Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Another quote

I am often inspired by words.  My words are not usually overwhelmingly amazing.  However, there are times when I read the words of others and I feel an instant connection.  THAT is just what I wanted to say but couldn't find the right words.

One person I admire and whose words I appreciate is Fredrick Buechner.  He was a German pastor and theologian during world war two.  If you recall what the atmosphere of Germany was like during that time you can imagine how well his zeal for God went over.  Yep, like a lead balloon.

He was arrested and eventually executed at a concentration camp, just days before it was liberated.

But his words and testimony live on.  They continue to inspire and instruct.  His love for God and being a witness to that love in a dangerous situation challenge and encourage me.

I was reminded last week by a friend that Fredrick Buechner was executed on April 10, 1945.  On April 11, my flip calendar had a quote from him!  (I have had this calendar for many years and never realized this coincidence!)

The quote reads...

"What we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the start there is a cosmic intelligence... but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about Himself in the starts but in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness."

God is trying to get our attention.  He is personal and will speak to us in ways that only we personally can understand.  He is trying to get our attention to let us know that He loves us, that He wants to have a relationship with us, that we are precious to Him.

Not only is He the creator of the universe and more than we can see or imagine, but He is also the lover of our souls, pursuing us as His beloved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Preparations


Today has been a day of preparations.

Tomorrow I will teach two Bible studies, one in Japanese on John and one in English on Mark.  I have enjoyed preparing for these studies each week.

On Sunday I will preach, so I have also been preparing for that.  Sometimes it is a challenge to figure out what to preach about.  Sometimes I am given an idea or a certain passage, but then the organizing of my thoughts takes a lot of time.  Sometimes things flow together quickly.

Although my thoughts haven't flowed smoothly today, it has been a good day of study.

Our monthly verse for April is Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."  Using that as a starting point, I have been thinking about "Go" and what that has to do with each one of us as Jesus-followers.

When looking at various websites about how to prepare for life as a missionary, I found an article by a professor at a university that prepares people for ministry.  It is a well-written article to help churches prepare people for missionary service.

 Click here to read the article.

Please take a few minutes to read it, maybe share it with others at your church, on a missions team, with a pastor, with a family member.  Consider how your church is preparing people for life outside the walls of the church-where we are all called to minister.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Believe


Today's word for my lent photo challenge is believe.

Today I was asked by an English student if I believe the stories in the Bible are true.  I replied with a resounding "yes!" and that I would not be a missionary if I did not believe the Bible is true.

In our Bible class this morning we were studying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We talked about the people around the cross as Jesus was dying and their various reactions.

Mark notes the women who were there, however, he doesn't say much about what they were doing or thinking or saying.  As we discussed the women and their possible reaction, one student mentioned that they must have been very sad and crying and even felt hopeless.  (Luke writes that they were mourning and wailing.)

Then we read the beginning of the next chapter of Mark which includes, in my opinion, one of the most hope-filled statements in the Bible... "He has risen!  He is not here."  Of course, once the shock wore off and Jesus was actually seen alive, hope was restored.

I can barely read those two little sentences without shouting and without a tear of joy appearing in my eye.  I think my heart may even skip a beat when I read them.

He has risen!  He is not here!

When I read those words in my head, they are read loudly and with gusto!

Hope.

Joy.

Indescribable love.

Yes, I do believe the stories in the Bible are true.  The Bible is what my life and faith are built upon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Still Praying?

Four years ago today an earthquake shook below the sea just off Japan's northeast coast.  The moving earth caused the ocean to react in an enormous tsunami.  That tsunami flooded a nuclear power plant.

We call it a triple disaster.

I am not sure we can label the disasters of that day with a number.  If we did, it would be much larger than three.

I am not going to list the statistics here.  Anyone reading this has google and can find the numbers for themselves.

Those numbers are not just statistics.  They are important.
Number of terrifying seconds the earthquake lasted.
Number of horrifying meters high the tsunami towered.
Number of awful kilometers inland the tsunami rolled.
Number of cozy homes swallowed whole.
Number of beloved mothers, grandfathers, teachers, brothers, babies, neighbors who will never take another breath.
Number of beautiful children living with giant scars where parents used to be.
Number of loved spouses living with enormous holes in their hearts.
Number of gorgeous people continuing to live in temporary housing.

A nation that has moved on, that looks back, that is stuck in time, that grieves, that learns to hope.

This is the tension which is now reality.

Four years ago I wrote these words...

Overwhelmed
I am sure others here in Japan not in the earthquake/tsunami affected areas would say the same thing. I am feeling overwhelmed. Watching the news, hearing the stories, seeing the devastation, etc, brings tears, feelings of guilt, feelings of helplessness.

Tonight we heard about a hospital that is running on a generator that will not last much longer. They have 200 patients on dialysis. They have enough supplies for 2 more days. Phones and cell phones are not working. The only way this info got out is because the TV crew happened to be there. Nurses and doctors have been there since the disasters on Friday.

