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In June, immediately after she stopped nursing her 19 months old daughter JiaJia, my Chinese wife became pregnant. As a German citizen, I would have had the right to apply to a special visa for my wife in order to have our child delivered in Germany – evading the current restrictions that didn’t allow her to enter the EU in the first place, such as the condition that she learn German first and absolve a language exam, etc.

However, there was no sign from the “Top” that it was part of our Maker’s plan for us to go there, and at times I still keep wondering why. My life as a musician was easier, more enjoyable and often more inspiring than my current life as an English teacher in a country that may well be the noisiest in the world, and sadly, one of the filthiest.
But having a teacher has its advantages. Other than in the West, where teachers have the image of “The Enemy” in probably 90% of their students, my new profession is a respected one here, and I’ve been told repeatedly, even after this relatively short time, that I’ve touched and affected my students’ lives, and perhaps more so than I was able to – on a personal level – as a musician.

Then there is the political aspect.

I love Western culture, and by Western I mean the same that 95% of the world mean when they say “Western”: The American culture. And I’m not talking about the main stream culture, the Britneys and Lady Gagas that only put a stamp on Don McLean’s fulfilled prophecy about “the day the music died.”
I’m talking about artists of the kind you don’t even hear in Europe unless you’re really into music:
Patty Griffin, Richard Julien and the galore of Christian bands and singers that are basically nobodies in the world of showbiz, but constitute a large part of my inspiration since years: Caedmon’s Call, Jeremy Camp, Jill Phillips and her husband Andy Gullahorn and oodles of others.

I love to listen to their music and sometimes I dream of a world in which I would be able to communicate with people that are even remotely on a similar wavelength to mine, who are able to speak more than the very, very broken English of most of my students (not to mention the majority of the large population around me), but what are the options?
Subscribe to a policy that is based on murdering our fellow humans in far-off lands on grounds that not even the bravest of the outlawed preachers and self-declared “revolutionaries for Christ” dare to doubt even though they’re proven to be totally ridiculous?
Or for that matter… Which of the wars that America – the great leader of our great and glorified Western culture – has fought for the past 6 decades could have really be called justified – from a point of view that even remotely resembles the teachings of Christ?

Korea? Vietnam? — Sure, they wanted to stop Communism. Perhaps at one point they realized that a more effective way would be to apply the slogan, “If you can’t lick’em, join’em” and infiltrate the enemy with McDonalds and Coke, as I see here, the possibly most capitalistic country I’ve ever been to, that’s officially “Communist.”
And if so… for what?

What is it that Big Brother or Uncle Sam is pushing on us? What’s so wonderful that they just can’t stop pushing it down the throat of the rest of the world? Certainly not Patty Griffin…

With a foreign debt of cosmic proportions it’s even ridiculous that the rest of the world keeps looking up to America as its great white hope, a dream and fairy tale that only becomes reality in one place for a limited time, namely a time-span of approximately 100 to 180 minutes on the TV – and movie screens around the world. The American Dream made in Hollywood.
As far as the bitter reality is concerned, all that every administration from Nixon to Obama has been pushing like a heroin dealer dressed up like Santa Claus has been the inevitable “death by overdose:” The world domination of bankruptcy.

What world would possibly be easier to rule than one of bankrupt suckers who don’t have a dime, whose money all went up into thin air, invested in some spoof concocted by some real smart wise asses, only to land all the power thinkable in the hands of a tiny clan who had the balls to lie and lie, and then lie some more, until it made Pinocchio’s nose look like a pimple in comparison?

I don’t know whether this far end of the world is going to be any safer when the shit hits the fan… possibly not. But it’s not just an issue of safety and survival. It’s an issue of dignity. I’d sure hate to wake up in the middle of all those wise asses who actually thought that their country was going to save the world while they were all pumping their tax money into making the exact opposite happen.

They say ignorance is bliss. There’s a lot of ignorance going on all around me right now. They don’t have a clue. But there is yet another extreme, and a whole nuther story, and that’s when people blatantly defy the truth, because they just can’t stand to hear it. And that’s precisely where I don’t want to wake up when the shit hits the fan. And hit the fan it will.

