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Category Archives: Expat Life

TCKs and most of the leaders working with them are expats and/or live around expats. Learning more about the unique issues that affect expatriates helps us be more effective in our work.

Juggling cultures – immigrants, TCKs, and blended backgrounds

I read this article recently and it got me thinking. The TCK author considers the label “Asian American” and the way culture changes over time.

I consider myself Asian and American, but not Asian-American. What’s the difference? Asian-American is itself a culture, especially for the second-generation Asian-Americans, who are the first to be born in the United States, whereas their parents are the first generation because they immigrated there. Calling their parents non-Americans would be an insult to their struggle to adopt the values, practices, and sacred blue passport the crossed oceans and borders to obtain.

I know so many kids who can claim both “Asian” and “Amercian” for various reasons, but who are culturally quite different to each other.

I know kids who were born in the US to parents of Asian descent.

I know kids who were born in the US to first-generation immigrants.

I know kids who were born in China (for example) to Chinese parents, moved to the US where they gained citizenship, before returning to China as expatriates.

I know caucasian kids who are American citizens but who were born and raised wholly in Asia.

I know kids who were adopted from Asian countries and raised in white American families – either with all adopted siblings or a mix of biological and adopted.

All of these kids are influenced by both Asian and American cultures, but the term “Asian American” does not adequately describe them, and wouldn’t be applied to all of them.

In the past year I’ve spent a lot of time considering the differences between the “expat Chinese” kids I work with in the youth groups here. I was first intrigued to consider this following the comments of a teenage girl who had recently moved to China having spent all her time in a predominately white area of the US. She had been adopted from China as a baby and looked similar to her Asian-American classmates, but soon realised that she was missing something they had – there was a cultural difference she hadn’t expected. She found that she felt more “at home” with Caucasian American teens, even those who had lived in China long term.

I think it’s important to understand that the “Third Culture” of a TCK is not one great shared cultural experience. It is the place of overlap, where various cultures converge. TCKs are not able to relate because they have the same culture(s), but because each of them is juggling the effects of several cultures. They all live the balancing act between citizenship, familial cultures, and geographic cultures.

I sometimes think that a TCK experience (when the kids are exposed to a diverse expatriate environment) can be quite a positive thing for kids who are second-generation immigrants. It gives them an opportunity to mix with a range of people who are also juggling cultures. I think it makes it easier for them to really own and enjoy the cultural traditions of all the peoples that have affected them when everyone around them is doing the same thing. There is a freedom in being one of many.

Anyway, here are some more excerpts from Johnny C’s original article

I recall my sister once said that Americans have no culture of their own because they are just a mix of different European immigrants in one country. It is not just the fusion of cultures, it is the environment that helps birth a new culture, or in this case, cultures. Using the faulty logic of not having any culture, that means jazz music is just a mix of African rhythm and English folk music, which is not even close to what jazz is as a distinctly African-American-originated musical genre. In other words: cultures evolve. . .

As a Third Culture Kid and activist for the Asian-American community, I’ve grown to love them and have a special place for the Japanese-American and Chinese-American communities. When I look at these communities and at the Third Culture Kids, I feel what we have in common is both the struggle for identity and acceptance. Second-generation Asian-Americans in the 1980s and 1990s really had a lot of trouble wondering just who they were, with parents imposing old values onto them, being raised to be individuals with American perspectives, yet being seen as forever foreigners by their fellow citizens, to the point of being denizens.

Third Culture Kids would be lucky to have this, because at least the Asian-Americans have a place to call home, even if their neighbors don’t welcome them wholeheartedly. One day, they can dream of being accepted as fellow Americans in spite of the prejudices felt, but us Third Culture Kids usually need to be told that we are TCKs before we can establish a community of sorts, and even then, what draws us together besides our common experiences?

As Third Culture Kids, as global citizens, as individuals, we need to think of new ways to define and redefine ourselves. A fellow TCK, Brice Royer, told me that he doesn’t define himself based on his ethnicity, his nationality, or the country he lives in, but by the values and dreams he has; and the people he calls his own are people who share those values and dreams, not passports or ethnicity. . .

