Thursday, February 6, 2014

Everybody's Got A Water Buffalo (Or Should Have)

Everybody's Got A Water Buffalo
I walked out of the gate of the retreat center we were staying out and almost ran into the bigger water buffalo in the picture.

The fields in the background of the picture are rice fields. Each has a little dike around it so it can be flooded. The water buffalo are used as beasts of burden for plowing, pulling carts, etc.

I'm not sure where these guys were going. There was a small calf trailing along with them, so it might have been a whole water buffalo family. I don't know.

The bigger animal had the rope right through the cartilage of his nose - so I know why he was so docile on that long rope. The smaller animal had the rope tied around its horns. Nevertheless, they ambled along without giving the man any trouble.

The building in the back left of the picture is a temple for ancestor worship. As it was explained to me by a Chinese man there, the building is paid for and maintained by gifts from the family members. The building is used for family gatherings and there are shrines inside with names of various ancestors. Incense and other offerings are made. Prayers are offered.

This is more than just honoring the memory of a departed patriarch. The ancestors are not necessarily seen as "gods," but more like spirit beings who could influence your life for good or evil depending on how you please them with honor and offerings.

The man who talked with me said this kind of ancestor worship is a problem for people who convert to Christianity. They do not want to participate in it, but if they refuse to give money to support the family shrine or temple they can be thrown out of the family and shunned by their relatives. I suppose this is more of a problem in these small rural villages than in the cities.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret Cure For Self Pity

I believe root of self-pity is pride. I feel sorry for myself when I think I deserve better than I've received.

The cure for self-pity is to realize what I really deserve (the wrath of God against my sin) and to remember what I got instead (a new heart, a new birth, forgiveness and eternal life.) From there I can go on counting up the many blessings I have received and continue to receive day by day.

Another cure for self-pity is to focus on other people and to try to comfort them in their times of trouble. Today I get to make a couple of calls - one in a hospital and one in a nursing care facility. While talking with these people about their situations and their fears, my own concerns fade into the background of my thinking. I go to be a blessing and I am blessed myself.

God is SOOOOOOO good!