Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monkey business and movie night

Good times with friends
Wednesday, September 30:
We host friends for the monthly movie night. We are missing quite a few regulars who are traveling, sick, or had other appointments. But gradually the house fills up as people arrive after work.

I've cooked the usual: a meat dish, veges, rice, and two egg, cheese, sausage, and bread casseroles that seem to be a favorite. I love that young people can eat like there's no tomorrow.

We watch While You were Sleeping, a romantic comedy. We mix the genres: last month we saw a "spaghetti Western," a cowboy movie shot in Italy and Spain. W asks the young people which they prefer.

Amaryllis stems from the garden
"Oh, tonight's romance," they agree.

We find it difficult to choose a suitable film. Our wish-list includes: a wholesome theme, minimal swearing, and no sleeping around. Our search emphasizes the decadence of Hollywood culture. We rarely score on all points.

Kirsten is too sick with the flu to join in. The rest of us eat, watch the movie, and pray a blessing on the group.

Half of our guests have left by the time we remember to snap the photo (above). We send a lot of food home. The leftovers, cooked rice and some side dishes, go to a poorer family via a guest. How grateful we are for enough food to eat and share.

Through the open window: we give a few coins
to  the monkey's handler.
Jakarta has driven to Bandung. We are a common weekend destination. Bandung is the outlet and fabric center of Indonesia. But I've done almost no recreational shopping since we moved here.

Street vendors try to make their money on the weekends. Traffic is stop-and-go, so we rarely venture into town Saturday and Sunday.

Ok, this is a new one: a woman wanders by with a dusting wand. She offers to dust our car as we wait for the traffic light to change. At one red light, a monkey walks on tall stilts and rides his bicycle for the amusement of drivers and revenue for his handler. As we're stopped in traffic, there's a steady stream of sellers: shoes, bags, food, team gear. They walk around the motorcycles that are squeezing between lanes of cars.

A 4' orchid blooming under our trees

Kirsten has been ill. She wants to get out of the house after a week with "traveler's curse" and a cold. By the time we get to the outlet store, she's queasy. I ask the first attendant we see where the toilet is: Kirsten runs to the back of the store and heaves the contents of her stomach.

I call the car to the front entrance, but Kirsten is feeling slightly better when she emerges. "Maybe I'll look around before we go home," she says.

She manages to find a few things. We cut short our shopping trip when Kirsten runs out of steam.

Our 4-year-old granddaughter in Seattle has discovered the movie 101 Dalmatians. Our shopping task is to find 2 stuffed doggies for her and her brother. (We look for gifts early so they are delivered for Christmas.) Success! Two trips to the same shop and we have our Dalmatians.

A little doggie by the fish
I prop a stuffed animal by the fishbowl in the living room and send our grandkids a picture. Little connections mean a lot while we're so far apart.

Every month we swap a dozen platyfish from the 5-gallon bowl with outdoor fish who feast on mosquito larvae. Outside, they swim in 2 bathtubs filled with bullrushes, water lilies, and swamp plants. The fish need no filter, no heater, and no lights. This is the tropics, and they're native to this climate.

Old house eccentricity: we have no bathtubs in the house. They were relocated to the backyard by the time we moved here. I got some fish from the neighbor: otherwise we would be eaten by mosquitoes breeding between the plants in the tubs.

W had to install an indoor shower fixture. The previous tenants used two taps and a bucket (mandi) in the modern shower surround. Mind you, the hot water is still iffy because the heater pushes water +22 feet (7 meters) along an outdoor wall to the bathroom. When water pressure is low, the heaters don't function. (I skip showers on those mornings.)

Ingredients for spring rolls

Yesterday I was craving fresh food. (Fried food is the norm.) W helps me fill Vietnamese spring rolls. What a lot of work! We make the whole package of 25. We eat them for supper - and today the helper has some while we shop and we finish them off when we get back from shopping.

Church is refreshing. We meet up friends, both churched and formerly unchurched. We've met so many people on our walks, in studies, and around town. The culture is friendly and welcoming. How blessed we feel to be here.