Culture is not an exclusive club that one can not partake in just because of race or nationality, nor is it something we should shun or see as something the allegorical Other has that makes us different from them. It is also not something that limits us, it is a set of guidelines and foundation for values, morals, practices, norms, ideas, and more. It changes over time, and it has a personal element to it which is why people call it “their” culture as something they can call theirs like a prized possession, for it is a part of how they define themselves. Here’s something we often forget: we can choose whatever we want to follow. We don’t have to do things because everyone else does it or our parents tell us what we have to do. But it is something to celebrate when you understand just what it means to you, which is hopefully more than just the skin color you were born with and the stuff your parents and society tell you to follow.

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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs

 

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TCKs, ATCKs and TCAs – what’s the difference?

There are so many TCK related acronyms. Sometimes it seems like they could all be lumped together. There are important differences, however, that are important for those who work with TCKs to understand.

TCK – Third Culture Kid
This is a person growing up overseas – this is the acronym we use most here.

ATCK – Adult Third Culture Kid
This is an adult who, as a child, spent a significant amount of time living overseas. They are grown up TCKs.

TCA – Third Culture Adult
This is a person living overseas long term, who moved away from their home country as an adult, but don’t immigrate.

So why do we bother making these differentiations? Aren’t they similar experiences? It’s all about people who live overseas long term, right?

Yes and no. There are certainly overlaps in the experiences of TCKs, ATCKs, and TCAs, but there are significant differences as well.

TCKs are well aware of their between-worlds status. Sometimes it feels like they fit in everywhere and nowhere. We’ve written a LOT about TCKs here – if you’re not familiar with the term, check out this post.

TCAs also live between worlds – they aren’t a part of the host culture, but they no longer fit in properly in their home culture. The big difference here is that TCAs grew up in their home culture – they understand that culture, they have a deeper affinity to it than a TCK would. They have childhood experiences and a sharing in the pop culture of that time. They do not have the issues that come with a childhood between worlds.

Speaking of childhood experiences and issues, that’s where we need the term ATCK. An ATCK is grown up. They don’t consider themselves to be TCKs – that was a long time ago, and now they’ve settled into life. ATCKs who settle in their home country especially may distance themselves from the TCK label. Regardless of their adult life, however, their TCK childhood is part of who they are. ATCKs who settle overseas (and there are a lot of them) may not seem any different to their TCA peers, but they have a different heritage, and draw from a different set of experiences.

These three terms are like a set of overlapping circles (venn diagram style) – there are places of shared experience, and areas in which their experiences are different. TCKs, ATCKs, and TCAs all have international experiences that shape them and influence their sense of identity. Those shaping experiences and influences mean they will often feel at home with people in their own category – that’s natural, as they have something important in common. It’s like coming across someone from the same hometown, or who went to the same university, or plays the same unusual sport – there are things common to you that most others won’t understand.

I have seen a lot of chatter on the internet about whether these labels are positive or negative – whether they are helpful or harmful. While I understand the desire to avoid stigma, I think that these labels are helpful, as long as they are used to breed understanding and not to clump a bunch of people together and say they are the same – that’s just stereotyping. Within all three categories there is of course huge variety – people with wildly different experiences, and who have responded to them in very different ways.

A sense of belonging is something that many TCKs/ATCKs/TCAs struggle with – feeling like they belong in two or more places, but belonging nowhere at the same time. These terms identify the place where an international person belongs, regardless of geography. In the end, isn’t it nice to belong somewhere?

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs

 

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5 Things That Mess With A TCK’s Brain: A guide to helping you relate to TCK youth

This guest post is written by Joyce Teo, a TCK from Singapore, now working with TCKs in Beijing.

A BrainMashed Joyce

A BrainMashed Joyce

5 Things That Mess With A TCK’s Brain
A guide to helping you relate to TCK youth
by an ex TCK-youth

I’d consider myself a TCK thrice removed – born in Singapore, left for Hong Kong at age six, moved back to Singapore for two years, then uprooted again and replanted in Beijing for the next seven years, then back to Singapore for three long years in university, and now back in Beijing for the past year and counting. (You think that sounds confusing, wait till you meet my friend who has lived in 9 different countries over 12 years).

