Our 2020 Blog (part one) ⇔ (Clicking on photo galleries reveals the entire caption and often makes pictures bigger; for individual photos, “open in new tab”)
June 19, 2020
Happy Juneteenth! To be honest, I don’t remember hearing much about this holiday before the media criticized President Trump for not knowing about it, so it sent me to do some research. The result is a new article on this African-American holiday that dates back to 1865, posted on my EFLsuccess.com website. The article includes “background” information on slavery in America, and you’ll also find a shorter version of the article that we’re using here in conversational English classes.
June 14, 2020
Today is Flag Day in the US, so I’ve added a page about it on my website for English-learners (http://eflsuccess.com/flag/).
These days, the news is filled with images of flags, statues, signs, etc., that stir deep emotions among different parts of the American public. This got me thinking. When I lived abroad, I was surprised when symbols like the US Flag or National Anthem deeply touched my emotions in a way that’s hard to describe. Most of the time, they were powerful, positive emotions, but sometimes things had happened “back home” that made the flag stir shame. I know that internationals living in the US have similar experiences, when they see symbols from the present and past.
We can’t control what our leaders and civil authorities do, good or bad, and we are even more powerless to change historic evils like slavery. Systemic changes are certainly needed. And yet, in every age, we can find good things that came in the wake of both good and bad men/women. The Nobel Prizes, for example, came from the inventor of dynamite who made his fortune as an arms dealer. Some choose to vandalize his image due to his destructive past; others celebrate the way his fortune has promoted peace and invention. While I don’t want to minimize the pain carried forward from history, I tend to look at the glass as being “half full,” trying to interpret historic symbols through the honorable aspects that made these things/people a part of our culture. There’s so much more to say on this topic that I might someday come back to it. But for now, Happy Flag Day!
June 7, 2020
In spite of the danger of spreading COVID-19, thousands and thousands of people around the world have gathered this week in response to the brutal treatment by a violent police officer in Minneapolis (who was white), which caused the death of African-American George Floyd. Some of the protests have turned violent, but most feature peaceful protesters who are calling for long-overdue change. Race relations have improved a lot during my lifetime (I could tell you stories of my youth in the South), but mobile-phone cameras show that we still have a long way to go. Vivian and I felt we wanted to participate, not so much to “protest” but to “pray” about this, for the most lasting way to solve racial tensions is for God to fill all of our hearts with His love. For 30 years, we’ve attended multiracial churches, and we want all Americans to experience the love we know in friendships that feature a variety of skin tones! So, we joined a public “prayer and praise” time in Finlay Park Saturday.
Several reporters were present, but the reports I saw did a marginal job of capturing the joy and peaceful purpose of the event. You can see one report (for now, anyway) here: WIS-TV covers rally at Finlay Park.
I captured some images from the initial “live” report. After the leaders announced the presence of Mayor Benjamin and City Council member Sam Davis, we went over so Vivian could talk to Mr Davis—he remembered Vivian from 20 years ago, when she served as the Council’s City Clerk (about everyone else from those days has retired or moved on).
Below, I also show info about two excellent videos. Warner Bros. “JUST MERCY” is FREE this month online, and well-worth watching. It has received high marks in reviews, and was “the talk of the campus” on my last visit to my alma mater (Eastern University). In fact, if you watch, the main character wears an “Eastern Eagles” t-shirt in one scene. The lawyer, Bryan, graduated from Eastern just a few years after I did, before going to Harvard Law School. (One of the saddest parts of the film was the realization that all of this has happened during my lifetime; illustrating how much systemic changes are still needed.)
May 29, 2020
My niece Amy was on TV last night, talking about her role as a nurse for COVID-19 patients in Dallas. You can watch the report here (though I have no control over how long it will be available).
Amy grew up in Turkey, where my brother-in-law worked for a number of years. This attention was prompted when someone saw the article Amy’s college newspaper did about her work. You can read that here: CedarvilleNews.
