Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Calm AFTER the Storm- Tawain Update

Praying Friends,

As I prepared to write the newsletter this week, I realized that I skipped last week. It was very eventful, so I guess I’ll start with last week:

On Saturday evening, I packed up to go to Chiayi for a week. Chiayi’s camp is short English teachers right now, so Nick and I were filling in for the week. The nice part about going to this camp in Chiayi County, is that it is out in the country. I looked forward to lots of quiet time away from people. Just over the weekend I went for several, enjoying getting away with just my Bible and my Lord.

Sunday, I got a very bad headache that gave my right eye blurry vision. Though we never did figure out why, I’m grateful God made took it away after 36 hours.

The children arrived on Monday with great anticipation for the coming week. Classes started off without a hitch. The leading English teacher, Fae, had done a great job planning for the week. Her lessons were well done, and I learned a lot from her in just the first few classes.

On Tuesday, a warning was put out in Chiayi County for a coming typhoon. Because the camp is in a low land next to the river, it was expected to flood anywhere from 1½ feet to 5 feet deep. Therefore, the week’s plans changed in less than an hour. The children needed to be home so their parents wouldn’t worry, they would stay calmer, and so that if we DID flood, they would be safe. After a short discussion and a notification to the school, the children were sent home right after lunch. So much for teaching this week!

All Tuesday afternoon, we were all very busy packing the first floor, preparing for a flood of water. The English teacher dorm is on the first floor and had to be completely gutted, as did the office, classroom, and lunch room. It took hours. Already, the wind had picked up, and the rain had begun to fall. When all was ready, all of us teachers “evacuated.” Nick, Fiona, and I traveled back to Yunlin’s school. It is well out of danger of flooding. -It was also empty. All it’s teacher’s had traveled to another camp up north for the week, so the campus was empty.

By the time I woke up on Wednesday, the storm had hit with all its fury. Random things flying through the air. Torrential rains. Uprooted trees. Quite the storm! I holed up in the office, continuing work like nothing was happening. (In Taiwan, a day off in the week, even for weather or health purposes, will be made up another day.) I didn’t want to work Saturday, so I just kept at it. The storm’s awesome power reminded me that God is so big. He makes and controls the storms. They are only a dim reflection of his almighty power.

Thursday was spent cleaning up. It amazed me the difference between here and the States. When I looked out to see who was cleaning the school grounds, it wasn’t a random group of people. It wasn’t the street sweeper or a government-hired crew. It was the students! Cleaning after a storm is just a part of life, and so the students clean it up, learning responsibility, compassion, and loyalty at the same time. This school means it when they say they are big into character!

Friday and Saturday turned out to be quiet, which I didn’t mind after such an eventful couple of days. I felt blessed with lots of quiet time to spend in God’s Word.

This week:

Another office week. Everyone else had Monday off; something about overtime the week before, so I had the office to myself once more. I caught up on emails, photography projects, editing TESOL paperwork for teams next year, and so forth.

Actually, the whole week has been rather quiet and “boring.” I don’t mind. It’s nice to take a break. We have over 45 children next week, so I guess I’ll enjoy it while I get it. I’ve been able to get all my office responsibilities caught up, and even do a few extra things. And I do feel refreshed physically and spiritually for the weeks ahead.

Actually, weeks is right! Two more weeks of camp, then an office week, then HOMEWARD BOUND! I’m so excited to go home and see family, friends, and prayer partners! Thank you all for your support.

A fellow-servant of Christ,
Barbara  蘇以樂

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect

Time to practice again. I love to play violin, but practice? That takes discipline. Right now though, taking lessons in Taiwan, I HAVE to practice every day for at least an hour or two or I can't keep up.  -They are VERY achievement oriented. My teacher is frustrated enough already that I'm slow. (Okay, I'm not Taiwanese. It's work to keep up with Asians....) 

You see, I have a learning challenge that gives me poor coordination. Some days, when I play violin, my brain clicks right, and I sound like I've been playing ten years. Other days, my bow hand doesn't line up with my fingers no matter how hard I try, and I sound worse than my first year students.

Lord, I prayed, why can't I play like normal people? Can't you let me play the song perfectly the way my teacher wants it just once???

God whispered the answer in my ear, "But if you play it perfectly, you'll quit practicing." 

True. Unfortunately true. Whenever I play a song the right way, I often quit while I'm ahead, or I quit practicing that part because I know it now. 

I got the point Lord. 

It hit me like my bow striking a chord. Practicing an instrument is just another picture of living life for Christ. The process of seeking the Lord, sinning, repenting, and seek the Lord again keeps me dependent on Christ. If I were instantly perfect the day I received Christ, I would no longer need Christ. That would NEVER do!

