Monday, May 28, 2007

girl meets GOD

I have finished another book. Literally just closed it and signed into blogger. This book is the story of a girl who grew up Jewish, became an Orthodox Jew and then converted to Christianity. It is the story of her journey using the seasons of the church calendar as the outline for the book.

This woman, Lauren Winner, is a deep thinker and avid reader. She does not seem to just decide things on a whim, she thinks through things methodically. It is amazing to see how God used her personality in her conversion story. I think sometimes people think they will have to become 'different' if they become a Christian. But, God takes who we are and makes Himself real to us.

I have many pages marked that I want to share and remember. I won't share them all-you read the book for yourself and find what God speaks to you through Lauren's journey. But, I do want to share a couple of things...

This comes from page 57, in the section of the journey entitled Advent...
"God is a novelist. He uses all sorts of literary devices: alliteration, assonance, rhyme, synecdoche, onomatopoeia. But of all these, His favorite is foreshadowing. And that is what God was doing...He was leaving traps, leaving clues, clues I could have seen had I been perceptive enough."
Isn't that the truth?! God doesn't just walk up to us one day and say "Hey, here I am, believe in Me." He works in us, through sunsets and friends and family and movies and books and on and on. And, then, one day, we see His footprints there.

The other thing I want to share is from page 143 in the section on Lent...
"Habit and obligation have both become bad words. That prayer becomes a habit must mean that it is impersonal, unfeeling, something of a rouse. If you do something because you are obligated to, it doesn't count, at least not as much as if you'd done it of your own free will; like the child who says thank you because his parents tell him to, it doesn't count. Sometimes, often, prayer feels that way to me, impersonal and unfeeling and not something I've chosen to do. I wish it felt inspired and on fire and like a real, love-conversation all the time, or even just more of the time. But what I am learning the more I sit with liturgy is that what I feel happening bears little relation to what is acutally happening. It is a great gift when God gives me a stirring, a feeling, a something-at-all in prayer. But work is being done whether I feel it or not. Sediment is being laid. Words of praise to God are becomeing the most basic words in my head. They are becoming the fallback words, drowning out advertising jingles and professors' lectures and sometimes even my own interior monologue."

Work is happening in prayer, whether we feel it or not. Habit is not a bad word.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Concert and yellow sand

Today I went to a community band concert. It was really good! It was the Sakai city band which is the city next to my city and the city where we want to plant a church. They did the typical concert of classical music followed by an intermission which included a stage re-set and a clothing change. Then the second half was pop and jazz music. Of course, at the end the expected rhythmic clapping happened followed by the planned encore of two songs. The final song was Stars and Stripes Forever, one of my favorite marches.

This is a group that is open to anyone so I could join it. The only thing that is keeping me thinking is that they practice on Sunday afternoons-for four hours! It looks like a fun group so I will think about it for a while.

On a side note, the past two days the air has been filled with the lovely yellow sand blowing in from China. It makes for uncomfotable eyes with contacts in and I feel like my throat is sand paper. I cannot drink enough to make the feelilng go away. The last time we had this problem they were talking about it on the news and were placing part of the blame on the Japanese people for buying cashmere sweaters. There are large deserts in China now because of the sheep raising for wool for sweaters which Japanese people love. The sand from these deserts is blowing all the way over here causing problems here, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I was introduced to a basketball group by a missionary friend. When in language school I played at a community gym and had lots of fun. There I was the tallest girl by about a foot-I am not kidding! When the girls went up for a shot the guys would back off and let them shoot-although they never seemed to do that for me. Since moving here I have sort of half-heartedly been looking for a group to play with. Well, two weeks ago at a missionary prayer meeting one of the ladies was asking about what I like to do in my free time and I mentioned basketball. The next day she emailed me with the name of another missionary who plays in Osaka city with a group.

So, tonight was my first adventure in basketball here in Osaka. It was very different from the group in Karuizawa but just as much fun. There were about 30 people there, about 15 women and about 15 men. And, most of the women were only inches shorter than me! We did a few warm ups and 3 on 2 and 3 on 3 drills. Then we made two women's and two men's teams and took turns playing 10 mintue games. Subs were allowed at the five minute mark and we didn't have enough for a full fresh group each time.

