Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The pictures that I promised...

I really do need to make it my goal to create new photo albums on my shutterfly account as it's my joy to share our travels with family and friends who choose to join us vicariously. I promise I'll get to that in the near future. But for now, the following pictures are the ones I promised in my last blog....Simple Thoughts. I've found that traveling really does have a way of causing me to examine my own beliefs while questioning and learning about the traditions of others.
Dressed to visit an Islamic mosque.

This is a picture of the Putra Mosque located in the government center of Putra Jaya just outside of KL. I visited this with high hopes of being able to admire the artistic beauty and also to learn more about Islamic worship.Unfortunately, as a non-Muslims, I could only walk to the entrance and look in. I'm not exactly sure why I had to dress for that...

The following pictures were taken at Batu Cave. It's the most important pilgrimage site for Malaysia's Hindus. During the Thaipusam festival celebrated in late January or early February, over a million pilgrims visit the cave. Sam joined the celebration on his birthday this past February...I need to learn how to post his video

A very tall golden statue of Lord Murugan with 272 steps up to Batu Cave behind it.

My favorite picture taken at Batu Caves! As an act of thanksgiving, parents bring their children to this temple. The child's head is shaved and then a powdery paste is spread over the child's head. Our driver, Ravi, surprised us by asking a family if we could hold their daughter. The family was very happy to allow us the honor...not quite sure if we were good luck or if they were just more than happy to allow others to share in their joy.

Reminds me of a Madonna and child...I'm guessing this God must be for children or maybe families.

Another god...Ravi pointed out the monkey like face and tried to explain that it had something to do with how people were in the beginning...I'm thinking he was referrring to evolution.

These last pictures were taken on a tour of Chinese cemeteries sponsored by the American Association of Malaysia. We learned a bit of Chinese culture by touring 2 memorial parks during Ching Ming, or All Souls Day which is celebrated for 20 days in April. I learned that Chinese people believe in ancestral worship and life after death and so during the 20 days of this festival families visit their departed loved ones graves. On their visit they bring the favorite foods of the deceased for them to enjoy. Our tour guide told us that they communicate with the dead by asking yes no questions. For example, they ask the family member if they've finished eating and then throw 2 coins over their shoulder. If the coins land with the same sides up, the answer is no and so they allow more time. If the coins land with opposite sides showing the answer is yes and they can pack up the picnic.

They also bring "paper" versions of all the necessities their loved one might need in the next life...clothes, cars, perfume, money...these are offered and then burned

The dead are buried according to feng shui practices...a hill behind them and water in front of them
Chinese wear color coded clothing to a funeral. The color is symbolic of how they are related to the deceased. The green is a grandchild, blue is a child...

This grave is not a grave at all. It was build to cheat death...interesting story.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simple Thoughts

Recently, I joined a group from the American Malaysian Club and toured both old and new Chinese cemeteries as part of Ching Ming or All Souls Day. It's always so interesting to learn about another culture and their beliefs and traditions. In this blog, rather than post pictures of the trip, I'd like to share some thoughts I've been pondering about the experience and about other recent experiences too. (I promise to post pictures soon!)

Our tour guide, a lovely Chinese lady, explained that Chinese people, including herself, believe in ancestral worship and life after death, but what really got my attention was when she shared that the rituals that must take place upon the death of a loved one and every year after that are so complicated that today many Chinese convert their family members to Christianity on their death beds in order to avoid having to carry out the expected traditions. Over and over throughout the tour, she repeated that it was just so much simpler to be a Christian and it's that thought that has prompted me to share.

I couldn't agree with her more. Christianity is simple. It's so simple that it can be summed up in one word. Love... One verse. John 3:16. God wants the whole world to know him and to spend eternity with him. Why is simple so hard to accept in life, not just death?

Another example of the simplicity of Christianity is how it compares to Hinduism. The Hindu temple we visited this past weekend at Batu Cave was full of representations of different gods and specialized priests that served these gods. Our driver explained how that different gods handled different problems...sickness, money, children. Some prayer requests even had to be taken to priests in India for answers. I'm sure I don't understand it all, but what I do understand is that I worship one God, and that my God is more than able to handle anything anyone brings to him in prayer. In fact, my God knows the prayers of anyone who calls him Father before they pray...he knows what can't even be put into words. This is the God I've put my faith in.

One more "simple" thought I'd like to share is that in Christ, one is free... something that I've learned that not all religions share. Living in an Islamic country for the past few months has taught me that for a majority of Malaysians, religious laws govern things like what they wear, what they eat and drink, and when and where they pray...all things that I'm, as a Christian, simply free to choose for myself. In fact, the laws of the country even govern how non Muslims live out their religious beliefs. Christians and members of other religions in Malaysia are able to meet together and worship, but they are prohibited from sharing their faith with Muslims.

In closing, I can't help but wonder if the simple truth of Christianity is what might make it hard for people.... something so easy (I'm mindful that it was anything but easy for God as he sacrificed his son)... so easy to ignore or put off. Maybe John 3:16 is just too good to be true or too simple for people who want their own works and effort to pave their way into whatever they believe comes after this life. Simple thoughts, I know, but I felt compelled to jot them down.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

...Easter's on its way!

A very special picture of Uncle Ed and Dad ...Three generations later, Riley Lynn hippity hopping down the bunny trail gathering treats for her basketOn a list of random facts you might not know about me would be that Easter's my favorite holiday.
As a child, my love of the holiday was because I looked forward to all things pretty and new like spring colored Easter dresses with hats, shoes, socks, and purses to match. I just loved the sweetness of fluffy lambs, downy ducks, and baby bunnies and can still remember dreaming of delicious See's chocolates and sugary Peeps. I'd be so excited about my beautifully wrapped basket filled with tiny treasures and eggs hiding here, there, and everywhere that I wouldn't be able to sleep on Easter eve! I still love all those things....

Now, I also love that Easter's a time when the world hears the truth that Christians celebrate everyday...the truth of promises kept and the blessing of hope Jesus has given us all. As I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering the differences I could make if I awakened on Easter morning and every morning, with the same eager anticipation I felt as a child, ready to search for and discover the day's blessings and opportunities God has already prepared for my basket of life before I was even born. Something for me to think about...