I guess the Boss knows what He’s doing in telling me to better stay put…

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The other night we watched the movie “Waiting for Forever” about a boy who had been in love with his childhood girlfriend since they were 10 and officially lost touch when his parents died in a train accident and he and his brother moved to their grandparents. As he grows older, though, he follows the love of his youth wherever her professional career takes her, himself making a living of 3 dollars a day (“on a good day”) as a juggler dressed in pyjamas.
Although this wasn’t the best film I watched of late (for instance, there was the excellent 2010 film “Fair Game,” which gives further insight into the insanity that’s still being perpetrated in Iraq), “Waiting for Forever” moved me most. Not so much because of the plot, but because of the fact that I was watching it with my 28 year old wife who might never get to know the kind of culture that grants a fellow the liberty to make a very unstable living on 3 bucks a day as a juggler, traveling wherever his dream would take him.
Although the boy in the movie was met with heavy criticism from his older brother (a banker), and was being called a stalker, and despite the fact that his kind is a dying breed in the West, at least we have come to know that sort of a culture, while other countries, such as the one I’m currently residing in, probably never will.

Though the culture whose hospitality I’m currently enjoying is by no means an exclusive example of what I’d like to call the “imposed realism” that not only political leaders, but even more so cultural and traditional elders seem to feel obligated to circumcise their offspring’s dreams and ideals with, it is definitely an outstanding example.
You cannot just marry the man or girl you love. Any man that intends to marry is expected to have a house first. My wife has told me of an experience in a Shanghai park where she watched hundreds of elderly couples looking for suitable spouses for their daughters (or sons) with a list of criteria in hand that any potential candidate would have to live up to; criteria primarily based on income.

A juggler making 3 bucks a day wouldn’t stand an chance in hell to get married under that set of conditions. It might me hard in the West, but just about impossible in the East.

Of course, when I was a young lad back in Germany, I got to hear much of the same tune from my folks. Not that they would have expected of me to be able to buy a house before I started messin’ round with the opposite sex, but I was repeatedly advised to “get a good education” to secure a “solid existence” for myself. When I came home one day telling them that I met a group of people who were “foolowing Jesus,” and that one day I would like to do the same, they were naturally horrified.

In the meantime they have accepted my somewhat loose, though not entirely carefree life-style, and my father, having seen his own supposedly “solid existence” and career go down the drain due to fluctuations and instability in the economy has told me since that I made the right choice when I set out to do what I did.
In the West, though, parents have their existence taken care of by retirement insurances, and both my parents are currently better off with their pensions than I am as an English teacher in the Far East, where the only old-age insurance elderly parents have got are their children and their respective incomes, so it’s somewhat understandable that they want their kids to be able to care for them. Many young people live under a lot of pressure because of that responsibility.

Then again, my reasoning is that many things in life are simply beyond our control. Everything is potentially subject to drastic and unexpected changes: death, illness or financial and economic disaster can hit anyone at any time, and what power does anyone really have, to effectively impose their own little reality on anyone in the long run, even their kids?

When Jesus went around luring established young men with flourishing businesses away from their homes and responsibilities telling them He would make them “fishers of men,” certainly He wasn’t met with strong enthusiasm on behalf of those men’s families. For all we know, some of them (like Peter) were even married and possibly had children. What an irresponsible thing to do, to just walk off with a perfect stranger of questionable reputation, Messiah or not…
And from a “realist’s” point of view, that criticism may well be justified: 10 of those young men ended up as martyrs, one committed suicide, and only one died of natural causes on an island where he exiled by the Romans.
Their philosophies and beliefs as expressed in their writings are questionable to this day, and even most “believers” only accept those parts of the Gospels that they can reconcile with the consensus of the imposed realism of our day and age.

The first rule and law is not “to love one another,” but to secure one’s own existence, which, as the Founder of their faith claimed, is no different from what unbelievers adhere to.

So, what would be making a difference then? – Trust.

The people who really made a difference throughout history were those who despite all the seemingly rhymeless reality all around us never ceased to trust that there was Someone ultimately in charge Who not only knew what He was doing, but was also going to take care of them, provide for them, and help them through this mess somehow.

In my own personal experience, I can only confirm that to be true, and I would strive for nothing more than to go down in history as one of those trusters who refuse to accept the artificially imposed realism from those around us – even our loved ones – no matter how justified their reasoning may seem; a person known for the belief that there is a greater Mind than even the wisest of our parents, how ever strange some of the things may first sound that this Great Mind may ask of us – much like a Parent Himself, asking His children to trust Him for the things they do not know, which basically is the essence of faith – the one currency that will outlast any of our existing ones.

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AquaMan Goes China

If anyone would have told me around this time last year that in twelve months’ time I’d be teaching English at a variety of colleges inChina, I don’t know what I would have done.

Maybe I would have broken out into laughter, or started to feel severely dizzy with a troubling pain between my ears.

