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.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Language

I've joined an online community for women who serve overseas.  Mostly I read the blog posts everyone else writes.  It has been good to read thoughts from other women serving overseas.  I have been challenged to think more about my life, ministry, and God.  Each week they choose a theme and people blog about it or contribute art or whatever.  I keep thinking that I will write something sometime.  So, this week I am going to write.  The theme is language.

Karuizawa Japanese Language School
Of course, when I first started to think about language, I thought about learning Japanese.  Learning this language has been one of the hardest, most challenging, most fun, most frustrating things I have done in my life.  And, I am NOT done yet!  I am pretty sure I will never be done learning this language.

Graduation celebration with some of my language teachers
I don't remember when it happened exactly, but I remember sitting in church one Sunday thinking, "Hey, I am understanding some of this sermon!  I am not just listening to pick out the words, but am actually getting the main ideas here!"  SCORE!  I was floored!

I know there are tons more languages than English and Japanese, but it is pretty cool that Jesus understands both of the languages I speak.  He hears me when I call out to Him in either language.

My first Sunday in Japan I remember sitting in church thinking that I had no clue what was going on, but Jesus did.  Now I not only sit in church understanding most of what is going on, but I also preach in this language!

Listening in church still takes much concentration
After I thought about these things for a while, the theme of language started to take me on a different path.  Language is absolutely necessary.  We need to communicate somehow, and language is the vehicle for communication to take place.  When I sit in my apartment by myself, I use language.  I think about what I need to prepare for tomorrow, I listen to music, I watch TV, I read a book.  All of these need language.

When I go to the ocean and sit on the beach, I use language.  I listen to the ocean, the birds, the wind, other people, God.  Different languages, but all needed for communication.

Maui
When I meet my friends or go to work or go to a meeting, more communication happens.  Some communication is non-verbal, which sometimes speaks louder than verbal communication, however, if we want to have conversations, make decisions, make plans, we really need to use verbal communication.  And, there is language again.

Languages are fascinating and amazing.  I am hoping we will keep our languages in heaven and yet be able to understand all the other languages and be able to learn them.  That would be so cool!

I know that learning Japanese has helped deepen my understanding of God as I learn Japanese words and phrases and study the Japanese Bible.  I can't imagine how my understanding would improve if I learned more languages!  Especially Greek and Hebrew!

Anything that deepens my understanding of God is worth the effort and hard work.
(I say this again to myself today to remind me of its truth and importance!)


Talking about things I love in one of my sermons

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!!)