Saturday, January 24, 2015

Coming Up

Our church plant is coming up on an exciting milestone.  We have been worshipping together in our current location for 6 years!  We have had a wonderful time learning and growing together.  I am thankful to God for His work in my life, in the life of His church, in the lives of the people who attend our little gathering.

On Sunday we will have a business meeting.  I know business meetings are generally not exciting events for most people.  However, it is exciting for us!  Members and regular attenders of Komyo Christian Church want to be involved in the life of the church, want to use their gifts to encourage one another, want to seek God and His direction for His church.  Exciting stuff!!!

Today I was looking through some old pictures and found a picture of our 'staff' from 2010.  On New Year's Day we took another picture.  Some of us have changed more than others!  (Yuri Nakano had not yet joined us in 2010 and she is on home assignment right now.  She was not purposely left out of these photos!!)



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Awaiting a New Book

About a year ago I did a study with some colleagues entitled, "Wonderstruck" by Margaret Feinberg.  We were challenged to look for the wonder in every part of life.  Since then I have been reading blog posts and other things by Margaret.  When I read that her new book, "Fight Back with Joy" would be coming out soon, I was excited.  Her blog readers were offered a chance to read a sample of the book.

The sample was way too short!!!  I wanted to read more.  I suppose that is what a sample is designed to do.  Margaret is a popular author and speaker.  She and her husband work together in this teaching and encouraging ministry.  Their lives were turned upside down when Margaret was diagnosed with cancer.

We all have different responses to such news and difficulties in our lives.  Margaret chose to fight back with joy.  I can't imagine it was an easy fight in any way.  I look forward to receiving my copy of the book, the full book, and reading more about how they fought back with joy.

Even in the few pages I read there were several quotes that touched me.  One, from page 35, is:
"The Great Joy Giver is parachuting people into your life to remind you that you are not alone."
She mentions a few of the unhelpful-type people she encountered, but then reminds us of the encouragement she received, and, in fact, we all receive, from these parachuting people.

Although I have not experienced a personal battle with cancer, my dad is in that fight right now.  I have seen these parachuting people in my dad's life.  As I watch from afar, I am grateful for these people who remind my parents they are not alone, these people God parachutes into their lives.

I choose to fight back with joy and anticipate learning more about that fight through this book.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Word


A few years ago at the end of the year a friend was talking about choosing a word for the next year.  I had often chosen Bible verses for the year and liked the idea of choosing a word for the year.  I chose the word hope for the following year.

In December 2014, I started to hear about and read about the idea of a word for the year again.  I started praying about it and thinking about what word I might choose to focus on for 2015.  God gave me the word 'joy.'

Ironically, or providentially, one of my favorite Bible study leaders, Margaret Feinberg, came out with a new Bible study this month called, "Fight Back with Joy."  More about that in another blogpost!  I am waiting for my copy to arrive.

Instead of just one verse or passage to focus on for the year, God has provided me with twelve, one for each month!  I am interested to see where this journey into joy takes me.

January's Bible passage is Psalm 98.  What a great place to start a new year, remembering the marvelous things God has done for us and singing a new song with all of creation!  I love the line, 'burst into jubilant song.'  What imagery!  I can hear the music when I read those words!

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm
have worked salvation of rHim.
The Lord has made His salvation known
and revealed His righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered His love and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn-
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
for He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

Creation sings together for joy to the Lord!
I wonder what God has in store for this year.  I know there is one who wants to steal my joy and is already trying.  However, I am going to choose to fight back with joy!!!

Do you have a word or verse you will be focusing on this year?  Please share!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another quote


I am sort of on a quote kick.  Here is another one that has had me pondering for a couple of days...


Listen to your life.  See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.  In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
~Frederick Buechner



All moments are key moments.

All moments are key moments.

This is written by a man who spent the last years of his life in Nazi prisons.  I would like to learn to live each moment this way.

Sometimes I forget.

Many times I think, "If I can just get through this moment, this hour, this day, then I will make it to another or a new key moment."

I forget to stop and smell the roses.

I forget to greet my neighbor and ask how she is doing.

I don't notice the sunset.

I rush through my classes so that I can get to my to do list.