But fate has its twisted little ways at times, and since my wife was twice denied entry to what I have since come to call the “Schengen zoo,” and my dream of forming an acoustic trio consequently had to be put on ice, after 3 decades of raking in a living with my guitar I’ve had to change professions, along with continents and locations, and have since become an English teacher in China.

Sometimes we get to a point of stagnation in our lives where we think we know and have seen it all. But then the great Celestial Wizard (I have to be more careful with religious vocabulary these days…) waves His magic wand,  takes us out of our familiar environment into a totally new & different one (my definition of China: “same earth, different planet”) and sits us in front of His great big celestial record player to the sound of the 70s tune by the Canadian band Bachman, Turner, Overdrive, “You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet.”

Mr. Know-It-All becomes Johnny Clueless, and has to prove all over again whether he ever really meant a thing about all the things he preached to others about learning from life, leaving it all behind and the whole “follow-the-great-Celestial-Wizard” sort of spiel.

Things can get awfully silent around folks like that in these situations, and that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while.

Besides, life is a lot busier for English teachers in China with a fraction of the wages for musicians inEurope.

 Especially during rainy season.

My wife told me today (and as every man would, I love it when she does), “You’re my hero.”

Not that I actually feel heroic, but in this case she was right: I had just approved myself as a super hero.

Remember “Aquaman”? The guy who commanded the element of water?

Well, that’s who I felt like today (for the second time this month, by the way), after just having been drenched within seconds during a sudden torrent (the sort of which makes one wonder whatever happened to that rainbow promise once given to a man named Noah) while riding my e-bike home from College. Drenched to the bone we found shelter under the roof of a hotel entrance (along with other unlucky bikers like ourselves), and were soon off to get a little more soaked before we finally got home…

Getting drenched inChina is a great thing to happen to folks who used to be fed up with their semi-organized, neat little lives in way too organized countries…

It’s as if Big CW (Celestial Wizard) grabbed a gigantic bucket of water and emptied it out over your head, saying, “Wake up, dude! You were only dreaming!”

Yes, I once dreamed that I knew something about the world I live in, and have woken up to the refreshing reality of my utter ignorance in a part of the world I knew next to nothing about.

So, if you should ever feel intellectually bloated and as if there were no more challenges, no new worlds to conquer, don’t be fooled! You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, and there’s always room for another “super hero” in China!

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“Salvation is of the Lord!” Those were the magic words that got Jonah out of the belly of the whale (Jonah 2.9).

Jesus prophetically compared Jonah’s experience inside the whale to the three days he would spend in Hades between His crucifixion and resurrection.

He also invited His followers to take up their cross upon themselves and follow Him.

In other words, every true believer is going to go through their own experience in the “belly of the whale” at one time or another, experience their own “3 days in hell.” And it’s usually not until we realize that salvation is truly of the Lord, that we emerge from it.

What’s so special about that revelation, that salvation is of the Lord? Because before we find out, we try to save ourselves by any thinkable and possible means. The Lord is always our last resort, after all else has failed. Usually, anyway.

We first expect our own wits, strengths and efforts to save us, and if they won’t do, then at least some tangible, visible and audible person of flesh and blood to pull us out, and sometimes, God in His mercy will send such a person along. But if He’s been trying to teach you to rely on Him and Him alone, and you have any sort of rank or validity as a prophet, even a disobedient prophet like Jonah, you can be pretty sure there’ll be no other hand pulling you out of that whale except God’s.

When God has become truly all that you have got left, then that’s where you can probably safely say, “Welcome to Rock Bottom Club!

When everyone else is gone, every other crutch kicked away, those people who have made you depend on them like a drug only stand by and watch you go through your withdrawals from afar while getting the next junkie in line hooked on them, then it’s time to find out whether God is really enough or not.

It will prove whether your faith was merely a pretty bubble that popped at the introduction of the needle, reduced to a little splash in the face, or whether it was something solid, something your life can depend on.

If we’re honest, the role to which we often restrict God in our lives is not much more than a slap in His face.

It’s those belly-of-the-whale experiences that restore Him to His proper position in our life as our only hope, our only true Savior.

When the fakes are gone and have faded away, it’s time for the true Savior to step in and show that it is in His power alone to save, and “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer.17:5).

Down there, in the belly of the whale, you find out who your friends really are.

And once the fish has vomited you out, back on dry land, you may not feel like much more than just that: a pile of fish vomit, but at least you’ve got a much clearer perspective now of your world around you and who and what you can really rely on, without all the deceiving appearances and delusions that blurred your vision previously.

