Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Achoo At You!

Peter has a condition called the Photic Sneeze Reflex, which means he usually sneezes when he's first exposed to bright light, especially sunlight.  It also apparently damages his memory since, for the first three years I knew him, he explained after every Photic sneeze, "I'm allergic to the light."  After awhile, it drove me bonkers, which I think he mistakenly interprets as disbelief.

Peter: (walking into the bright bathroom from the dim living room): Achoo!
Me: You're allergic to the light!
Peter: That's right! You Google it! (These sentences all have exclamation points because we're shouting across the house)
Me: I believe you!  I don't need to Google it!
Peter: You Google it!
Me: Fine!  (fake typing) I Google it!  I believe you!
Peter: You never did anything that fast in your entire life!
Me: Fine! (Google) Okay, it's on Wikipedia, it must be real!

I am with a student who is interning as an MD.  He's got some famous quote he wants to translate into English.

Deak: How does this sound?  "Life is the hymen between matter and spirit."
Me: (cough) Um, you need to look up that word again.
Deak: Which word?
Me: Hymen.
Deak: ...oh.  Well, ah...
Me: Never mind.

And finally, I saw this sign on the back of a car the other day.  I wasn't quick enough with my camera, but someone else was!  Thanks to Asia Insider Photos for this picture!

Watch where you step!  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day Six

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ, our Savior,
Was born upon this day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!

In Bethlehem in Judea
This blessed Babe was born,
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn;
The which his mother Mary
Nothing did take in scorn. Refrain

From God our heavenly Father
A blessed angel came,
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name. Refrain

'Fear not,' then said the angel,
'Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Savior
Of virtue, power and might,
So frequently to vanquish all
The friends of Satan quite.' Refrain

The shepherds at these tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
This blessed Babe to find. Refrain

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this Infant lay,
They found him in a manger
Where oxen fed on hay;
His mother Mary, kneeling,
Unto the Lord did pray. Refrain

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace.
The holy tide of Christmas
All others doth efface. Refrain

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day Five

My all-time favorite Christmas Song!

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day Four

    O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
    Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
    Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
    The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

    For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
    While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
    O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
    And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

    How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
    So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
    No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
    Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

    Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
    Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
    Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
    The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

    O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
    Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
    We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
    Oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day Three point five

This is one of my all time favorites.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day Three

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;


O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;


Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;


See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;


Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.


Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I'm reading Dickens's A Christmas Carol for the first time and, since I am a sucker for a good quotation, I thought I'd share this one.

“There are some upon this earth of yours who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”  --The Spirit of Christmas Present

Day Two

For those of you just tuning in at home, we're taking a six-day trip through the lyrics to some of the most familiar Christmas hymns.  We continue our journey today with "O Holy Night."

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, when Christ was born.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

"And in His name all oppression shall cease."  So apt as we watch the events play out in North Korea.  Let it be so, Lord.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Six Days of Christmas

I love old hymns.  Love, love them.  That's mostly what we sang in church when I was young, and it was by far my favorite part of the service.  Don't get me wrong, I like contemporary music, too; there's a lot of great new stuff out there.  But when things get tight, sing me a few verses of "It is Well With my Soul."  Tell me that's not powerful.

In church we always sang verses one, two, and four, supposedly to save time.  That never made sense to me, because it doesn't take but a minute to sing a verse of a hymn, and it's so fun.  It may have been some kind of "grass is greener" phenomenon, but I always felt like the third verse was the one with the most powerful lyrics.  Was it a conspiracy to cover up the most powerful (and therefore, dangerous) messages of these songs?  The world will never know.

(Now I know that some object to old hymns, claiming they contain faulty theology.  Well, I can't argue with that (I'd never win if I tried, anyway) but I'll only accept that objection if you're subjecting all your music to the same scrutiny, not just the old stuff.)

My favorite worship service of the year has always been the one paltry Sunday on which we sang Christmas carols.  The rest of the year they looked out of place in the hymnal beside the "every Sunday" songs, but the last Sunday before Christmas we were allowed to belt them...verses one, two and four, of course.

Retail Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year, but Christmas hymn Sunday remains frustratingly in place.  If I were a worship leader I'd dust those babies off right after Halloween and keep them in the rotation until Groundhog's Day, so it's probably a good thing that I'm not.  There's a lot of good Christmas songs, but these hymns are powerful.  They get me every time.  It's the only time of year we can go into public places and hear the birth of Christ proclaimed in song.  Sometimes I'm amazed.  How do we get away with it?  I think it's because they're too familiar.  We've known them for so long that they've passed into the subconscious, with all the other miscellaneous stuff.

Though it's true that many of our Christmas traditions do not have Christian origins, Christmas has been celebrated for years by mainstream society as a staunchly religious holiday.  As our culture moves away from that, I see us in a bit of a pickle trying to sort out the traditional from the religious.  We resolve this dilemma with instrumental versions of old songs, and new, Jesus-free Christmas songs, and moving the meaning of Christmas to a belief in "the Christmas spirit" and away from religion.

