Sunday, January 31, 2016

What's Going On?


2016 has started with some amazing acts of God.  I have been surprised by where He has shown up, how He has encouraged me, what He has provided for me.

When reflecting on last year, I realized one thing God did was teach me, again, how important His word is.  I was reminded of the depth of His word and the love it proclaims, the joy of studying it, and the blessing of teaching and sharing it with others.

As 2016 started, this hunger for God's word did not die out.  However, God has added another layer.  My desire for His word is not just growing, but also my desire for Him.  I have enjoyed the times of togetherness and studying things like spiritual disciplines over the last month.

Somehow I was surprised by the spiritual attacks that would follow such learning.  You'd think by this time in my spiritual walk, by this time in my life, I would not be surprised by such things.

Once I allowed God to start forming my heart to be more like His, He also started working on my character!  (I know, the two can't be separated, but in my neat little world, they were.)  Just like heart work, character formation hurts, especially when I am not paying attention to what is going on and let my flesh side get rattled.

This past week I almost let God's pruning in my life turn into a grudge toward a friend.  It was one of those moments when I literally said out loud, "Oh, good grief!  I get it now.  I am sorry for my inappropriate reaction!"  And, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The hard work of growth

When I stand before God daily, I want to notice where He is at work in my life and listen to what He wants to improve in my character and my heart.  Because, I want to have a heart like His.  I want to become more and more like my Savior Jesus.

Heavenly Father, thank You for teaching me with patience and faithfulness.  May my heart become more like yours today.  Thank you!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

On my way...

I found this on a missionary's blog recently...

This is where I want my desire to be going.  I pray that my desire develops into this, to just be with Him.  I know He is always here; He is always with me; He is always pursuing me.  

Yet, I do not always take time to sit down with Him, to turn a listening ear toward Him, to let my heart beat in time with His.

Before coming to the field we all read the biographies of the 'great' missionaries, Amy Carmichael, Mother Teresa, Hudson Taylor, and many more.  We wanted to do all of the amazing things that they did.  

However, we forget what we also read in those stories, hours spent with Jesus, Sabbath rest days, the desire just to be with Him.

May this become my desire!

Tonight I thought I was going to get all kinds of tasks accomplished after I finished writing my sermon for tomorrow.  As I stood in front of the sink to start washing dishes- keeping it real, several days' worth- I reached for the soap and my back screamed at me.  I very slowly and carefully walked back to the living room and laid back down on my mat.

There went all my projects for the evening.  But, there I was with no where to go, no desire whatsoever to move.  Hmmm, wasn't I just saying that I wanted to learn to desire Him more than doing things for Him?!

And so, right there, in the midst of my back pain, I started praying.  I started listening.  And, He was there.  He is here.  (I have been able to move up to the chair at the table now.)

So, I pray that I may continue on this path, the one in which my desire becomes Him and not activity.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Two Days and the Sunrise

A day of ministry and a day of Sabbath.

Our winter youth gathering last week was amazing!  I loved being part of it and watching the students praising, learning, and fellowshipping.

Chita youth leading the first worship song.
They were followed by the Inokoishi youth leading the next song.

This year the gathering was held in Matsusaka.  The church is next to an adult care center.  After a morning of being reminded of God's love for us, singing praises and having awesome fellowship, we practiced a couple of hymns and talked about what we'd like to learn from these amazing people.

Welcome JBC Youth!

There was an awesome sign to greet us in the room where everyone was waiting.  As we sang "Amazing Grace" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," several people joined in the singing.  Then we had a time of question and answer with the residents.  We wanted to learn from their life experiences.

The students, and even the adults, were challenged and surprised by the stories of childhood before, during, and after the war.  Or, more precisely, the lack of childhood.  After many questions from our side, one lady decided it was time to ask the students a question!  She asked them about their education.  Several replied that they do not like school or studying, but that they will try harder.

Students at the care center

As a leader, it was wonderful to watch the day unfold, seeing God's fingerprints and guidance at every turn.  Our prayers and persistence are reaping fruit.  Most importantly, God is being glorified!

Since our gathering happened on Monday, Tuesday became my Sabbath.  I was thankful there were no other plans that day.

It was my first winter beach day.  My usual parking lot was closed but there is a park and community center right next to the beach so I parked in that lot and explored the park a bit.

A sculpture in the park surrounded by beautiful trees and plants

Winter colors

God's creation is amazing.  I walked through the park and then down to the end of the sea wall, both places I had not been yet.  It was basically a sunny day, but it was cold and windy!  (Not South Dakota cold, though!)

I know, I look like I am dressed for Alaska winter.
Amazing how the hood made all the difference in keeping me warm!
Where I sat to talk with God,rather than out on the open beach in the wind.

I finished the day at the tea shop in the shopping mall I pass on the way home.  I did, also, pick up some shells, of course.  I found some really beautiful ones when I stopped to bend down and look...

Stopping to pick up shells

Tea and reading time

This has gotten pretty long.  If you have stuck around this long, here are some recent pictures of the sunrise.