We’re all proud of Amy, but she would be the first to say that she is just doing her part. She says that a “hero” is anyone who steps into another person’s pain, and that’s something we all can do. The newspaper quoted her as follows:
“God calls us to take steps we wouldn’t necessarily have pictured for our lives. But If we trust that He knows what’s best, then we can know what he’s asking us to step into will be best for us whether it’s what we would choose or not. I’m excited to see what’s next.” ~Amy Grudier
May 14, 2020
Does it seem like we’ve been “on the shelf” or “stuck at home” for too long? My exile started two weeks before most people, as a bad cold sent me home (and to a doctor twice) 11 weeks ago. That was about two weeks before the Pandemic postponed the International Festival and started sending everyone else home.
Special occasions like Mothers’ Day and the National Day of Prayer are difficult, because we really want to be out there, celebrating with others. Vivian took time on Mothers’ Day to create a “photo scrapbook,” which you can see here. And with all of the unemployment and hardship around us, I’ve started helping out at a Food Pantry at Christian Life Church. We’re grateful for the opportunity to invest time to help others. Meanwhile, Dr Aluri has asked me to coordinate the free online English classes we offer every Friday (see Mar 27 entry below). I understand that almost 100 different people have participated in the past few weeks, as attendance grows weekly. Again, I’m grateful to be able to offer this valuable opportunity to the local international community—though we are also getting online visitors from the other side of the globe!
May 7, 2020
While looking at the news, some maps caught my eye. Our friends abroad may have a hard time understanding how big and diverse the US is, so it is difficult to understand why the speed of infection, and of “opening up,” is different from place to place. I think these maps help explain it. You can see related maps and info about “Red States” vs “Blue States” in my article: Red & Blue States, and Covid-19. Take a look….
My only other comment here about the maps is that many international students are amazed that maps with this detail are freely available on the Internet. I think that Americans should be more thankful for access to information like this, as well as more thankful for various freedoms that most of the world does not enjoy even in the best of times.
Apr 30, 2020
Yesterday, Vivian enjoyed her first full day with our “corona Corolla”, or as Caroline mumbles: “Gamma new car”. Her older sister suggested the name “Freedom” (we called our old car “Barney”—after the purple dinosaur), but we’ll think of something appropriate sooner or later.
After lots of research on Consumer Reports, Kelly’s Blue Book, US News & World Report, and Car & Driver, we had narrowed it down to a Hyundai Elantra, Subaru Impreza or Toyota Corolla, each listing for about $20K.
Two Hyundai coupons worth $1750 were set to expire at the end of April, so we wanted to make our decision by then. I asked for the e-price from a dozen dealers all over SC, each of which eventually responded (some more enthusiastically than others). There were also dozens of emails and txt messages, and a few calls that I found time to answer during my busy work-day. I sort of expected that the Elantra would end up being the least expensive, but Dick Dyer Toyota in Columbia won by offering the best price. In sum, they saw my request for an e-price; replied by email the next morning; and responded to my reply with a great price. I clarified some things with Kristen and Jennifer (both very pleasant and professional) while I waited for other dealers, but no one was very close to their price, which was over 20% lower than the “sticker” price (and actually a much bigger percentage savings from the “Seller’s Asking Price” with the dealer-installed extras). Of course, we also paid about $1000 for tax/title/dealer fees, which would be about the same anywhere. But from any measure, we got a very good car for a great price.
[The process took over a week, with lots of reading online. Then, on Sunday night, I was actually looking at websites and asking for e-prices till 5 am Monday, and then had to be up for a Hong Kong Board meeting from 7-10am! Then I slept for a few hours before tackling all the email and txt replies.]
We gave “the other dealers” till noon on the second day to give us an “out the door” quote, figuring that if they hadn’t written by then, they might never do so. Most took a little off the asking price; some only gave the price “plus title/tax/tags and dealer costs”—so we had no idea what the bottom line would be; some gave a “price with financing” so we didn’t know what the price would be if financed elsewhere.