Anyway, all that to say I had a great workout and met a bunch of new people. I am looking forward to next week's gathering! And, we'll see if I can move my arms in the morning:) Thankfully, I have been running consistently so my legs should be okay-I hope!:) I do miss the onsen I used to go to after baskeball in Karuizawa, though!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hope Rising

Sunday after church I made a quick trip up to Karuizawa to visit a friend and attend the Karuizawa Ladies' Luncheon at which another friend was performing. I took the shinkansen, one of the best invetions ever! Not only does it cut two hours off of my travel time to Karuizawa, it also cuts down on car use, thus helping the ozone and my pocket book by not having to buy gas! Plus, I can sleep on the train which isn't really advisable while driving a car! But, I also get lots of reading done.

On this trip I read a book called Hope Rising by Kim Meeder. It is a collection of short stories about the life and ministry she is involved in. She and her husband own a horse ranch for rescued horses. They provide broken and needy children in the area with an oppotunity to learn about horses and how to ride. Some of the stories made me cry, some made me laugh, and all made me aware of a ministry I knew nothing about but which is helping many restore their broken lives.

Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch is a non-profit organization and they provide all of their services for free. If you want to learn more about the ministry I put a link in the "Sites to check out" side bar.

Besides providing a place for kids to learn about horses and to ride, they also host a Bible study at their house for youth, preceeded by dinner. Kim tells the story that one night just as they were getting started on dinner, the phone rang and it was the father of one of the gals. He had hurt his back while bringing in the hay. It needed to get done so he asked if she could be sent home immediately to finish up. Instead of sending the girl home, everyone went together to bring in the hay. Kim says of the sight she saw while the kids were working: "This is fellowship. Ministry is not confined to a place or a thing-it is who we are. It is what we do with our heart and our hands. It is everything that we choose to give."

Something to think about...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Clear Skies

Here in Osaka even when it is a sunny day it is hazy. I suppose that is due to the humidity and pollution. We are sandwiched between the mountains and the Osaka Bay so there isn't really anywhere for everything to blow away.
But, yesterday was an exception. The humidity was low and the wind was strong for the second day in a row. As I was running in the morning I noticed I could see the mountains very clearly. Then on my way home from Gospel choir I found out that I can see the bay from my train station! I had a suspicion I might be able to see it, but yesterday was the first day since I moved here in October that I was able to clearly see the water.
That was a great way to top off the afternoon of singing praises at Gospel choir! Two weeks ago at choir we sang "It is Well with my Soul" in Japanese. After practice I asked the leader if he knew the story of Horatio Spafford and he said no but would I share it with everyone next time. So, yesterday I got to share about the events of Spafford's life which lead up to his writing of the hymn. After choir one lady said that she was moved by hearing the story and the words of the song have even more meaning for her now.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Golden Week

Here in Japan we have a week of holidays the first week of May, well, not the whole week, but several days in a row. So, my friend and I spent some time learning about Osaka city and Izumi city. We took a boat ride on the rivers of Osaka in a boat in which the roof opened and closed so that we could get better views and get under the low bridges.

The next day we found out that there were people living right here in my city at about the same time Jesus was on the earth! In Japan it was called the Yayoi era and the people lived in pit dwellings with thatched roofs. They have rebuilt a replica of several dwellings and a shrine. In front of the shrine is a large well that was used for purification before the people entered to worship. It was pretty amazing to see tools that may have been like what Jesus may have used. Even though we had to read every thing in Japanese it was still incredibly interesting, and we even learned a some new words.

So, Golden Week turned out to be a week of learning and discovery for me. A good start to a new month!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Japanese Gospel Choir/Osaka

I joined a Gospel Choir in April. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but am really enjoying it! The leader is a Christian so he actually understands what Gospel is about. Most of the songs we sing in English which is helpful to me! We do sing a few songs in Japanese. Our director has written some songs but we haven't sung them yet. In the fall we are going to have a concert which should be interesting!

So, Gospel choir was on Friday. Then on Saturday I met a missionary friend in Osaka and we walked all over the place. We went to the Sky Building first to see a nice view of Osaka-which would have been better if there was not so much smog here. After lunch we went to the Osaka Museum of Living. Then we walked the longest shopping street on the way to the Osaka Museum of History. Although neither of the museums had any English to speak of, they were very interesting. We got lots of history and walking which we topped off with burgers from Outback Steakhouse!