You may have tried to figure out every possible way, tactic and maneuver out of the dark, going through all the possible tricks, measures or merely lucky events that might save you out of your fix, but in the end, the sum of your wisdom boiled down to this: “Salvation is of the Lord.” No one and nothing else will ever cut the cake or do the trick. No one.

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Another passage from the Scriptures that never made quite sense to me was Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” – Especially the last bit, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness…”

I know, all the humanists and believers in the good in mankind will howl at me, but I think I figured out what it means.

If you’ve ever been betrayed by someone you believed in, forsaken by someone you fully trusted in and relied on, someone who was like a light in your life, and they drop you so abruptly that you suddenly realize that the light you confided in for so long was only an illusion, then you’ll know what this passage means.

Darkness is the absence of light. In other words, the light wasn’t ever really there, you mistook it for the real thing, and the person in question may have believed in it as the real thing, but what determines whether it’s real or not is whether it lasts.

Because one thing I have always believed is that love is forever. If it isn’t forever, then it wasn’t real love in the first place.

The level of emotion will not always remain the same, naturally, but there is one ingredient that will make all the difference in the world, between real love and the fake: faithfulness.

The Bible says that if you’ve been put in charge of anything by God, there is only one thing that is required of you: to be faithful.

You may not have a lot of strength, you may not have a lot of gifts, you may not be nothing much at all, but you are one thing, and that is faithful.

That is the one tiny spark that makes all the difference in the universe between the real light and the fake, between true love and that which many people may mistake for love. It may not seem like much at all, but apparently, that’s what makes the difference.

After the love has gone, what is there left to believe in? Apparently far less people have that real, lasting kind of love in them in our world today than we may think, which is why there is so much heartache, disappointment and so many broken relationships and marriages. Too many shiny fake versions of love that promise happiness in exchange for that seemingly insignificant ingredient we despise, that has almost vanished from our vocabulary:

that tiny little factor of faithfulness.

Love is forever. Everything else is only a fake.

Jesus knew that there were people who believed themselves to be benefactors of mankind, oh, and they can be radiant, and that light in their eyes may sparkle deceivingly real. But when their light is gone, just as quickly as you turn off a light switch, then you know it was only an artificial fake after all, no real love, real light.

The sad thing is that it usually takes time to find this out. – Sometimes quite a long time, in fact. Time is the great tester, and it certainly is the factor that will prove our degree of faithfulness, and thus, the degree of authenticity of our love. Some actually have it, and some actually don’t.

It’s shocking when you realize that that light was never really there, and you find out in shock what Jesus meant… “If the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

This type of people can wreak quite a bit of devastation in one’s life. For all they give, they subtly demand more in return, more dependence, more devotion, almost like an addiction, like a drug.

You may think you’re receiving their light, but since it isn’t really real, but only a fake, it doesn’t bear fruit, you’ve only invested in darkness, poured your life into a vessel with holes and are ultimately left empty, sucked dry and devastated…

They’re probably the closest thing to vampires in the real world. They may not suck your blood, but drain your life’s energy out of you, and the hollow shell they leave behind will be a sad reminder that it pays to put your trust in Someone Greater than frail flesh and blood, and blessed are they who do, indeed.

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I’m a firm believer in the fact that God can speak through just about anything and anyone, even people who are totally oblivious to their being used as a vessel for a higher, divine purpose.

The movie “Answer Man” points out the principle of how God can use even anything but perfect people to speak to the world through them, often very much in spite of themselves, rather than because of any specially pious qualities on their part.

In my free eBook project “The Deeper Meaning of Everything” that’s precisely the point I’m trying to stress: God speaks to us through everything.

In my movie blog “Talking Pictures” I try to point the lessons I glean from the movies I watch, and I also firmly believe that God has sometimes inspired songwriters – often totally unbeknownst to them – to broadcast downright prophetic messages to the world through their songs.

A few classic examples: “Let It Be” is, I believe, a prophetic song about the time of the end. “When I find myself in times of trouble…” – The Great Tribulation?

“Mother Mary” in the song, in my opinion, represents the Holy Spirit, “speaking words of wisdom.” Later it says, “Whisper words of wisdom,” indicating that those words won’t always be spoken out loudly from pulpits with microphones, but a cloudy night is coming, through which there will still be a light shining on those who believe, culminating in the great awakening to the sound of music (the “last trump”) at Jesus’ Return.

I doubt that Paul McCartney was aware of any such divinely prophetic ingredient, since his ideology certainly seems to be an entirely different one.

