in all honesty, that's probably just an excuse. I don't think any of the other members of my family love cheese quite as much as I do, and we obviously come from the same stock. And I've never lived in Wisconsin. Neither have I made my own cheese. But I still love cheese. There is not much cheese in Asia, at least cheese that doesn't cost more than gold-encrusted elephant tusk. The cheese section depresses me something fierce.

I just want some cheese. When I look at the three small hooks with cheese bags hanging from them, I feel the urge to grab all the cheese I can hold and make a break for it. Mom reminds me that each bag of cheese is over six dollars. Looking down, I find a hidden bag that's marked "sale." I grab the bag, free it from its cold, metal hook, and present my find to Mom.
"That's good, honey." She tells me. "But it's still five dollars."

Thankfully for me, my mom also likes cheese. We end up buying two bags including the sale bag. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Mom sent me on a mission to find some brown sugar. I started off ok, cruising up and down the aisles, scanning the shelves, dodging little, grumpy-looking old ladies. But then I saw the soup packs. At the end of one aisle, there's an enormous array of weird foods wrapped together in plastic. Some of the things were recognizable, like peanuts. Others were not, like a grayish yellow sponge. I wondered about that sponge. I mean, I'm sure it's edible since it is in the soup packet and I don't think they'd put anything in there that a family wouldn't want to boil in a large pot and slurp out of round, blue and white bowls. But at the same time, what if it was a sponge? What if the factory worker in the soup-packet factory got bored one day and decided to slip a sponge into one of the soup packets? Who would know? I probably would do the same thing if I were a factory worker in a soup-packet factory. It doesn't seem like it would be a terribly exciting job. And then, if a factory worker did slip a sponge into one of the soup packets, would anyone even notice the difference?

Then I realized that I still hadn't found the brown sugar. That's my problem. I always get distracted and inspect the dried fish heads and read the ingredients on the Indian snack boxes and try to figure out how one jar of green olives could cost more than a mid-sized yacht.
At least grocery stores aren't as bad as street markets. There I have black fungus balls and reindeer hooves and live toads to distract me. I'll take a pile of fish heads any day.

Well, I did find the brown sugar. Eventually.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Job Found!

I haven't written for a long time, mainly out of laziness but partially out of business. I have a job now! The last week or so has been a flurry of applications, interviews, call-backs, and hard decisions. I had four job offers, and I could see myself doing any of them happily. That's what made it so hard; I liked them all.

After much agony, I decided on a job as a writing instructor at a after-school center. It's a really small program (only four of us) but the people seem really nice. They said that the main thing that they want is someone who cares about the kids and is willing to push them to learn. This job is exciting but much more uncertain. I worked as a writing tutor in college (and loved it), but I've never worked with younger kids on writing. I don't really know what each grade needs and all of that. Also, it will be a lot more work because I will have to make all of my own lesson plans. At the other jobs, the lesson plans were laid out for me. This will definitely be more challenging, but I think I'll learn so much from it.

The other thing that's a little uncertain is the fact that I won't actually have a contract until September. They are hiring me to do part-time work to cover a guy on vacation during August. If I do a good job, a job will be waiting for me. I asked them how sure the job offer was, and they said that they can assure me a job if I do a good job. I can understand where they're coming from. They are a business, one that only survives if it has happy kids and parents. If they hired someone who wasn't a good teacher, their whole business would be in trouble. I really believe that I could do a good enough job to get hired in September, but there are always doubts.

Now my mom has a hard decision in front of her. She applied for one of the jobs I rejected, a kindergarten teaching job. She doesn't really want to work full-time, but it would help the finances out a lot. Now she's trying to decide whether she should take the job or not if it's offered. I'm sure she would appreciate prayer for this decision.

Well, I am so amazed at God's blessings. Not only did he provide a job that I'm excited about, but he gave me FOUR awesome job offers. It didn't necessarily make his will easy to see, but then again, maybe his will is just that I work at a good job glorifying him with my life. In that case, any of the jobs would be his will. I don't know. All that I do know is that I'm amazed at his goodness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Nathan left yesterday morning. I did not accompany him to the airport. I mean, I'd have to get up at five thirty and pay ten dollars for the bus ride. Anyway, he didn't get up when I left. :)

Sunday we visited a church called Island Evangelical Christian Church. I'm usually put off by churches like that. It's very large (three services on two floors), lots of tv monitors, general (bland) music, etc. It's not that I'm against such churches, but they're just not me. I was surprised to find that I liked it. They seem to be doing a lot right.

