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?




Sunday, February 15, 2015


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


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.

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!!)

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.