“Bye Bye Miss American Pie” also had a greater prophetic significance than Don McLean ever realized, if you’ve watched the development of pop music over the past 4 decades since that song was written, and perhaps even he knows by now that “The day the music died” wasn’t just the day Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. I often joke that it was the day Madonna recorded that song.

Then there was the ’71 album “Who’s Next” by The Who, a musical milestone, with their song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” ending with the line that so perfectly describes the succession of the current administration to the previous: “Meet the new boss! – Same as the old boss!” – I’ve even seen people wearing t-shirts with that line on it in reference to Obama…

Maybe I’ll come up with a list of other examples of songs with a touch of the prophetic…

In the movie “Hurricane” the statement is made that people don’t find the books they’re looking for, but their books find them.

In my life, pretty much the same applied to every song I felt magically drawn to. Even if at the time I first heard and started liking the song the meaning of the lyrics didn’t seem to bear any resemblance or parallel to what was going on in my life, later on, it did, and I realized why that song had “found me.”

Maybe you’re too rational, dogmatic or restrictive to consider that God could possibly work in such ways, and certainly the theory of Evolution wouldn’t lead to such a seemingly bizarre conclusion that our Creator should be involved in even such small details in our lives.

Well, Jesus gave us a clue that He’s more into details than many of us may think when He said that every hair on our heads was numbered, and no sparrow falls the Father doesn’t keep track of.

So, next time you hear a song and you feel its tug on your heart strings, listen to what it’s got to say. Chances are the Author of Life Himself has a message to you.

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Being a politically correct Christian with a politically correct God and Christ these days means to refrain from separatist tirades indicating that there should be any sort of division between true believers – Christ’s genuine disciples, and the rest of the world.
“The world,” that mass of people Jesus told His disciples they were not a part of, if existent at all, are always the Hottentots in far-off countries who wouldn’t be able to afford our bestsellers on Pop-Spirituality in the 21st century anyways.

So, let me be politically incorrect here once again and heat up the old forgotten and despised doctrine of John 15:19 and harp a little bit on that: Is there such a thing as “the world” in the sense of something we should not be part of, if we call ourselves followers of the Maker of that statement, or is it just a myth, and we’re all so super goodie-good and moving toward the point of enlightenment in our evolution which will usher in universal peace without the Almighty having to resort to any of the drastic measures He announced in the portions of His Book that are carefully being avoided by popular Christian authors?

Of course, it’s natural to want to erase any existing lines of division between yourself and your target audience when that audience is supposed to eke out 30 bucks for your latest compilation of divine wisdom. But are those potential readers really being helped and enlightened by the illusion that all is at peace, the Devil’s on vacation and there is no actual spiritual warfare going on?

Progress, in the eyes of the liberal, widely accepted brand of the Christian faith, seems to be equivalent with the eradication of any and all lines of separation between them and the world, and thus it’s being drilled into our minds for the umpteenth time that “We are,” indeed, “the world…”

But ignoring innumerable wrongs still won’t make a single right, and remaining silent about some of the qualities of the world may easily put us on the side of the enemy camp, as far as God is concerned, no matter how vocally we may be rooting for “Christianity.”

Personally, I think I’d rather watch “Matrix” one more time, for some inside scoop of what’s really going on.

One of the reasons why I do believe in the existence of such a thing Jesus called “the world” (that I don’t feel I belong to), is that I have found out that there is, in fact, also a distinction between lies and truth.
Now, for many folks in our success-oriented world, that distinction is nearly non-existent. They’re so used to lying, they can’t tell the difference anymore.
It wouldn’t occur to them to call anything their political leader or anyone says on TV or anywhere, for that matter, an untruth or a lie, because it would mean that they would have to be more careful about their own truthfulness (or lack thereof), and who wants to pay that sort of a price?

So if mass murderers like Charles Manson or warmongering Nobel peace prize winning presidents (see why you can’t be serious about being part of this world?) want to go on and on about how much they love Jesus, we’re all cool with it, because that sort of hypocrisy is what we call “freedom” here, in the liberated West, and watch out, we’re soon coming to a town near you to liberate you, too!

When Christians talk about “the world,” it’s usually in the context of John 3:16 to let everybody know how much God loved the world, no matter how haywire it had gone.
But we ignore the admonition of that same John a little later in the Bible for us not to love the world, nor the things in it.

That’s a lot harder message to preach, brother, and if you do, just wait and see how many books you’ll be selling then!

I like the way Bethany Dillon put it in one of her songs, “Aimless,” (and I strongly hope that she still knows what she was singing about):

“They’ve always known this wasn’t home.”

I’ve always known this wasn’t home.

How about you?

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