Don't get me wrong, I think these things are good, not bad.  I think people who aren't Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.  God isn't honored by unwilling, or unwitting, praise.  I think people should be free to celebrate the holiday the way they want.  After all, I'm not free to celebrate in my way unless others are free to celebrate in theirs.  My only beef with the situation is that the drive for secular songs to fill the gap has produced some truly horrible Christmas music.  I'm sorry, but there it is.

So I'm here in China, but I am not without Christmas.  Celebrations of Christmas, at least in this part of China, are more and more in vogue every year.  A couple weeks ago I walked into my local mega-mart (yep, we have those; with a billion people, there required) and saw these:

Who says China is behind the world in human rights?  China is a place where Spanish-speaking Packers, Raiders, and Redskin fans can all share their Christmas lo mein together.  And of course we can do so while listening to this rendition I heard last week in McDonald's, "Jingle bell, jingle bell....in a one-horse open slee!"  I get that "sleigh" is hard to pronounce, but doesn't the rhyming scheme with "way" help?  I know Chinese preschoolers that get it.  Oh well.

So I was in Subway yesterday, and I had this idea.  Subway, like all remotely western businesses, is playing Christmas music.  I was just thinking how nice it was that I hadn't heard any "Feliz Navidad" when they played both "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Christmas Shoes."  Call me a philistine, but those are the two worst Christmas songs ever, closely followed by "Here Comes Santa Claus."  The drummer boy is a nice enough story, but I'm sorry, no mother every gave anyone permission to play a percussion instrument around her newborn.  And Christmas shoes?  I know it was the top of the charts a few years ago, and the mom is dying and blah blah, but I can't stand it.  It's like someone found a way to use the PA system to send me email spam.  Sorry, kids.

As I was yearning for some of the good ol' stuff, I had an idea.  We've got six days till Christmas (give or take), and that's eight songs.  I'm gonna search up my best Christmas hymns and post their lyrics here.  I know you already know them, but take a look.  Really take a look.  For starters, let's get to know that lost third verse.  Most of the hymns we associate with Christmas weren't written specifically for Christmas (validating those of use who want to listen to them and sing them in September) but were written like any other hymn: to be good, ol' praise.  So, I'm going to post the lyrics to one hymn every day until Christmas.  I wish I'd thought of this sooner, then I'd challenge worship leaders to start singing these songs earlier, though perhaps not as early as Halloween.  Well, you'll have to stick that one behind your ear for next year.  Anyway, today's selection is Joy to the World.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

"He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found."  When you hear "Old Man is Stalking You"  ("Santa Claus is Coming to Town") in Walgreen's for the twenty-nine millionth time, think about that.  To make his blessings flow.  Joy to you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Evening

Peter is using a Chinese language version of MS Word to write up a contract while I watch reruns of 30 Rock.

Peter: How do I start a new page?
Me: Use a page break.
Peter: What?
Me: Okay, is this the insert menu?  Okay, choose that one...click here...no, here...then okay.
Peter:  Great, thanks.
Me: Isn't it kind of sad that I can remember all the menu option in Word so well that I can use them in a language I can't read?
Peter: What?
Me: No, not sad...
Peter: Maybe you're just old?
Me: What?
Peter: Well, you said you were sad.
Me: Since when does sad equal old?  Sad does not equal old, and anyway I changed my mind, it's not sad, it's awesome.  So there.
Peter: If you say so.

I am going down to the convenience store to buy movie snacks.  I don't know which is weirder: his description or the fact that I actually got it.

Me: What do you want?
Peter: A Coke Zero and some of those chip things.
Me: What things?
Peter: I forgot the English name.
Me: What do they look like?
Peter: They're, you know, kind of a round triangle cube.
Me: Bugles?
Peter: Yeah!  Bugles.
Me: That shape is called a cone.  You know, like an ice cream cone.
Peter:  Yeah.  Tiny wizard hats.
Me: I would accept "cone" or "tiny wizard hats," but you're going to lose points for "round triangle cube."
Peter: Don't talk to me again until after you're done grading your tests.

After watching "Columbiana."

Peter: I think that movie should be named "Catalaya."
Me: I think Columbiana means a woman from Columbia.  But it is a pretty name.
Peter: Maybe we should name our daughter that.
Me: Yeah, but what'll we tell her if she asks us where her name came from?
Peter: We could just tell her we heard of the flower and named her after that.
Me: How's our child going to believe we named her after a Columbian flower?  Anyway, do you want to lie to our child?
Peter: You want to tell her she's named after an assassin?
Me: Never mind.  I don't think I want to give our daughter a name that rhymes with playa.