After looking at the responses, and following up on several, we decided that the Corolla would get our first test drive. Tuesday afternoon, we drove to the Toyota dealer with our wonderful e-price in hand. My brother, who knows a lot about cars and the car-buying process, said it was a great price, and while this was very comforting it also made me leery. I kept expecting the dealer to try to push us into something “better” or to add some sort of extras, but there was no pressure. I was impressed by everyone at Dick Dyer Toyota, and I’m grateful for their no-hassle approach. They also went out of their way to help customers see that they wanted us safe during the coronavirus crisis. To top it off, there were little signs of God’s grace during the process, including a favorite song playing on their radio as we drove up, a nice conversation with Bob in the finance department, and a wonderful “primary agent”—Dwight Hylton (it turns out that I know his pastor). Dwight also stayed an hour past closing time to be sure we understood how to push the car’s buttons.
This was our first time to buy a new car (we lived abroad for 20 years, where we didn’t need a car; before and after that we had used cars). I don’t remember plopping down that much money before, but our generous family made it possible to pay by check instead of getting it financed. What a blessing! It also helped that we didn’t want lots of fancy add-ons; to us, a car is a means of transportation, not an extension of our living room. We expected the dealer to need to clear our personal check before handing over the keys, but I guess they were happy with whatever they checked, and they sent us home with the car, as it’s “Celestite” blue turned gray with the setting sun.
I looked up “Celestite” and found that the name is “derived from the Latin adjective caelestis (cealum), meaning heaven” and “is a symbol of peace.” Pretty cool.
As you can see in the photos, the grandkids fit comfortably in the back seat. That was among our top concerns. Everyone is happy with this wonderful “addition to the family.”
Apr 22, 2020
After reading (actually, listening to) a great little book about this Coronavirus, I put together some devotional thoughts under the title “Is there meaning in suffering?” Click to take a look.
As you’ll see in the photos, we’re having car trouble. (When the old one didn’t move from in front of their trailer for a few days, 2-yr-old Caroline looked at Vivian and said, “fix it”—like Grandma does when a toy needs attention!)
While continuing to patch website issues caused by changes at WordPress, I noticed that “my music” won’t let you hear my CD/songs like it used to. Sorry about that, but this is out of my hands (a decision by CDBaby). But you can still hear my music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc. (there’s only one “Krigline” in the search results!). I’ve also re-added our page of online music links; enjoy clicking to hear some of our favorite online music sources!
Apr 18, 2020
Last Sunday was Easter (though I like the Chinese term better: 复活节, literally “Resurrection Holiday”). It certainly was the most unusual Easter in my lifetime. Normally, it is a festive, colorful occasion, marked with family reunions and outings to enjoy Spring colors, and with special activities for children, great music, and joyous crowds at church. This year, public parks are closed, and social activities, church musicals and children’s events were all cancelled (though we did get to enjoy many special Easter programs and worship services on our TVs, phones and computers).
Someone pointed out that the ‘word’ for Easter this year was “Empty”: empty restaurants, classrooms, hairdressers, stores, dining rooms (normally full of relatives on Easter), parks, and churches. But on the other hand, Easter (Resurrection Day) has ALWAYS been about “empty” because almost 2000 years ago, Jesus’ tomb was EMPTY and that changed EVERYTHING! The punishment for our sin (rebellion against God) was laid on God’s perfect Son, who willingly took it all so that we could repent and return to God’s loving arms. Our sin would have made Heaven “empty” of human life, but Jesus’ sacrifice opened the way for those who believe to live forever with/in Him who conquered death and left that borrowed tomb “empty” so many centuries ago. If that isn’t something worth giving your life to celebrate and publicize, I don’t know what is!
Especially for our friends who are not very familiar with the historical event that this holiday commemorates, I’ve just added the Easter Story for Children to this website. I wrote it years ago when our son was young, and Vivian created some basic illustrations to go with it. Click over and take a look!
Mar 29, 2020
If you are unable to get out to go to work (or are working at home like we are), what are you doing with your spare time?
While it is easy to just turn on a TV and be entertained, may the Lord help us to resist this temptation!