Over the years I have found myself transitioning from TCK youth to TCK youth leader, currently dealing with a group of wacky high schoolers out in my old suburban home of Shunyi, Beijing. As one who has moved into, out of, and back into the TC community, I’ve come to both observe and experience the 5 main things that really mess with a TCK’s brain – or Brain-Mashers, as I like to call them. Now before I continue, let me first clarify that this list is drawn from my knowledge of living in China, and may or may not apply to TCKs elsewhere. Yet regardless of where your ministry is, understanding the phases and challenges your TCK youth go through is extremely important before any sort of real communication and rapport can occur.

1. Answering the question, “So where are you from?”

While this seems like a no-brainer to most people, throw this question at any TCK and watch his/her face go blank as his/her brain scrambles to come up with the most reasonable-sounding answer. “Well uh… I was born in Hong Kong, but I have a Canadian passport and lived there when I was three, and then I moved to China in second grade and then moved to Singapore for Middle School and then back to China for High School so uh… I guess I’m Canadian?” Now the person who asked the question draws a blank, and the TCK moves on to Brain-Masher 2.

2. Figuring out just exactly where you are from.

This probably tops the list of things that TCKs struggle with. Though many TCKs pride themselves on being skilled at adapting to any new environment or situation thrown their way, juggling multiple cultures at once – especially as a growing adolescent – inevitably leads to a case of identity crisis. This uncertainty shadows a TCK like a serial stalker, intensified with each new city or yet another year away. Where do I belong? As I start identifying with my host culture, what happens to my “home” culture?

This is particularly true when a TCK returns to his/her parent country, and realizes he/she has little to nothing in common with the culture there. Just like the culture shock experienced when they first moved into a new country, reverse culture shock kicks in upon returning home after several years away. Realizing that you’re a foreigner in your own so-called “home” country proves to be a daunting reality for many TCKs.

There are a million things one could build their identity on, but these things eventually change – best friends move, parents relocate, teachers’ contracts expire, mentors leave… What happens when all the things you’ve framed your identity and purpose around suddenly disappear? A ginormous Brain-Masher that may result in you backpacking to Tibet to “find yourself” (true story). That is why I strongly believe that a primary life lesson TCK youth should learn is to base their identity on the One that never changes.

3. Having to explain that China is, in fact, not in Japan.

For people who have grown up in one place their entire lives, the perceptions (or rather, misperceptions) of other countries can range from Pretty-Close to You-Really-Need-To-Get-Out-More. TCKs often have to deal with stereotypes and misguided conceptions of their host countries when explaining “So where are you from?” (see Brain-Masher 1) to non-TCKs. “No, I do not ride a panda to school.” “Yes, we do have toilet paper in China.” “No, it’s not mandatory to learn kung fu.” “Yes, my English is indeed, ‘very good’.”

Growing up in multicultural communities endow TCKs with a broad worldview, and frustrations often arise when it comes to explaining their differences to others who may not share the same open-mindedness. This again leads to communication barriers and a sense of isolation, especially when TCKs leave and trade their TCK bubble for a community in which the majority shares a single hegemonic culture.

4. Having to explain that yes, we have a driver and three ayis, but that’s only because we live in China.

Many are quick to label international-schooled TCKs as spoiled, rich brats with personal butlers who never worked a day job because their parents spoon-fed them their whole lives. But if you ever plan to work with these TCKs, you’re going to have to understand that even among TCKs within one country, there will be TCK subcultures and sub-subcultures (e.g. international-schooled TCKs vs home-schooled TCKs vs MK TCKs etc). Granted there will be some TCKs born and bred to become expat pricks, but that does not mean that being in a big obnoxious international school will invariably churn out a big obnoxious TCK.

For many international school TCKs, their “luxuries” stem from company expatriate packages which aim to compensate for respective inconveniences the families have to face as part of living overseas (e.g. living in a third-world country, being away from family, security etc.). For them, the lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to in their host countries vary significantly from that of their parent country. Sure, every other family may have an ayi (domestic helper) or a masseuse who comes to your house twice a week, but that’s only because you’re living in China where labor costs are next to nothing. For my family at least, we would never be able to afford this same expat lifestyle back in Singapore (see Brain-Masher 5).