We are burdened for this city, that we come to love and know God together and serve him with all our being. In the night, we often wake praying. Our friends around the world do the same.

As we listen to the calls to prayer echoing from the minarets several times a day, we ask the Spirit of God to open hearts to Good News. God is great!

Read more:
*Behold, here I am, let the Lord do to me what seems good to Him. 2 Samuel 15:26 ESV

*Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant, and to the plea of your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to you. 1 Kings 8:52 ESV

*I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters. Psalm 22:22 ESV

*Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. Matthew 7:7 ESV

*How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? Romans 10:14 ESV

*If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Romans 14:8 ESV

*I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. Hebrews 2:12 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Father of all earth’s children, to you the glory! May we never be silent in our love for your holy word. Let us remain, against all fire, sword, and wind, in your blessings.

May we for all eternity be yours, made from you to return to you. May our lives, through our thoughts, words, and actions reflect the light you brought to the world in Christ, our Savior.

O Lord, hear our prayer; not in our own strength do we move. Let us become living witnesses, reaching to you. Savior, may we hear your call as instruments of your compassion and truth, and as ambassadors of reconciliation. Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eid al-Adha and two churches

Sunday, September 27, 2015
We're getting ready to tuck into bed after a long and lovely week.
Time for a quick online chat with the grands
We have our regular studies and obligations. It's a special week though. Thursday, Muslims celebrate the annual feast of Eid al-Adha, commemorating the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isaac, according to the Bible: Genesis 22). Goats for sale are tied to stakes at main intersections. Pickup trucks drive by with cows tied in the back.

A woman strolls past the goats for sale.
Neighbors or neighborhood benefactors may buy and slaughter an animal, eating together as families and communities. It's a big deal in the city. A goat costs about $80; a cow more like $500.

We are due for another mandatory visa run to Singapore; we combined it with a two days (6 hours each) of teaching. My class has 7 Master level students, always a pleasure.

One of our good friends Cheryl has just landed: she'll teach for 2 weeks. She takes us to the airport straight from my final hour of teaching - it's the only way we have time to connect.
Pomellos in the market
We land in Jakarta at 7pm and are whisked to our host's house - a beautiful home full of warm hospitality.
Enormous 3-D murals in the house
make it feel like we're in nature
In the morning, we speak at two churches - first at 8:30 and then at 10. At the first, our translator is Dr. Joseph - who we met in Seattle at the Indonesian church.
Worship together
The second service is just minutes away and it's completely in English. We share Mark's account of Jesus healing the woman who touched his robe and raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Kirsten shares her story of how she copes with chronic illness and keeps her faith strong.
Celebrating 67 years
The church prays over her, a great encouragement to us all. And there's a birthday cake and food provided by the celebrant's family. We leave with a piece of delicious chocolate cake.
New friends and great food
Dr. Joseph's family and another couple take us to Warung Sunda in southwest Jakarta, a restaurant with delicious food.

"Here's looking at you, kid!" = fried gourami fish
The wonderful sweet-soy barbecue fish,
with rice smoked in a banana leaf
Afterwards, we meet dear friends nearby - at the IKEA cafeteria. We're swapping something their daughter brought along with a treat the parents are sending for their daughter.
Fresh spicy sauces: sambal being made at the restaurant
Then we head for Bandung and home.

What a treat to close the gate, pull the dirty clothes from the suitcases into the laundry hamper, and begin to relax. We call our parents to say hello and check how they are. Since we have a busy week ahead, we welcome the night and rest.

Hope all is well in your side of the world!

Read more:
*Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11 ESV

*The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:8 ESV

*The Lord confirms the word of his servant, and performs the counsel of his messengers. Isaiah 44:26 NKJV

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

*These Jews (from Beroea) welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 ESV

*There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:6 ESV

*Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 NKJV

Moravian Prayer: Omnipotent Lord, you made all things, rule over all things, and provide all things. Every gift you give us is from you and is meant to work in concert to your glory. Help us celebrate the diversity of gifts we see in our communities. 