I don't think I am going to attempt to make this something to which I aspire this year.  Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow I am going to listen to my life.  Tomorrow I will focus on the moments rather than the to do list.  I will focus on the faces of those I pass by rather than the light that is about to change to red.  Tomorrow I will notice God's handiwork in the mountains, sky, plants, and people rather than running to my car or staring at at screen.

Now, I will go to sleep in peace, trusting God who knows my tomorrow and will walk through it with me, even when I forget the moments.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Back and Forward

Sunrise from my apartment, December 31, 2014

Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him. ~Oswald Chambers. 

This quote struck me as I read it while brushing my teeth yesterday morning, December 31.  What a comforting thought and beautiful image, leaving our past in the sweet embrace of Christ.

Irreversible past.  This is a hard thought sometimes.  But when I think that I can leave that brokenness in the sweet embrace of Christ, I am encouraged.  Because, I know my Jesus is kind and loving and forgiving.

This gives me the courage to step out into the invincible future with Him.  2015 looks hopeful and bright when I think of stepping out with my loving Jesus.

Thankful for the experiences of 2014, the good, the bad and the ugly, which are resting in the sweet embrace of Jesus.  And, looking forward to the invincible future walking side by side with my Savior.

Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Unexpected Christmas!

Christmas day is almost over here in Japan.  It has been a great day!  A completely unexpected day.  Actually, a completely unexpected week!

Sunday was an unexpected when I received a message that my coworker was not feeling well.  By 1PM it was obvious that he was not going to be able to make it to church that afternoon.  Thankfully, we had already planned the themes for advent Sundays, so planning a message in a couple of hours was not quite as difficult.  Everyone at church was understanding and helpful.  We had a good time studying about joy in the story of Jesus' birth.

Monday morning dawned with a snow squall and another not quite as unexpected message.  Influenza had taken down two more of the members of my coworkers' family, putting the count at 3.  I continued with my day off as usual which included tea time with a friend.  God prepared both of our hearts and she offered as I asked her to play piano for our Christmas Eve service at church!

With that unexpected challenge cleared, I was ready to begin preparing for the service on Tuesday.  I spent the day at church, reading, preparing, checking out the programs from the last couple of years, and enjoying delving into the Christmas story again.  My friend came to get the music and help me check the Japanese on the power point.  We had another good time of fellowship.


Unexpectedly, I had just enough cookies left at home to take to my morning exercise friends at the park on Christmas eve morning.  It was fun to see their faces and hear the "Merry Christmas" responses.


Our Christmas eve service was beautiful and full of joy.  I am so grateful for our church, the lovely people, and the wonderful celebration of our Savior's birth.


Following the service, my piano-playing friend came over and spent the night.  We enjoyed fellowship late into the night and basically all day today.  What a blessing to have a friend with whom I can spend a day sitting at the table, chatting, snacking, laughing, crying, and sharing words of wisdom.  An unexpected Christmas was just what I needed!


(Although, I missed hanging out with the Ewing family and look forward to our belated celebration!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Books



 I have a pile of Christmas books.  Most years I read several of them.  This year I have gotten through one of them.  And, it is the shortest one at that! "Christmas in Harmony" by Philip Gulley

It is a really fun read, though.  The book is written by a Quaker pastor, and it is about a pastor who lives in a small town shepherding the church where he grew up.  It makes me laugh out loud and makes me pause to ponder.

Here are a couple of quotes from pages I have dog-eared over the years...
God could have sent a lawyer who would scrupulously define the limits of love.  Instead, He went for broke, and sent a child with whom He was well pleased.  And had the good sense to tell Him that.
Christmas, I tell my wife, is not the time to hold back.  It is the bold stroke, the song in the silence, the red hat in a gray-suit world.

That is the problem of theology- instead of bringing clarity, it often raises questions too frightening to consider.

"You know, Sam, having the Nativity scene spread out like that kinda reminded me how we never really see the full picture.  We think we do, but most we're just lookin' at bits and pieces, thinkin' we're seeing the whole thing."

If you are looking for a quick read this Christmas, one that reminds you of the true meaning of Christmas and the messiness of life, this is a book you might like.