Understanding your TCK youths’ backgrounds (why they moved, parents’ jobs, previous places they’ve lived etc.) lends a better understanding of the various issues they face and, hopefully, eliminates some of the pre-conceived negative biases of TCKs.

5. Adjusting to life outside of the TCK world.

No one stays a TCK forever. When a TCK hits that imminent age of 18, all bets are off. That great expat family package? No longer covers your medical insurance (though your younger siblings still count). Your flamboyant en suite bedroom with a Jacuzzi and heated floors? Shrunk to a dorm room you now share with your eccentric college roommate. Goodbye ayi and private driver, hello public transport.

I dub this the Shunyi Bubble Effect – a phenomenon many of my own friends are all too familiar with (Shunyi is the name for an area north of Beijing dominated by the expat package set). Lifestyles aside, TCKs who leave are faced with yet another enigma – social support. Sure, high school kids leave home for college all the time, but most of them do so with an entourage of the same high school friends who may very well end up in the same college. Transitioning to the next chapter of your life isn’t so bad when you have familiar faces for support right? Not so much for a TCK. A third of your social group ends up in the US. Your best friend is now in London. Your other best friend is now in Australia. Another friend has decided to take a gap year and help breed baby turtles in Indonesia.

Just like Brain-Masher 2, the drastic changes that accompany a TCK’s transition out of the TCK bubble can have significant impact on TCK youth. And scrambling to get back in or recreate the bubble may not be as straightforward either. Like trying to join a Chinese society only to be reminded that, despite living 9 years in China, you are in fact not Chinese (as did one Sri Lankan friend). Or to “show up for International Students Orientation but get barred from entering because you have a US passport”, as did another friend.

Working with mashed brains

Culture shock, reverse culture shock, identity crises, confronting misconceptions, and dealing with ever-changing environments are just a few of many things that mess with a TCK’s brain. The thing is, most TCK youth probably won’t admit that these are the things that bug them till they’ve been away for long enough and come back as ex-TCKs. Or they aren’t aware that these are the things that WILL bug them once they leave the TCK bubble, be it as a high school senior or a college freshman or a returning TCK.

This is where TCK youth workers come in, to better equip these TCK youth for a life away from the comfort of a world so unique to the TCK community. Hopefully this article helps you better understand the areas in which your youth are struggling. Better yet, talk to them and ask them what their Brain-Mashers are!

 
 

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An unexpected culture shock (returning home overseas)

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a US citizen who grew up in China. She spent a gap year between the US, Nepal and China, and just completed her first year of college in the US.

As a TCK, I had always heard of culture shock, but had never truly experienced it. I attribute this lack of experience to the fact that I have been switching cultures since I was less than a year old, so I’ve never had time to learn what culture shock felt like. I knew culture shock was common and difficult, but I had never truly experienced the impact of it. Because China was “home”, I figured that the most culture shock I would ever experience would come in the States or other new countries.

Then I returned to China after almost a year in the States. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt different this time back. Suddenly the large crowds were overwhelming, the polluted air was hard to breathe in, the food wasn’t settling well, and the language barriers were exasperating. After a day or so, I realized these troubles came from the fact that I was re-adjusting to China life. Suddenly I was seeing Beijing almost as any average foreigner would have. I realized I was experiencing real culture shock. But in my own country? My culture shock was intensified because I hadn’t expected to experience any readjustment; I expected to blend back into Beijing life like I always had in the past.

So what was making the difference this time around? Why was I having a hard time blending back into the familiar mix of a Chinese and Expat culture? I’ve come up with several theories to explain this
new experience.


Theory 1: Length of time away

It had been a longer amount of time since I had left China last. It had also been a longer time since I had been in any country besides the United States. I had been gone from China for up to 8 months before, but during that time I had visited another Asian country. This time it had been over 10 months since I had been anywhere outside of the States. I have to wonder if the length of time away contributed to my shock in re-entry.