Confirm your word in us, O Lord, as we set forth into the world to proclaim the good news of your salvation. Counsel us as we seek to follow your lead, guiding our steps to those who need to hear of your grace and love. Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Testing the boundaries: small home invasions

A 2" caterpillar drops onto the porch
Anytime a person moves, it's natural to look for new rhythms of living. We note the influencers, the inspirations, and even the quirks of our new neighborhoods. Gradually we must also appropriately set boundaries that make life safer and more livable.

We've left one house behind for repair: that landlord is tearing out the roof and redoing the interior where termites and other critters have had free reign. We were happy to move. The new landlord, knowing that we are careful tenants, was pleased to have us shift over.

We like where we are now, with only an empty property between places. It's perfect for having company over. Still, we've recently had two strange encounters.

A mix of lots of the old with a few new things
= a home to share with others
Last month, we come home to find a photographer taking pictures in the house and around the yard. He says he is recording the condition of the place. Apparently, the landlord is using our house as collateral against his development loan.

The landlord's wife is in the driveway. Nope, they haven't asked us for permission but the helper has let them in in our absence.

We've done the necessary repairs so the house is in good order. But it's weird to come home to strangers inside the house - taking pictures - without asking!

We ask neighbors, "Is this normal for Indonesia?"

Oh no! they say. None of us would let strangers inside when we're away, especially without warning. Ok, so we're not off base.

Then, while we teach in Singapore last week, several people are let into the yard by the old gardener. They harvest our two clove trees, again without letting us know - before or after. We return, the trees are bare, and the cloves are drying at the other end of the block. "Someone" has given "someone else" money for the cloves (not us).

A walk through the neighborhood
is a learning adventure
After the second intrusion, we contact two groups: first, we ask the landlord to find out who has come and to put a stop to similar visits while we are away. Previous tenants no longer have access to the property, right?

Then we tell the helpers that no one is permitted in the yard or house without our prior permission. They have our authority to say, "Not now." ("No!" may be too strong for this culture.)

It's a steep learning curve, being polite and learning the rules of living. Any of our assumptions may be wrong as our worldview is turned on its head!

But half the fun - and the adventure - is finding out what's what. God is good and we know we're where we're supposed to be. How we love the people and this country!

Read more:
*Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119:133 ESV

*Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. Jonah 2:8 NIV

*Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35 ESV

*Do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:20 NASB

*I do not set aside the grace of God. Galatians 2:21 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Redeemer, you call us to a higher purpose than that which the world offers. Lead us away from the daily temptations that all too often become easy idols, and grant us the grace to claim your eternal treasure.

Divine Wisdom, lead us down paths of understanding. Keep our steps steady and sure as we seek spiritual maturity, and open our hearts to the teachings of your word. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Spring-ing into autumn

Edging our Seattle driveway in fall
Most of the blogs I read are from the northern hemisphere. They are full of "Fall is coming!" and "Tips to make the most of the end of summer," and "The many moods of autumn." Friends are harvesting apples, baking pumpkin muffins, and using up their bumper crops of zucchini in chocolate cakes and spiralized noodles.

I also read updates from Australia. There, writers and photographers are recording the advent of spring. They are excited about the emerging leaves and blossoms. They chatter about getting the pool ready for summer. They advertise short-sleeved dresses in bright florals on crisp white backgrounds.

Spring in Seattle
It's a bit bizarre really. Spring is my favorite season. I'm choosing to celebrate spring twice a year, starting in September in Southern countries like New Zealand and South Africa. Meanwhile autumn is overtaking Europe and Canada.

I plan to enjoy a second round of springtime as it creeps over the northern landscape with tulip buds, unfurling leaves, and creeks overflowing with snow run-off.

We relish the endless summer - 85o days and 67o nights. We're near the end of the dry season and dust blows into the cracks of the old marble tiles on the floor. We keep our feet clean by wearing flip-flops inside and out, swapping "outdoor" to "indoor" shoes at the porch step.

The sun brightens the bedroom curtains about 5:30am. The noon sun dries out the leaves scattered across the lawn.

