Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hotel Nobel

My stay in UB is at the Hotel Nobel.  My room is on the 5th floor, and like most of UB, the elevators don’t work.  I don’t mind the climb, it’s better than a stair-stepper workout device.

My room is not too much different than other hotel rooms around the world.  One key drawback to the room is the absence of hot water in the shower.  I take a cool partial shower, because I need one, but at the next opportunity as I leave the hotel, I mention it to the noble Hotel Noble staff.  They say they will take care of it.

When I get back, I can see the solution to my problem was a simple extension cord run across my  sink to the hot water tank suspended above the shower.   

Now I have hot water, but in my daze I can’t figure out how to get it to the shower head.  It turns out there are two shower heads on the flexible lines that have become popular.  The one hanging on the wall gives no hot water, because a careful examination of the plumbing reveals that it has no hot water supply attached.  Fortunately the shower head lying on the floor does, and with some manipulation of the right valve I get glorious and very HOT water!  Hurray!!

But, my television is as dead as dead can be.  Learning my lesson from the shower, I examine the electrical wire taped with electrician’s tape leading to the multi-outlet extension cord.  Everything looks fine, but no TV.

On my next venture down 5 floors, I mention the non-functional t.v. and the only person in the hotel who speaks any English accompanies me back up to the room.  She examines the wires, just as I had.  She wiggles the plug, then pulls it out of one slot and pushes it into another.  Voila!  T.v.!  So now, at last I can see the Flinstones cartoon characters speaking Mongolian.  I can’t correctly pronounce “thank you”, yet these dumb cartoon cave people speak the language fluently!

My room is comfortable, and the double paned windows do a commendable job at isolating me from the noise of the busy streets below.  I hear not so much as a horn honk, and I am quite grateful for the peace.

G^d gives me a grateful heart for these small pleasures:
            A clean bed
            A working thermostat
            A hot shower
            A television with Chinese news and National Geographic channel
            A quiet peaceful place to rest.

G^d gives me very much, most of which I take for granted, and for which I never thank Him.  But, slowly I am recognizing that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  (James 1:17)

Above all, I should be grateful to G^d.  He has blessed me abundantly, and forgiven me much.  Which reminds me of a story I heard:
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. (Luke 7)

L^rd help me to love you more, as I have been forgiven such an enormous debt!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

UB Wedding day

One morning in UB, I had nothing scheduled so decided to a walk-about.  I headed West from my hotel towards the famous Sukhbaatar Square, in the center of Ulan Bator (note that it can be spelled a few different ways). 

As I walk along in the beautiful fall day, I notice that I am totally illiterate here.  I pass the Afghanistan embassy, and one other unidentifiable embassy and reach the Sqaure.  In the middle, there is a statue of Damdin S├╝khbaatar (the Red Hero for whom UB is named) on horseback (note: the spot for the statue was chosen based on where Sukhbaatar's horse had urinated (a good omen) on July 8, 1921, whilst he was preparing to lead the country to independence).

But beyond the statue of Sukhbaatar, and the enormous statue of Chingis Khan, what caught my eye was the large number of white-gowned brides.  Everywhere I look are brides, grooms, and wedding parties.  Many of those in wedding parties are wearing their native costumes.

There are two white, white gers set up at the far end of the square, and I suppose these have something to do with the weddings.   

Newly weds are being photographed inside the large hall, in front of the statues and on the long wide staircase at the north end of the plaza.

The cars that will whisk away the bride and groom are adorned with little statues of brides and grooms, about a foot tall, but otherwise quite similar to the traditional top of the wedding cake we see in the USA.  The cars also sport wreathes and balloons.

I will learn later, that the large number of weddings is because this is deemed a “lucky day” on the lunar calendar.

I like weddings, because, for the most part, everyone is happy, for at least a short time.  Weddings are celebrations, and they come up a few times in the Scriptures.  My favorite wedding is the one mentioned in Revelations 19
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Now, that will be a celebration indeed!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Flag and Symbol of Mongolia

While we are up at the Meditation Center, the guide describes the Mongolian symbol to me.
Take a look:

The Top is the triune flame representing past, present, and future.

Next is the Sun and Moon representing the light of day and night in the sky.  

Under these are the the arrow/spear heads at top and bottom to symbolize defeat of the enemies.  

Under these are two books representing Knowledge.

In the middle of the bottom are the ying and yang of the Mongolians which represent male and female fish, who never close their eyes.

The two Upright rectangels on each side represent the borders with China and Russia, or perhaps firmess and strength, depending on who is doing the interpreting.

This is the symbol on the first panel of the Mongolian National Flag.

Christianity has its own symbols, foremost the cross.  Clearly the cross represents the ultimate price the Christ paid on my behalf and yours.  The fish, the secret symbol of early persecuted Christians ought to remind us of the price many have paid to follow the Christ.