Theory 2: Deeper affinity with my passport country

Since starting college in the States I’ve become more accustomed to the life and culture there. Maybe I’ve even become what TCKs shudder at – “more American.” I know I’ve seen this phenomenon happen in other TCKs. After spending more time in our passport country, some of us begin to identify more with that country. This definitely doesn’t happen for everyone; actually, from what I’ve seen, it probably applies to no more than half of the TCK population. Yet I would say it’s more common for TCKs when they return to their passport country for university. In my opinion, it’s a natural part of growing up and figuring out how your experience as a TCK will or won’t affect your identity. Because of my opinion, I’m fine with becoming “more American” in some areas of my life. I’m never going neglect or forget my TCK-ness, but I don’t want that to be my only identity. But back to my theories on my unexpected culture shock. The fact that I’m “more American” now may be contributing to the culture shock of re-entering China.

Reverse culture shock happens when one returns to one’s home country. Is the culture shock that a TCK experiences when returning to his/her “foreign” country reverse-reverse culture shock? (One of my friends cleverly called it “culture shock squared.”) Or is it merely reverse culture shock, because TCK’s often consider foreign countries their true home? I haven’t decided which one fits best. Yet I know that when I return to China next time, I won’t be as shocked by my own culture shock.

Have you experienced “culture shock squared”? How did you respond?

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Expat Life, Guest Posts, TCKs

 

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RAFT – the transition acronym

Last week we had our annual Transitions Dinner. In the past it’s been for seniors and their families; this year we opened it up to all teens who were leaving, along with their families. Three guest speakers shared about their own TCK transitions and advice for other TCKs.  Then, as every year, I explained the RAFT acronym.

The RAFT acronym for transitions was developed by Dr. David Pollock. It has been widely quoted all over the place, especially in reference to TCK transitions. This is the “Beijing edition” I use with students here.

Leaving Beijing and heading back to your home country isn’t always easy. You are probably feeling a ton of different emotions. There is a simple acronym to remember that will help you make a big transition: RAFT. Using this acronym isn’t a one step solution. But, if you actually use it, it can help you immensely with getting settled back home. The four words in RAFT are:

reconciliation        affirmation        farewell        transition

reconciliation

First things first: do you have any broken relationships? Bad feelings with anybody? Something you need to apologize to someone for? Do it. Do not look at this time as “Ahh, I am leaving I can just leave it and not ever worry about it again!” Don’t leave broken relationships. You will regret it later. Try to reconcile any bad blood or hurt feelings that might be between you and someone here.

affirmation

Is there anyone that has done something for you? Best friends? Teachers? Mentors? Coaches? Anyone that has been there for you? Make sure they know it. It’s easy to forget to encourage or say thank you to people who mean a lot. We usually do life thinking that they know how much they mean to us. We tell other people about them and how much they mean, but never really tell them to their face. Tell them. Thank them.

farewell

Say good-bye: not just to people, but also places. Living here for awhile you have places you like, maybe even places you haven’t bee to yet and need to go to. Say good-bye to your favorite restaurants, waiters or waitresses, DVD guy, or guard. Say good-bye to that place you always go to on Sundays or maybe even the Great Wall. It helps to go one last time to these places and people that mean something to you and say good-bye. Or in Chinese, “until the next time I see you.”

transition

This is a hard one. You have packed everything up, crammed in as many minutes as you could with those people that mean a lot to you, and you head home. You will get there, you will unpack your bags, and you will have moved. There is no question about where you are physically, but emotionally and mentally, where are you? This last step is more for your heart and mind. Physically you will have all your stuff with you and in your new place, but your emotions and mind can try to live back in  Beijing for awhile and it can take a while to catch up. Transition means actually packing those up as well. It can be easy to try to live back here in Beijing through Skype, SMS, and Facebook and not really BE in your new place. The problem is three months later you will find yourself without very many friends or people that you hang out with because all your time is spent talking with people here in Beijing. Communication is great, but make sure when you leave Beijing you are heading to your new place with a goal of meeting new people there, and not trying to live where you were.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs

 

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The importance of networking for expat youth workers

I recently listened to an interview with Chris Brooks on the power of networking in the lives of youth leaders.