They have a huge missions focus, which is great. They were sending a forty-person team to Uganda that day, and three other teams are going other places throughout the summer. They also have a ton of small groups, Bible studies, discipleship programs, etc. They also have outreach ministries for Indonesians, Cantonese-speakers (most Chinese here), Philippinos, low-income teens, etc. It's pretty awesome. Besides, they had good coffee!

We'll see, though, because there are other churches to visit as well. I do want to be where I fit and where God wants me. I think next week I'll probably go to my parents' church again and then start searching after that.

After church we ate at a Moss burger! It's a Japanese burger chain that's pretty good. I had their Moss cheese-burger.

It doesn't taste like any other burger I've ever eaten, but it's certainly delicious. The saucy stuff is kind of sweet, and the white stuff also has a unique flavor. Pretty good, pretty good.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I felt like a boiled vegetable today.

Well, I actually felt like a steamed vegetable, since I wasn't swimming in boiling water. But I did feel like I was being cooked with lots of humid air. It was so hot and humid today! It was like a warm washcloth was plastered over my face. Go to your closet, get out a washcloth, dip it in warm water, plaster it to your face, and try to breath. See? Was that easy? Now you know what I feel like.

So what induced me to venture out into the fearsome heat? Nathan, again. Since he's here, we've been doing fun things, of course. This morning we changed things up a little by babysitting for a Bible-study Mom's in. It was pretty fun. Lots of rambunctious preschoolers! One little boy asked me how old I was. When I told him to guess, he told me I had to be at least six. At least, at least...

After that we ate lunch at an awesome Japanese restaurant! They cook the food right in front of you on these hot grills. Mom and I had a combination meal of lamb, chicken, shrimp, and squid. It was so delicious! And super hot.

Here's the shrimp and squid. Sorry it's blurry; we're having camera issues.

And here's the bean sprouts and lamb. Someone else's fish is cooking in the background.

After lunch, we tried to visit the Coastal Defense Museum. After taking a tram (what we would call a trolley) for quite a ways and then walking forever in the heat to get there, we found out that the museum is closed on Thursdays. That's always fun. We walked back to the tram, pausing to take pictures and peek into a temple.

After we got back to the mall where the Japanese restaurant was, we went to the St. Alp's Tea Shop. It was so awesome! I am addicted to icy drinks. In fact, I'm going to be keeping a blender in my room because there's not enough room in the kitchen. I think it's worth it because of all the money I will save by making my own smoothies. In Thailand, they were fifty cents each, so I had one almost every day. Here, they're three to five (US) dollars each.

St. Alp's is on the cheaper end (at least cheaper than Starbucks frapps), so we were glad. That place is amazing! They have so many kinds of iced drinks! It took us at least ten minutes to decide on our drinks, and none of us got tea at all! I ended up getting a double chocolate sorbie, Nathan got an iced cappuccino drink complete with coffee jellies in the bottom, and Mom got a chocolate-blueberry sorbie.

Aren't they beautiful? You can tell that Nathan and I got our drinks before Mom did.

I plan to post some pictures soon to give you an idea of what Hong Kong looks like. We took a bunch of pictures in a market and out the window of our tram today, so that should give you an idea. Stay tuned.

Side note: I did finally get pics of my lucky octopus shirt up, so if you feel the need to see it, just go to my "Yeah, Rocks" post. Also, a picture of the Big Buddha in "The Bad Pilgrim."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fan Letter 1

I've decided to start writing fan letters. Not only will it give me something interesting to do in my spare time, it will give some companies and individuals encouragement in such tumultuous economic times. I'll post here the company or individual I've written to, my letter, and the response, should I receive one.

Company number one: 3M.
Product: poster strips

Dear 3M,

I just wanted to write and tell you that I am a big fan of your poster strips.

I first became aware of them in college when I needed to hang up some posters in my dorm room. I used sticky tack and scotch tape unsuccessfully, and then I tried your poster strips. I love that they never tear my posters and they come right off the wall! I used your poster strips to hang posters of Miles Davis, Edvard Munch's scream, the Three Stooges, and a German cheetah rabbit. I couldn't have done it without you.

I recently moved to Hong Kong and was worried that I wouldn't be able to get any poster strips over there. I took four packs with me just in case. Fortunately, I was relieved to find them in a nearby home furnishing store. I'm glad that you're all over the world.

Once again I must say thank you, 3M, for producing such an incredible product.

Laura Klemm

Dear 3M,

I have no complaint or request for you; I just wanted to write and tell you that I am a big fan of your poster strips.