Yes, I would love to play like a concert violinist, but my brain isn't wired that way. You know what though? A sweet friend listening to me the other day told me, "the practice may seem frustrating now, but keep at it. Someday you'll play perfectly in heaven's orchestra." A great reminder.

So also, life's journey may get frustrating. Many times. However, God didn't promise an easy path on earth. His own Son died! Then, three days later, that same Son rose from the grave to empower us to conquer sin and death. Earth is battle ground.  It will be worth it when we get to heaven!

So keep practicing my friend! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

God is... Shepherd

It is my delight to introduce this guest author to you. Lydia is a sweet young lady that I met about a year ago at a homeschool conference. As we have emailed back and forth, she has been an encouragement to me with her simple trust in God's promises and heart to know Him more. I asked if she would be willing to share on my blog and she agreed to share one of her favorite names of God. May you be richly encouraged. Thank you Lydia!


“Where are you? Lord, where are you?”

Here I am once again, the lost sheep, crying out for my Shepherd. Time after time again, I have strayed from the rest of the flock, only to get caught up in the brambles, and cannot find my way back to my Shepherd. Lost in the ways of the world, it seems impossible to find my way back to my Savior alone. Finally, I realize that I am not able to find my way back to him alone, so I wait until I hear His calm voice calling out to me, letting me know that He is right by my side to lead me back to the flock of His sheep.

More often than not, I think that I know what is best for me, and it leaves me lost, confused and hurting. But, if I put my trust in the Lord, I won’t end up stranded in the ways of the world, crying out to Him to come rescue me again.

The grass is always going to look greener in some other pasture, and other people’s lives will always seem so much easier than mine; but I need to remind myself that God knows how much I can deal with, and when I need His strength the most each day. I have to learn to have a spirit of contentment. God gives me what I need, yet it may not always be what I think I need. -As He says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). We often think that we need something bigger or better, yet I have come to find out that the simple every day practical things that God gives me help me way more than things the world claims I need to help me.

Sadly, most of us don’t realize how much we have until we get something taken away from us. We go chasing after something and drift away from God, and don’t realize that we lost so much in wandering away from Him. When we are under our Shepherd’s watchful eye, He provides us with daily provisions, but when we stray from Him, we do not receive the bountiful blessings that we receive when we are with Him.

I have come to find out that no matter how many times I wander away from my Shepherd, He is always out there looking for me, lovingly calling me to come back to Him. The love that our Shepherd has for me and for you should be more than enough to keep us close by His side, and as I think about all He has done for me, I simply cannot understand how something could make me happier than to make Him happy by following in His footsteps.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, not any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39.

~Lydia M.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

God is... the Rock

“He is a rock, His work is perfect, all His ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity: just and right is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4
A rock- a foundation- that is totally solid and does not change no matter what is thrown at it. Cement, marble; rocks such as this can withstand water, fire, and wind. And, though a rock can be carved (as in a diamond or as in a household god), and its shape changed, it CANNOT go back to something besides a rock. The properties of the cells stay the same- solid.
Often times, I wish life were that way. But, in fact, life is very fluid. My circumstances can change from one moment to the next.  I was just discussing with my roommate the other day that God likes to keep me playing limbo, because He often changes huge details in my life at barely a moment’s notice.
It is easy to let my emotions flow as unstable as my surroundings. And, I have before. I’m human.
However, I have a great promise. God is a Rock. If my concentration is on Him, then I can mix up some liquid cement. -Confidence in God’s faithfulness, trust in His heart, flexibility to His plan (glorifying Himself in all things, including my life).
After all the names of God I have studied, this one seems more than appropriate. God’s names reveal His character. He is God. That means, though He CAN do anything, He will not act outside of His moral code and integrity. He is a SOLID that cannot change into another state.
There IS something solid I can lean on in the rush and tumble of life, and I’m so glad!  I’ll lean on You, Jesus!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Excellent Things

"Sing unto the Lord; for He hath done excellent things: 
this is known in all the earth."
Isaiah 12:5 (emphasis added)

God showed me this gorgeous guy on my way home from church. It's a bit of an odd composition, due to his position and my limited position choices, but I took it anyway. I've never seen a red dragonfly like this before. Thanks Lord!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

God is... Quickener


“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in your trespasses and sins” 
Ephesians 2:1

Perhaps this verse is most commonly quoted one when we think about being quickened. -And it’s a good one. (How can you miss? It’s in the Bible!) However, before we delve into the depths of “God, the Quickener,” I thought it would be good to define this unfamiliar old English word.

