Tag Archives: Shanghai

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Raised to Run

‘See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth. The season of singing has come.’ (S of S 2: 10, 11)

Maybe only long distance runners understand: an unpredictable convergence of things that makes for a great race. Balmy weather, body aches becoming bursts of strength, the inspiration of a flowering tree, managing to keep pace with the guy just ahead of you…all good, all outside of one’s control.

Kind of like new life. Who likes to be out of control? Even if unexpected news is good, we may first find it disorienting. It took the disciples a few minutes to ‘get’ the resurrection. It shook them up before it freed them. Maybe that’s why I still train throughout the year to run half-marathons: I need to rely on the One who is faithful, even if I cannot control the variables that greet me race-day.

Not long ago, I ran a new race and was disappointed. Instead of inspiring, the 13.1 miles of cityscape droned on and drained me. I lost time and my body felt weakened by, in the words of Christina Rossetti, this ‘long-drawn straining effort across the waste.’ I wondered if my racing days were over.

Unsure of motives—staving off a midlife crisis?–I resolved to train harder and set my sight on an Easter-ish run 6 months ahead. The key to training is consistency and one long run a week, come what may.

I even set a higher goal for this Spring run. Race day came. Preparing to launch with my younger ‘time class,’ I felt outclassed and marveled at my presumption.

Yet I also marveled at the ground I had pounded in prep for it: running at dawn through the steaming parks of Shanghai as folks gathered to do Tai Chai or sing ‘P’Opera,’ taking a wrong turn in Manila and passing out momentarily due to unusually high pollutants, climbing a village road outside Mexico City then charging down in flight from canine ‘friends,’ sprinting alongside Chicago’s Lake Michigan in a freeze that had turned the sea into a glacier, chugging along a fogged-in Oregon coastline with only neon shoes to light the way, pierced by a cold rain that became an ice storm in PA. (Note to self: ice hurts…)

Greater than my stubborn vanity was the One who ‘keeps my steps firm’ (PS 37:23) and who draws me into His good will as I resolve to ‘run in the path of His commands, He who has set my heart free.’ (PS 119: 32) In truth, wherever I go, I run with Him, toward Him, from Him. And I trust Him with the variables.

The gun went off and I wondered how long I could keep pace. OK at first: the weather was crazy perfect, and the course (a new one) was tree-lined with blossoms so profuse that they rained upon us. I felt strong yet sure I would slow down toward the end. Never happened. I crossed the line under time with joy and unexpected strength. He is risen. He raises me up to run the race.

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Kingdom of Shanghai

‘Neither (s)he who plants nor (s)he who waters is anything but only God, who makes things grow.’  (1 Cor. 3: 7)

Andy and Jeanie with Priest at Zhujiajiao Catholic Church

with my sister and the priest

This Chinese city looms large in the popular imagination: a colorful, lawless seaport alternately stripped and seasoned by colonial forces. The term ‘red-light district’ originated from the red lanterns festooning brothels here a century ago. Who can forget Marlene Dietrich luring customers in the thirties classic film ‘Shanghai Express’? Who can remember Madonna playing a missionary opposite Sean Penn in the eighties nightmare ‘Shanghai Surprise”? (Apparently I do.)

Russian, English, American, Japanese and French opportunists vied for Shanghai until Mao clamped down in the mid-20th century, chased out foreigners, and began his rule and reign. The lawless kingdom of Shanghai came under the godless, cruelly efficient kingdom of men.

Another Kingdom is quietly emerging here. In a sovereign and merciful way, God is assembling a team of servants who owe their lives to Him and whose only aim is to make Jesus known to the people of Shanghai. I have yet to see such an inspired cooperative effort, with each member doing his/her part.

A glimpse into the work of Living Waters here may indicate this a bit. My beloved sister Jean and husband Ken assumed a job assignment here. Devout Christians, they determined to serve Jesus in the city and thus moved near a dynamic church as a base for such service. Upon moving there, they informed me that Living Waters was beginning in their new church.

I then recalled Sue, a woman from Shanghai whom I had met at our training last year in Kansas City. Released to lead Living Waters and well-connected with the woman who coordinates Living Waters in Asia, Sue feels as if her life (healing from SSA, marriage, recent adoption of 3 Chinese children) has been a preparation for this season of healing others. She was assembling a team to run Living Waters in the church and asked me to come and inaugurate the first meeting.

I just happened to be in the Philippines, wanted to see Jean and Ken anyway, and so decided to come. Just before leaving for Asia, I learned that Jim, a Chinese-speaker from Living Waters in Los Angeles, was moving to Shanghai to assist Sue.

If our first meeting was any indication, the Kingdom is advancing exquisitely in Shanghai. Under Sue’s able leadership, each one did his/her part. Jim led worship and wept as we sang to beautiful Jesus for His beauty among us, the broken, who are seeking only His mercy as our righteousness. Many faces of Asia (and those of a few ex-pats) reflected that beauty.

Andrew in Zhujiajiao Catholic Church

Divine Mercy Image in China

Afterwards, we visited one of the few historic churches in Shanghai. Perched on the edge of a canal, this Roman Catholic Church appeared closed. (The RCC has been especially hard hit in China, its bishop jailed for disavowing communism and refusing to disavow the Pope.)

We cried out half-kidding: ‘God, open the doors of Your Church in China!” We rapped on the imposing metal door again and a woman answered. She led us into the courtyard where a priest met us and led us into the sanctuary. Most obvious was the prominent display of the Divine Mercy image Jesus gave St. Faustina: rays of blood and water emanating out of Jesus’ heart for the lost and broken. The priest knelt alongside of us as we silently thanked God for His wonderful gift.

A flood of Mercy for Shanghai, for China: God is releasing His Kingdom there as each one does his/her part.

‘What God opens, no-one can shut, and what He shuts no-one can open. I know your deeds. I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut.’ (Rev. 3: 7, 8)

 

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