What do I do with all of this? How do I respond? 
Here is a quote from a friend's blog...
"What can I do for suffering people? I know that prayer is the answer and my mind knows that this is so much more powerful than anything else I could ever offer, but why does it feel so futile? Perhaps because it doesn't feel like I am really doing something and I like nothing if not to feel active and to see the results of my activity. With that in mind, I will continue to talk to God, knowing that He is bigger than all of this."

So, this is how I respond, for now.

Today, four years later, am I still praying?  Or am I like Peter, James, and John in the garden, sleeping when asked to keep watch?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Plus Jewelry

This year before Lent started I began thinking about how to prepare my heart for celebrating the resurrection.  Many people give up things during this season.  I decided I would wear a cross necklace or earrings every day.  When I wear jewelry, I have a habit of playing with it.  I figured as I played with my jewelry it would remind me of the cross, of Jesus and His sacrifice.

This one decision has had more of an effect than I expected.  I didn't realize how much I actually think about the jewelry I put on each morning.  So, every morning as I put on my cross jewelry, I think about why I am wearing this certain piece.  It helps me begin my day centered on the cross.


As I continue the photo challenge I have realized every day so far could be either a picture of the Bible or the cross, or sometimes both.  Some days have been very challenging for me to find something to photograph.  As I think of what to photograph, I have also been thinking about why the word was chosen, what it has to do with the cross or lent.

One of my friends has been adding comments to my Facebook photo posts.  She posts a Bible verse to go with each photo.  It has been fun to read the verses she picks.  Sometimes they are verses I would have picked and sometimes they are a complete surprise.

Even in the busyness of every day life and ministry, lent has taken on a deeper, more contemplative role for me this year.  So far, anyway.

I am looking forward to more of what God wants to teach me, to show me, during the next 30 or so days.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Giving Up?

I remember as a child knowing lent had started by the school lunch menu.  Every Friday during lent the school served fish for lunch.  Growing up in a baptist church, I don't remember doing much with Ash Wednesday or lent.  I remember some kids from other church backgrounds gave up things like bubble gum or candy bars.  I never really understood the giving something up idea.

As I have progressed (I hope!) on my faith journey, I have come to understand the importance of the season of lent.  Doing a quick search on the internet produces all kinds of helpful articles about and activities for lent.  Each year I learn something new and enjoy understanding a new aspect.

This year one of the activities in which I am unofficially participating is a photo challenge.  There is one word for each day of lent.

The first few days the words naturally lent themselves to what seemed like obvious pictures, to me.  However, as I continue, I am trying to take my time and to mull over the word before taking a picture.  This has helped me to become more thoughtful in the process and to focus on what the word has to do with lent.

As I have worked through the first nine words, I have felt that the Bible could actually be photographed for every word thus far.  I have tried to find some way to put it into almost every picture.

One thing I love about this process is that each Sunday is the word 'celebrate.'  Even as we focus on the cross, suffering, and sacrifice of Jesus, we take a day out each week to celebrate the resurrection.  What a reminder that in the midst of our trials and sufferings, there is joy!

The cross and resurrection are the center of our faith.  Taking 40 days out of the year to focus on this center is well worth it.

What is God teaching you this lent season?  How are you observing the season?

Path

Place

Remember

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why?

Last week when I was talking with my parents, they were going through all of the activities they have coming up and mentioned a marriage weekend at their church.  They said they were making a list of reasons why they stay together or something like that.  It was fun to hear them come up with things just off the tops of their heads.  Since they didn't write them down, I am supposing they had to start all over again when they actually did get paper out!


Anyway, it started me thinking about them and their marriage.  As one who is inside the family but not married, I am in a unique place, I think, to make a couple of observations.

Just married (or just engaged, I can't remember which!)

25th anniversary trip to New England

I think the number one reason my parents are together and have a successful, in my opinion, marriage is that Jesus is the center of not only their married life, but also their personal lives.  They are each absolutely committed to Jesus, serving Him, following Him, and learning more about Him daily.  By being personally committed to Jesus, they bring that to every part of their lives.  I believe their marriage is thriving because of their commitment to Jesus.

Lake Michigan


40th anniversary celebration

Another reason their marriage is healthy is that they love to laugh.  They enjoy spending time together, and if laughter is involved, then life is all the more enjoyable!  They know how to laugh at themselves, at each other, and at life.  They are not rude in their laughter by scoffing at the other person.  They truly love a good joke or odd comment.  Many evenings, conversations at the dinner table led to fits of laughter, sometimes the laughter that leads to tears and the inability to breathe because of laughing so hard!

The Christmas we were snowed in at my sister's

Working on okonomiyaki with chopsticks

Preparing for the year of the dragon at IKEA Japan

My parents love and respect each other.  They, of course, each do things that annoys the other person, however, they love the whole person and respect the life God has gifted to them.  They have learned how to communicate their love in a way that respects the other's needs and desires.  And, they are just so darn adorable!

Mini golf

Christmas fun

Having been married 47 years, they have not avoided hardships and heartbreaks.  However, they have taken the time to work through their challenges together, with a commitment to God and each other.  It was not always easy, but it was always worth it.

I am grateful for my parents and the example they have shown me.  I have learned much about love, commitment, and laughter from them!  Thank you, Mom and Dad.