Greek: to live (literally or figuratively), to revive
Hebrew: to (re)vitalize (literally or figuratively)
Webster: 1, to make alive, to vivify, to revive or resuscitate as from death or inanimate state. 2, to make alive in a  spiritual sense, to communicate a principle of grace to. 3, to hasten, accelerate, make faster. 4, to sharpen, to give keener perception to, to stimulate, to incite, (as, to quicken the appetite or taste, to quicken desires). 5, to revive, to cheer, to reinvigorate, to refresh by new supplies of comfort or grace.
 To revive, make alive, to stimulate, to reinvigorate… Hmm. You just can’t replace those old English words! Though this word is mostly used throughout the Psalms, it is found in a few other places as well. Now, back to Ephesians 2:1.

 First, it is important to realize that you and I need quickening. Adam, the very first man, sinned. And because of that, all people are sinners. The consequence of sin is death. We are DEAD (spiritually, anyway) until God chooses to do something about that.

Wait! You mean I can’t do anything on my own?

That’s exactly what God says.

In John, Jesus reminds His disciples that no one can come to God except God draws Him. Think about it this way: God is a King. Kings have this rule, that, unless you are summoned, you cannot come to the throne room. If you approach uninvited, you will get your head cut off unless you get “lucky” and he extends his scepter to you.  Nothing you do, nothing you say will get you free passage to the King’s throne room… only an invitation.

So we’re doomed!

Well, not exactly. That same God who will “cut off” an intruder and send him to hell, hates that anyone should perish. So, He gave the invitation to everyone, with ONE condition. We can come before His throne as long as we wear the garment of His Son’s blood. -RIGHTEOUSNESS-

No one can come to the Father except He invites them. He invites everyone who accepts Him. Whoever accepts the garment of righteousness, He quickens. -He makes them ALIVE!

That’s the biggest thing I wanted to share with you. I’m so glad I accepted that garment of Jesus’ blood to cover my sin and make me righteous to God. And I’m very glad to be made alive!

But it doesn’t stop there.

The other way this word is used is in inciting desires, stimulating, cheering, and refreshing. When I am down, the Quickener cheers me. If I have sinned, the Quickener forgives me. Whenever I am dry, and my emotions don’t match the desire of my spirit, the Quickener stimulates my soul. He quickeneth all things!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Update Week 213

Dear Praying Friends,

Whew! What a week!

A note from a student.
As I’m sitting here writing, I can hear the rain falling outside, the click clack of computer keys in the office, and quiet hallways… almost (due to the kids on nap time). I can smell mold, the incense burning at the temple next door, and the stinky tofu stand. The sky is gray and misty, the walls are white, and the chalkboard is green. This place, though my home, still seems a little strange.

But, I’m sure for the children, we seem even stranger. This week, the kids made comments on our hair, our eye color, our skin, and so forth. In the middle of class, one boy said “You don’t know! Aren’t you Taiwanese???” I had to laugh. “No. I’m American.” (Of course, that’s all translated from Chinese.) You would think, one look at me would tell that I’m NOT Asian. But, these kids talk at me in Chinese like it’s never occurred to them that I might not understand. The more I can understand the children’s comments, the more I am reminded what life is like from a child’s perspective.

CEI logo
This week I have been SO GRATEFUL for the prayers of fellow Believers. We had two classrooms of children -two thirds of which were boys, a low English level, and short staff. There were days, (actually, night classes) that were a challenge. The boys… It felt like the evening classes were just contained chaos. By contrast, the next morning in class, they were good as angels, having been warned of loosing their recess if they were not respectful.

*That’s new to them; I’m told that the Taiwanese teachers in schools dish out track-and-field laps for bad behavior. Loosing recess is scary to them. The culture and expectations here are so different, that the same tricks that would work for kids in the States don’t work on the 4th graders here and vise versa.

There is a Typhoon hovering Taiwan right now. It’s rained for 5 days straight. Between flooding and mudslides, there’s a lot of damage in many cities, (though not Douliu, we’re just wet).  Please pray for the many families that have lost loved ones and homes due to flooding and mud.
A Grateful servant of Christ,
Barbara  蘇以樂

*Due to a change in policy, I can no longer post pictures of the children from CEI. So, you will just have to imagine their faces as you pray for them. Sorry about that! I can post pictures of teachers, objects, hands, feet, etc. so that will have to do.

The kids are a little nervous about putting this combo together.
"I like to eat sandwiches!... Do you want a sandwich?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

God is... Peace

“You cannot impart what you do not possess.” ~ Charity Cruz

Never is this more true than with my Jesus. If He was not Strength, He could not give me strength. If He were not the Savior, He could not save me. If He is not Peace, He could not overwhelm me with peace.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. 
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 
John 14:27

In the midst of trouble and trial, it is the presence of God that brings peace in the hearts of His own and strikes terror in the minds of the evil ones. This is nothing like the superficial, insecure peace of the world. More often than not though, I find myself exchanging the peace of God for temporal things.