I heard a couple of good sermons today (one advantage of so many churches streaming their services). Here’s my summary of one: In the Bible, “storms” (1) come to call sinners to turn to God, (2) affect the ‘innocent bystanders’ around those sinners, and (3) come upon people in the center of God’s will [lots of scripture references support these three]. The storm does not reveal the cause. So, don’t focus on why or who is behind the “storm,” but on what I need to do. The “need” for all three groups is to draw closer to God. God wants us all to be “closer” because He LOVES us so much that (1) He wants for us all the benefits that come only by faith, and (2) He doesn’t want us to suffer eternally for our sin/rebellion. The Cross is proof of this–Jesus took on Himself the penalty of sin for all who look to Him in faith, and thereby become heaven-bound children of God. Don’t waste this extra time God is giving us; be faithful if your boss is asking you to work at home, love your family, draw nearer to our loving God, pray more, and find ways to serve the Lord and/or serve others.
There are lots of ways to use this “extra time” fruitfully. In addition to my regular work, and virtual meeting (like the one shown below), “social distancing” practices are allowing me to do much-needed work on my website (and if you are fluent in English and technically-minded, you might be able to help me with this from your home! Contact me if “you’re bored”). I’ve also picked up my guitar again, after months “with no time to play it.” I’m also impressed by all the ways that my friends are helping the poor, loving elderly neighbors, sewing masks or 3D-printing medical gear for those who need it, creating free resources for kids “learning at home,” and of course praying more.
A thought hit me this morning as I read in Genesis. God had spoken directly and specifically to Israel (also called Jacob) at least three times. But God also allowed Israel to believe a lie from his sons, for about 20 years, that his favorite son Joseph was dead (in a fit of jealousy, they had sold Joseph into slavery, then lied about it). Why didn’t God tell Israel that this was a lie? Clearly, there are things that God is willing to tell us, and things that He thinks we don’t need to know. In this case, was it so that circumstances could evolve allowing Joseph to save millions (including his father’s family) from starving in the famine? (see Gen 50:20.) Was that more important than a special word of comfort to this grieving father, to whom God had spoken of other things? I believe history shows time and again that God is trying to achieve things in our world that we couldn’t possibly understand. A God who is bigger than the universe could not be comprehensible to a human mind; He would have to be more wonderful and more strange than we could imagine. A terrible “storm” or season of deep-pain may devastate millions, only to save billions. How? Why? How could the gruesome torture and death of God’s Son make it possible for billions to become God’s children? There are things we just can’t understand.
For some (old) thoughts on “Asking Why”, visit http://www.krigline.com/bad_happens.htm
Mar 27, 2020
Unable to meet together in person, IFM held our first “virtual” gathering tonight. About 20 people gathered via ZOOM software. While not as good as meeting in person, we enjoyed the chance to talk together about how the virus is affecting international students.
Mar 22, 2020
With so many suffering from FEAR of the COVID-19 virus, I decided to update and post two articles that date back to the SARS pandemic. (We were in China at the time, and were surrounded by young adults who were afraid.) I hope you’ll take a look, and if you think these articles would be helpful to a friend, please send them a link. [And while you’re looking, take a look at some of the other articles posted here. We think you’ll find many of them encouraging.]
Today, a friend also sent me a link to an insightful article, written by a leadership expert to help pastors, the heads of NGOs, and business leaders “lead through rapid, unexpected change” (e.g., the Covid-19 situation). If you are a “leader” I encourage you to take a look.
And another friend sent a helpful quote from the famous reformer, Dr Martin Luther, who lived during a far more primitive time amidst an even greater pandemic known as the Black Death in the 14th century.
“…I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” (Luther’s Works Vol. 43, pg. 132)
Mar 17, 2020
Today is St Patrick’s Day, a day normally filled with wild celebrations, but today South Carolina’s Governor announced a new curfew to keep people off the streets at night. Restaurants everywhere are also closed (except drive-through windows), and public meetings have been canceled. Covid-19 continues to change so many facets of our lives.
Feb 6, 2020
January started with lots of work to do, as Michael took on the role of Assistant Director for the Columbia International Festival. But he also had one big duty to perform in Asia, which required a week and a half in southern Thailand, and two days in Hong Kong. Once the Festival is over in April, Michael will split his time between east and west, continuing to help the charity in Hong Kong (and those we serve worldwide) while also seeking to bless the international community in central South Carolina.
(click here for 2019 blog)
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