The Roman Catholics make the sign of the cross, and I like that.  I do it myself to remind myself of the cross, and He who died upon it.  And, I need reminding.  And that is part of the value of fellow shipping together, we remind each other.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Football (American) is like real life (only moreso)

I live in the Southeastern USA, and here American football is a BIG, BIG thing.  Some strongly agree with the football coach who said,

"Football is not just a matter of life and death; it’s much more important than that” Henry Russell “Red” Sanders, UCLA football coach .

Just a week ago, our University American football team lost it's first match in over a year.  There was " joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out." to quote what is likely the most famous baseball poem in history (1888).  It was a sad day indeed.  Our University of Alabama football team had won the US National Championship in 2009, and 2011 and everyone expected them to win again in 2012.  Now it looked doubtful, as the team had fallen from #1 to #4.

But, yesterday the top two teams both lost.  The #1 team lost to Baylor University, and the #2 team, The U of Oregon, lost in overtime to Stanford U.  Hope was restored.

"I wouldn't ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was, you know, important —like a league game or something."    DICK BUTKUS (Famous Am. Football player.)
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."  VINCE LOMBARDI (Famous Am. Football coach.) 

Lessons learned:
  •  No one is as good as they think they are.
  • Everyone is within one mistake of failing miserably.
  • Many of the things we take seriously, are not really so important.
  • Most of us worship something of human creation (ourselves, our team, our company), and ignore the G^d of the Universe.
  • We can determine WHAT we worship by examining where we spend our time, money, resources, and by what animates us.
G^d in His wisdom made us in His image.  He created us for worship.  We will  worship something, whether it be ourselves, our team, our success, or our Creator.

A very wise man once said,  "The fear of the L^rd is the beginning of wisdom."  What do you reckon that means?

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

One of the most appealing characteristics a person can have is GRATITUDE.

Just this morning I read an essay written by an earth sciences profesor at Rice University.  He wrote a lengthy diatribe about how he was so badly underpaid.  I was almost in tears [;)] as I thought about how this poor professor slaves away for 8 months of the year, with the stress of having to remember to zip his pants before a lecture.  Yes, it's hard to pay someone enough to do this tough a job when he could be doing something easier and more fulfilling like mining coal, or building tires, or selling something with quotas, deadlines and uncooperative clients.

In truth, anyone reading a blog has likely got MUCH for which to be immensely grateful.  We have opportunities, and resources that are the envy of the world.  Many of us think that we "earned" all of this through hard work, and I don't mean to diminish the value of hard work, but we are all immensely blessed.

In truth, I don't want to spend any more time on jobs and education, and opportunities. I want us all to focus on what G^d has done for us, through Jesus, The Christ.  We did NOT study, work, or do anything but accept what G^d has done for us at great cost, and paying us ENORMOUS eternal benefits.  We all ought to be grateful, extremely grateful.

Some wise person once observed, "One of the most frustrating feelings for atheists must be when they are truly grateful for something, and have no one to whom to be grateful."  We Christians don't have that problem.

Soooo, if we are grateful, beyond a simple prayer of thanks, is there anything we can do to more fully express our gratitude?  I'm asking, because it is a key question for us all.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prayers, Hopes, and Thanksgivings

One of the ubiquitous qualities of suburban and rural Mongolia are the scarves marking the sacred sites.  Here is one of the largest I saw, and it was in Terelj National Park.  The prayer walks 3 times clockwise around the pile adding a stone each time.  As you can see the middle is marked by the blue scarves, and the pile is littered with the crutches of those healed and grateful to whatever for their healing.  Remember in Buddhism, there is NO ONE to whom to be grateful.  I once heard a Christian philosopher note that it must be quite frustrating to be grateful, yet have no one to be grateful towards!

The scarves are those of relatives who have died, and are used to mark sacred sites on their behalf.  Looking back on that mound you will also see a horse skull or two.  These are left in hopes that another horse will replace the beloved one who has gone on to wherever horses go when they die.

I guess the most outstanding thing about these markers is how common they are.  Everywhere we stopped, we were likely to see at least a few scarves if we looked around.

When I observe the fervency and devotion of Buddhists, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Taoists, or others, I think to the lack of fervency and devotion in my own life.  The Muslims arise at 0530 to do the first of their five prayers per day.  Most of us Christians won’t pray 5 times per week.

These Buddhists mark the spirit trees, and the prayer sites with their scarves.  We are too educated, too sophisticated to do anything like that.  We wear our favorite team’s colors and symbols, we WANT to be identified with them… but not G^d.  To be identified with G^d might make someone uncomfortable.

Yet, we serve the TRUE and LIVING G^D who spoke the cosmos into existence.  Why don't we take G^d as seriously as these other religions do?

Why don't I?

That's a mystery to me.