God gives peace, but He is a gentleman about it. If I don’t want it, He won’t “force” me to take it. Though it seems He makes like miserable without Him, that’s just the natural consequence of not having Christ rule a life. Clearly, God understood that living in His peace is not easy, or He wouldn't have had to repeat Himself so much in the Scripture. I tend to forget to trust. Troublesome issues at work, an over-abundance of school work or paper work, family issues, rough circumstances, big conferences, illness, and you name it… there’s many things that can take up my immediate attention. I have to consciously take my eyes off of the problem and put them on the Savior; sometimes several times a… minute.

Peace is the by-product of trust.  God is the ONLY one I know who not only knows the future, but knows EXACTLY how it will play out. Better yet, He can choose to tell me ahead of my time. He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (not was). He controls each detail; and when the end of the world comes, He will Judge righteously with Truth. So whether I’m struggling with planning or worrying over issues at home, God knows. My fretfulness will not add to the solution at all. I must trust.

A small pool catches a tiny waterfall. Taroko Gorge, Hualian, Taiwan

As I read about the peace that God gives, I also read verses like, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” And, “…Think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” But then,
“And the God of all peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Whew. Keeping my mind on God is hard. But God will help me if I ask seeking Him. It’s a two-way street.

I am so grateful that I have a Name above all names, the  Lord of Hosts, to guide me.

“The Lord will give strength unto his people; 
the Lord will bless his people with peace.” 
Psalm 29:11

Sunday, June 10, 2012

God is... the Open Door

Open Door

“The time is NOW!”  “You must seize the opportunity before it slams shut.”
“The door is wide open, waiting for you. What’s taking you so long?”

How often I’ve heard those phrases.  -Especially in times of high-stress or huge decisions. Are you with me?

“Rush, rush, rush.”
“You have to act NOW.” 
Even while attending Bible college, I distinctly remember a sermon entitled “Opportunity Seldom, Not Twice.”  Five years later, I’m still wondering what exactly the speaker meant. If God wants me to do something, He's not limited to a one-time opportunity turned down.

Yet, I suppose there are times for snap decisions. Just this morning I was reading in Genesis 26.

Abraham sent off his eldest, most trustworthy servant to find a wife for Isaac. The servant is nervous about how everything will turn out, so he asked for a specific thing to happen, so he would know exactly what God wanted. (I’ve prayed a few of those.) Guess what? God answers. Boom. First try. When the servant explains everything to the girl’s family, they know it is God’s hand. The servant says, “Let’s go.” They ask for 10 days to wrap things up. The servant says “Now or never.”  No time to think. Rebekah had to make a snap decision; and not just a small one either. This would change her life. Rebekah answers quickly “I’ll go.”

Talk about fast decisions!

I wonder though, just how many times, I make an unnecessary spur-of-the-moment choice when I could have waited. Is it really that wise? It seems that it is a whole heap of a lot easier to make a wrong decision when it has to be made fast. Proverbs says that there is safety in a multitude of counselors, and that’s not usually a fast process. My parents gave me wise counsel on this subject: “If the time offered to decide is short, it’s probably a bad deal.”

Let that pressure go. God’s plan is not that hard to miss. Really! He loves opportunity. That’s why He made me and you. He works ALL things out to the counsel of His own will. It’s actually pretty hard to mess up His will. His door of opportunity is always open- to bring honor and glory to Himself.

There is one decision, however, that God does say to make TODAY.  Salvation.

If you don’t know Jesus, He’s one deal that you will want to seize as fast as you can. Will He make life easy? No. -But, He promises always to be with you and to fill you with His peace and joy. And the bonus? (I thought you’d never ask!) Eternal life in heaven!

He is the Open Door you’ve been waiting for. Call on Him today!

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
John 10:9

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

About the Update...

Dear Praying Friends,
There are so many stories to tell this week, but I’ll try to keep it to a few. This doubled week included several new excitements and challenges. I know that the entire team appreciates your prayers. Thank you so much!
*Sensitive information in this week's newsletter prevents me publishing online. If you would like updated, (and are not already on the mailing list) please comment to this post or send an email to, and I will be glad to add you to the mailing list. Thank you!

Your fellow-laborer and servant of Christ,
Barbara  蘇以樂, and icecream, and turkey, and tofu....

Sleep! (Taiwanese red-light-green-light)