Over at my other blog, https://oneyearoneweekonepound.wordpress.com/ I wrote about visiting the Lama Temple here in Beijing. It was the La Ba Festival and the monks were busy making and dishing a special porridge to all who came and waited in the bright, chilly sunshine to be served.
The porridge was delicious, and I will be modifying my recipe over the coming weeks to add more local fruits (Goji berries, jujube dates and beans) to what I currently enjoy.
Attending this festival was high on my priority list ever since I read about the porridge back in September, so I was delighted when it fell on a day that I was free to attend. On Saturday I had attended a retreat at BICF (Beijing International Christian Fellowship) and I needed to process all that had happened. This I am still doing, so I will share more about that later.
Waiting in line, I realized that I was the only foreigner in the crowd. With my very limited Chinese, communication was difficult. I did mime with a fellow knitter who was showing her friend her mitts and she let me take a picture. I told the fellows behind me that I was 56 and we became friendly. They held my spot so I could take a picture of the “kitchen” area. There was also a brief chat with a young lady who wanted to practice her English. All of this before the porridge. Once I had my porridge people wanted to take my picture eating the porridge (which I sipped from the cup I’d brought with me!). Then someone wanted to give me some of their porridge and I let him – and suddenly we were surrounded by cameras – a little disconcerting for me, but fun none the less.
All of this is to describe a bit of my experiences on Sunday. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because it was a special day and many Buddhists were worshipping. I felt that it would be disrespectful to be a tourist on that day. I can always go back when it is warmer.
Coming away from this day I realized two things. The first came to me when I saw a man prostrate himself on the ground in front of one of the statues. I find this attitude of prayer difficult – even in private, but I want to be free to do so. This takes effort. It means I need to get uncomfortable. I need to forget myself and focus on my faith.
The second realization was that God does not require all these things from us – the incense, the flowers, the fruit, the prostrations, the ritual. He loves us freely and we live out our faith in that freedom. Nothing I do can make Him love me more, or love me less. I am His beloved and He has written my name on the palm of His hand. His banner over me is indeed LOVE.
There is a third realization. While the Buddha statue is indeed smiling, the other four statues are not. They are rather frightful and angry. I know that there are things that anger God, but I am not afraid of Him. I worship not from fear, but from LOVE. I know I need to learn more about these statues, but for now, I am grateful to be reminded of God’s great love for me, a sinner saved by His grace.