Category Archives: Customs

Find Balance in Leisure Time …

I have several friends who spend their leisure time in a variety of ways. Some ride motorcycles with others who also have motorcycles. Another one cruises around in his restored 1967 Pontiac Firebird. While others attend professional sporting games during their leisure time.

How we spend our leisure time often indicates our deep seated value system or what we really deem important in life. It often indicates whether our first question ranges from “what is best for me?” to “what is best for others?” or anywhere in between these two extremes.

As American Christians, we can easily allow our cultural value of individualism to be our only driving force when it comes to deciding how to use our leisure time. In so doing, we then fall prey of a “me” centered religion. Today on this Lord’s day reflect on how you spend your leisure time – find balance somewhere in between.

Pack Rats . . .

The other day I watched a show entitled HoardersEach episode provides a “look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.”  In the episode I watched the people never threw anything away.  There was no way to even walk through the house from room to room because of the clutter and mess.   It was as though everything they bought, even the rubbish left over after eating, was viewed as prized possessions that must be kept forever.  They were what I would call real “Pack Rats” in a bad way.

Are all “Pack Rats” bad?  The designation “Pack Rats” is often used in a derogatory sense about someone who never throws anything away.  My question: is that always all bad?  Is there some good about not throwing everything away? DSCN0016

Several years ago I visited a small island just north of Okinawa, known as Yoron.  While there, I met an elderly lady who basically is known as the “Pack Rat” of the island.  She collects everything: all sorts of ceramic and clay jars and vases, old unused tools, etc.  She was very proud of her collection and she should be.   Her collection consisted of artifacts of the past.  More specifically, it consisted of things from her small island that helped the people remember their cultural heritage and those who went before them.

DSCN0025Without such a collection, I as a person interested in learning other cultures and peoples would never have the opportunity to know why the people speak the language they do now, why they deem some things in life more important than others, etc.  I am thankful that this elderly lady, for her hospitality, but more important, for her willingness to be a good type of “Pack Rat.”

Recent events in Japan should remind us of the importance of preserving memories.  The devastation of the Japan tsunami destroyed and washed away family photos, memorabilia, keepsakes, etc.  The list could go on and on.   Those memories will easily in time fade away because the very objects that helped recall those memories are no more.

Cultural artifacts, objects, and symbols are that way, they keep us in touch with the past.  In fact, they bring us up close to the past even though we are in the present.

I am thankful that God’s Word, the Bible, brings us up close to the historical events of how God’s plan of salvation has been revealed.    Even more, I am thankful that the early church were similar to good “Pack Rats” in preserving the Word of God.  In so doing, God’s Word serves as a way for us to know and remember what happened years ago, as though we too are present in the very past.  When you read God’s Word, say a word of thanks for these former good “Pack Rats.”

The Things People Eat . . .

One of my favorites past times is watching the food channel. In fact, one of my favorite food shows is Bizarre Foods. 

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern focuses on the cuisine of a particular country or region from around the world which is typically perceived by Americans as being gross, unique, or, of course, bizarre.  He typically shows how the food is procured, where it is served, and, usually without hesitation, eats it.

imageSome might say fish head curry is a bizarre food.  When I first arrived in Malaysia and Singapore I thought why would anyone eat such a dish.  Then I tasted it and understood why the hot curry spiced dish is a local favorite.  In fact, after so many years of consuming so many fish heads, I can now say that I miss this savory Malaysia-Singapore cuisine.

In time, the Malaysian-Singaporean culture conditioned me to like the smell and taste of fish head curry. It even conditioned me to like certain food colors, shapes, and textures.   Culture is like that: it conditions us to decide what food we like and are best for us.

In 1825 Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.”   That statement is often true today.  Knowing what culture another person comes from is often discovered in the food they consume.  The food smells, tastes, colors, shapes, and even texture all tell us who people are and their cultural background.

So, the things people eat tell us who people are and their cultural background.   However, those same things that people eat trick us into thinking sometimes that those people are bizarre, strange, weird, or just crazy.