I first became aware of them in college when I needed to hang up some posters in my dorm room. I used sticky tack and scotch tape unsuccessfully, and then I tried your poster strips. I love that they never tear my posters and they come right off the wall! I used your poster strips to hang posters of Miles Davis, Edvard Munch's Scream, the Three Stooges, and a German cheetah-rabbit. I couldn't have done it without you!

I recently moved to Hong Kong and was worried that I wouldn't be able to get any poster strips over there. I took four packs with me just in case. Fortunately, I was relieved to find them in a nearby home furnishing store. I'm glad that you provide wall-mounting assistance to people all over the world.

Once again I must say thank you, 3M, for producing such an incredible product.

A loyal customer,

Laura Klemm

Well, that's it. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeah, Rocks

Agenda for this week: touristing with Nathan and Mom.

I'm trying to get my head around this city, trying to figure out how it works and, more importantly, how I can avoid getting lost. It is coming together in my head even though it's happening much more slowly than I would like. The problem is all of the buses and roads and trams and ferries and buildings. Of course, that is like any city. I guess it will just take some time to learn it all. The bus that I do remember is the one that goes to the library. Bus 592.

Anyway, this week has been fun. We actually have done things other than just visiting the large Buddha. Yesterday, Monday, we went to an awesome geology museum at the University of Hong Kong. I wasn't that excited about it, to be honest. I mean, it's a geology museum. Rocks. Yeah.

The entrance had a giant globe with a chunk cut out of it to show the earth's core. It looked kind of like a giant pacman with a world painted on it. That was cool, but the rest of it was some science drivel and a guy's bronze bust. I want a bust of myself, but instead of looking serious, I want to be doing my zombie face. But I digress.
After going upstairs, my whole opinion of the museum changed. There were tons and tons and tons of rocks, all carefully arranged in their glass boxes. I was enthralled by all of the colors and textures. Some rocks looked like the back of a warty toad while others like sugar crystals. My favorite was a giant slab of tiger rock. It includes tiger's eye and some other rocks that I've forgotten. It was maroon with golden wavy stripes through it, and I wished I could just take it home with me. It would make a great coffee table. They wouldn't miss it anyway, right?

One thing I enjoyed about the rocks is their colors. I love colors. I also have a thing about matching. I have a very clear idea of matching, and I really dislike wearing shades that don't go together. What I noticed about the rocks, is that all of their colors went together. They matched! I was wishing that I had some of those colors and textures in clothing form. Seriously, fashion people, just look to the rock community for inspiration!

On a side note, I wore my lucky octopus tank top that day. I got it in Thailand. There's no real reason why it's lucky, but I like the tank top and I like saying it's lucky. I think I got it from Calvin and Hobbes. He had his "lucky rocketship underpants", and I want something lucky too. I also try to make the syllables similar.

Here's the front. The armholes were a bit too big, but with a black tank underneath, it works great!

And the surprising yet wonderful back!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Bad Pilgrim

We picked Nathan up from the airport Thursday night. He's going to be here for ten days!

Dad had the day off work because it was Hong Kong Establishment Day. We decided to go for a hike to a walled village. It was fun, but sort of anti-climatic. The village still has people living in it (amazingly enough) so we weren't even allowed inside. The little temple was cool though. It had these awesome blue dragon-donkey-dogs on the edges of the roof, kind of like Asian gargoyles. On the inside of the great wooden doors were painted two warriors. I stared at them a long time, trying to decide which one was my favorite. It was a hard choice, but I finally chose the one with the many-pony-tailed beard over the haystack beard.

The trip was fun, but it was extremely hot. Mom and I both looked like freshly boiled lobsters. After our returning to civilization and consuming massive amounts of Ribena (a blackcurrent lemon drink that is my new favorite), I felt much better. Then we headed to the airport and retrieved Nathan.

Today we made the pilgrimage to the giant Buddha. The best part is the cable car ride to the bottom of the Buddha. We're swept over craggy mountains surrounded by silvery water. I'm a green fanatic anyway, so I loved seeing the mountains' shadowy greens melting into the brighter mosses. So nice.

The Buddha itself was nice, just not quite as nice as the ride up to it.
See? He's pretty cool.

Good ol' BB is several stories tall and sticks up above the mountains. We had to climb a ton of steep steps to get to its base. But then again, I guess it wouldn't be much of a pilgrimage if you didn't have to climb a mountain, right? There were several other large statues surrounding the main Buddha, and lots of stone carvings. From Buddha's left side, I could see the bay. The silver water bled into the sky, and the black islands that popped up almost looked like they were floating above the earth. Sorry Buddha, but you can't really beat that.

I guess I'm not that great of a pilgrim.