Last week, a friend told me she was so worried about the Coronavirus she was having trouble sleeping. And no wonder. Recent headlines reflect the fear gripped by nations and people as the virus spreads. It takes time to sort out what news is accurate and what is not. In some places, classes are canceled and workers told to stay home in efforts to keep the virus contained. Never mind thinking about going on a cruise!
Last Friday night, at our community group, we discussed a Christian reaction to the virus. We talked about fear, judging others, and prejudice some people voice against Chinese. The discussion guide is under Conversation Discussion Guides, Bible Discussion Guides, Topics from a Biblical Perspective. Please check it out. As always, I welcome feedback.
Springtime hike at with international friends at Clinton Lake, Kansas
This image outlines the basic path of the monomyth, or “Hero’s Journey” from Joseph Campbell. (commons.wikimedia.org)
Have you ever noticed the similarity of hero stories? Someone is called to leave their ordinary lives behind and start on an adventure. They encounter danger, difficulties, and temptations. Often they find a mentor to help them. Through their struggles, they eventually overcome and go on to help others in their journeys. Whether it is a story from Disney, a mythical hero, or a true story of someone who has extraordinary courage, we are inspired to do better, to cope with our journey.
The Hero Story of Jesus Christ is a hero story like no other. You can find it under the heading of “Conversation Discussion Guides,” “Bible Discussion Guides,” and then “The Hero Story.”
Come and be inspired.
International Student Discussion Time
At the beginning of each semester, we ask students what topics they would like to discuss. One would think, that we have already exhausted topics of interest. But of course, we have not. About everyday topics of interest, we five new topics. They are Common Slang, Cultural Celebrations, UNESCO sites around the world, Three Worldviews, Hobbies, and Cuisine. For fun, the Cuisine discussion is great. Who doesn’t like to talk about eating? For a more insightful deeper conversation, I would suggest the one, Three Worldviews. It is based on the findings of anthropologist, Ruth Benedict.
If your group is interested in discussing things related to the Bible, we have five new topics. They are: Idioms in the Bible, Geography in the Bible, UNESCO sites (relative to the Bible events), Four Mistakes (when reading the Bible), and What Does it Mean to be a Christian. For fun and awareness, I recommend the one on idioms in the Bible. No wonder an understanding of the Bible opens an understanding of the English language and insight into our thinking. In that guide you will find an intriguing painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder titled, The Blind Leading the Blind. Four Mistakes (when reading the Bible), hopefully, will take some of the mystery out of what to expect when reading the Bible.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. May we all grow and deepen in our love and respect for each other and for God, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Always Time for Fun
“What do you notice in this painting?” is a question we ask students who pause at our table in the student Union. At Christmas, we displayed “Jose y Maria” by Everett Patterson. Although intriguing, many did not know the story of Jesus’ birth to begin with, neither international students or Americans. In my search for paintings to display I came across “The Census at Bethlehem” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566. Bruegel was Dutch and the scene is a Dutch village in which Mary enters on the donkey led by Joseph. In front of them is a rowdy crowd in front of a building. The sign on the building is the coat of arms for the Hapsburg empire who ruled over the Dutch from Spain under Philip II. The problem for the Dutch was unreasonable taxation on top of their famine and poverty. The slaughter of a pig in the bottom left of the painting suggests that people were so poor they had to kill their animals to satisfy the demands of the government.
And what about Mary and Joseph entering this chaos. They had nothing to offer, no solutions, only a need for shelter and a place to give birth to their promised son. And yet, into a hopeless situation, they brought hope in the form of a Son who will one day rule the world with justice.
I wonder what you and I would illustrate, what chaos would we depict and then place Mary and Joseph in, bringing to all hope of a Savior and King? Sometimes hope comes from sources that at first glance seem doubtful, like an ordinary couple needing shelter. Who would have guessed that their son will one day bring justice to the world and end the suffering of mankind everywhere. May I not be tempted to become hopeless but trust God for the fulfillment of a greater picture than I can now see or comprehend.
For unto us a child is born,
To us a Son is given.
And the government shall be upon his shoulders.
And his name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
There will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
Establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
From that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
Will accomplish this.
For more information about this painting, please refer to Google Arts & Culture
Once again, it is a pleasure to meet new international students who come in the fall to our university. Considering Kansas State University is in the middle of the USA and not exactly a destination, I am always curious to know how students found us. While each student’s story is unique, I find that people sometimes find us on the internet or through an acquaintance, professor, or friend that recommended our school.
So how are we welcoming them? We offer them opportunities to meet people, their peers and people who live in the community. On Wednesday nights we host the Conversation Café KSU where we play games, eat, enjoy music, and discuss topics of interest. Last week we shared stories of our holidays. This week we are talking about the tendency to stereotype people and places. Next week we are looking at UNESCO world heritage sites.
Our hiking club is off to a good start. Yes, hiking in Kansas! The Tall Grass Prairie is downright breathtaking, especially at sunset. And last week we were kayaking, trying out archery, and playing lawn games at the nearby state park.
Of special enjoyment to me is using the Conversation Art Cards with students who want to practice English. These cards were recently published by Cru Press and are astonishingly beautiful and compelling. Recently, two young women from Japan, shared the hero story of Anpanman with me. Looking at the art, we also discussed the hero story of Jesus Christ.
If you would like to learn more about the Conversation Art Cards, they are described on this website or go to Crustore.org and search for Conversation Art Cards.
I wish you all a happy autumn,
What do you like to do with your international friends in the summer? Perhaps swimming, picnicking at a park or lake? How about a museum?
For starts, a museum is cool, not just because it is a beautifully designed place with architecture and layout that demands your notice. It literally is cool. They have good air conditioning.
Next, a museum is not just about your culture and time. Most museums have objects from the past. Perhaps they have paintings, sculptures, or artifacts like machinery or clothing that transport both you and your friends to a place neither of you may be familiar with. You become equals. There is a lot going in the objects you look at and therefore a lot to learn and enjoy.
Finally, sharing a museum experience will give you and your friends opportunities for new conversations.
Japanese Palace Museum, Kyushu. Below are three of the pieces I saw inside this palace. At the top left, I love the simplicity of the landscape, the elegance of the woman, and wonder if I am looking at a horse race (bottom piece). What do you think?
Discussing what you notice or what’s going on in an artwork allows you to get to know one another in ways that are new. Neither of you need to be an expert to look and reflect.
This summer I will go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve wanted to go for a long time. It is not that I will see everything. It will be about appreciating what I do see, growing in my understanding and astonishment of the creative ways people express themselves.
I wish you joy,
Finally, spring is here in Kansas. It seems like it was a long cold winter. With spring comes Easter.
How will you celebrate with your international friends? Over the years we have had a variety of Easter events: coloring eggs, attending Good Friday services, and hosting a Sunday lunch followed by an Easter egg hunt. One of the more popular events is a Readers Theater, written by Amos Wilson, called, The Easter Case: Did Jesus Christ Rise from the Dead?
The play calls for a cast of fourteen. We ask four students ahead of time to read the parts of the Narrator, the Judge, the Prosecutor, and the Defender. The Prosecutor and the Defender call up historical people like Pontius Pilate, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Annas, a member of the Jewish council. These “witnesses” come from volunteers in the crowd that turns up for the event. The crowd in general is the jury. Half way through the trial and then at the end, students in small groups of 4-5, discuss the evidence. At the end they vote, based on how they understand the evidence, did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?
The script and jury notes are in the Topics from a Biblical Perspective section of the Discussion Guides. I would love to hear your comments.