Networking has been an important part of my experience as a youth leader. Out of this experience has grown Youth In Asia. As a youth leader in Beijing, I was blessed to be part of an informal network of volunteer and paid youth workers. This type of support is unusual for international youth workers, who are often isolated whether they are paid or volunteer. As we recognized that this network and the support it provided was unique and valuable, we began to dream about  how to share this kind of community, and what it might look like if it spread across Asia.

Brooks addresses what could potentially be obstacles in networking. I can relate to both the obstacles named: lack of time, and not making networking a priority even if we do have time. Another challenge can be the transience that accompanies international work. Networking can become challenging after several years abroad. For those of us who are full time youth international youth ministers, we are often the only paid staff in the area, which can be incredibly isolating.

Part of this stress can be dealt with by connecting with others in international schools or churches who are passionate about creating a positive experience for international youth. I also believe YIA can provide a valuable space to support and resource one another especially in regards to issues unique to youth ministry.

Brooks also talks about a benefit of networking being that it can provide a sense of the big picture of youth ministry. Networking has an important role in supporting youth leaders so that they can remain on the field. One of the sentiments I hear when describing what I do to others is “that’s so important to keeping missionaries on the field”. While I agree that what I do does keep missionary families on the field (and I’m excited about the far reaching impact what I do has on my host country) I also remind people that what I do has value because God cares about the youth I minister to as much as locals. By coming together as people passionate about ministering to expatriate youth, we can encourage one another in this ministry.

A third question that was raised was about the role of technology in networking. The interviewer asked about the supposed conflict between technology and relationships, and asked if  Brooks  saw a conflict in networking that was relational in nature and technology which sometimes has the reputation to harm relationships  Brooks was quick to respond that those of us on the ground know the power of technology not to diminish the value of relationships, but rather to facilitate them. I see the role of the YIA blog as a great example of how we as youth workers spread across Asia can be connected because of the advances of technology.

I am feel so privileged to work with the youth that I do, to have been part of such an amazing community and network in Beijing and am looking forward to all that God has in store and His role of YIA in expanding his kingdom across Asia! Welcome to the network! =D

 
 

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Flower Garlands for God

Taxis in Bangkok

Taxis in Bangkok - photo by Kent Larnhill

This time last week I was in Bangkok, Thailand. I’d just spent a week hanging out with some awesome TCKs from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. It was great! I’ll probably share some stories later about that, but for now I wanted to share some thoughts from the very end of my trip.

I had two days in Bangkok after the conference I was helping at – time to decompress before heading back to the insanity of my wonderful life in Beijing. On my last night I took a taxi to a nearby train station where I took a train to the airport.

While we were stopped at traffic lights the driver rolled down his window to buy a small flower garland from a woman selling them on the street. He handed over some money, rolled up his window, and holding the small string of blossoms in his hands, made a gesture of worship. Then he placed the flowers on his dashboard (near the dried out strings of previous purchases) and went continued driving.

Flower garlands like these are bought/sold as protection for drivers.

Flowers to protect drivers in Bangkok - photo by Jim Kreuz.

My first thought: why can’t we worship YOU like that, God? The flowers smell nice, and it’s a simple way to include worship in everyday life (we’d been talking during conference about connecting with God throughout the day), and I started thinking about ways I could imitate it…

Before I got too excited, I sensed God tap me on the shoulder, and remind me of something: the system of worship set up in ancient Israel had lots of rituals and daily reminders. For most people it became something done by rote, rather than a heart act of worship. In fact, throughout Scripture we are told that God wants our hearts, not just offerings.

Psalm 40:6-8
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 51:15-17
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Mark 12:28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Hebrews 10:3-9
But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second.

I began to realise I liked the idea of “simple” acts of worship, like buying flowers, because they were, well, simple. Buy the flowers and you’re done. Much easier to buy flowers than to surrender my will to God. Much easier to burn incense than to submit to His will.

I think that small, everyday gestures can be part of a vibrant faith. These little acts, however, are not a relationship in themselves. They might show honour, but they don’t involve surrender.

I am thankful for a God who has done away with a system of works that can never make me righteous. I am thankful for a relationship, rather than a religion. And while relationship can be messy, I am thankful for that depth of love and mercy and acceptance, rather than a system of offerings.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Bible Resources, Expat Life

 

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