Sweet summer in the tropics
Once school is out, children chirp and call to each other. The afternoon winds sweep high clouds overhead and tickle the leaves on the guava tree by the porch. The little boys toss their kites up to be caught on the breeze. They snag on the electrical wires and wrap themselves around tree branches.

Darkness falls before 6pm. The neighborhood smells of curries and sembal chili sauce before all goes quiet about 10pm.

All God does is good and the world is a beautiful place.

Read more:
*Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. Isaiah 55:3
 *Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne. Jeremiah 14:21 ESV
*Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:29 ESV
*If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:31–32
*Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

*Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:2-6  NIV
*The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 NIV 
Moravian Prayer: Author of our faith, let us hear you when you impart your truth to us through your word. Let us live faithfully as your disciples, listening to your will for our lives, and freely following where you lead.
Forgiving Lord, thank you for your grace. Thank you for not turning away from us when we stumble in our walks with you. Let us look to you for truth and steadfastness. Amen.
C. S. Lewis, from A Grief Observed:
Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Savory memories

The national flower of Singapore
Monday, September 15.15
The week begins back in Bandung after 2 weeks of teaching in Singapore. What a great bunch of students we had! We complete classwork on Friday.

W and Kirsten do a lot of looking around the city. I'm mostly revamping my teaching material, getting it ready for the next day. The course is a new one for me. Next time around will be much easier!
Ducks hanging in the kitchen
of a fantastic Chinese restaurant,
where we enjoyed a meal Tuesday
Arab Street: colorful wheeling and dealing
I do make it to Arab Street on Thursday evening.

Street mosaics tell stories from Arab traditions

We eat great food at our favorite Indian diner, choosing a table on a side street with less traffic passing by.

Mutton briyani and curry sauce - fabulous
The grand mosque near Arab Street
Talking to the vendor
We haven't seen the former admin at the school for a few years. She calls early in the week and takes us to lunch after classes are over. It's nice to see her again. One of W's student and her husband join us. We talk and talk - and what a spread at the restaurant!

We fly home. We're supposed to be in Bandung by 11:30 but the flight is delayed on the runway and we turn back to the gate. The attendants open the door but will not let us out. Jakarta has denied the plane permission to land in Bandung: there's an air show going on - our initial delay (45 minutes before we got on the plane) has put us outside the window of landing between demonstrations. 

One last goodbye: free foot massage machines at Changi Airport (Singapore)
We sit at the gate for over an hour and are cleared to take off two hours behind schedule. It's nice to be met at the Bandung airport - we have no trouble at immigration after getting a visa-on-arrival and the car is waiting. We have to walk for a block: the regular parking is packed out. 

Our driver is parked behind other cars in one of the driving lanes. Cars go around until we pull out and creep to the gate to pay. It's a good business: it sometimes takes 10-30 minutes to get out of the parking lot - which often puts us into the next hour's fee.

Sabbath. Rest. While we were away, the friends upstairs have moved into a village house to make language learning easier. 

But Paula has been in agony with a sore neck all week. Massages, a chiropractor, and two doctors haven't helped. She and David fly to Singapore for medical treatment. We pray.

It's a delight to be back studying with R. We discuss some questions about sharing Jesus with others and look at Mark 5. That's always a difficult passage to read - the woman touches the hem of Jesus' cloak and is healed. How can we touch Him on Kirsten's behalf? We continue to pray and appeal for healing.

Later, we introduce Kirsten to Maxi's, a neighborhood restaurant where many locals have birthday parties and other celebrations. Mosts meals cost $2-7. There's a wedding going on in one of the rooms - and below our balcony table, a horse and its minder take little kids for a ride. It's about 70c for a pony ride. Some parents accompany their children, walking alongside. Others just let the cowboys take the kids and come back.

Pony rides
At the next table, a group of gals hang out, laughing and celebrating.
I signed up for an art print project a few months ago. The deal is this: make and send 11 theme-related prints to the art center to get 10 back. The art group keeps their favorite one and divides the rest among participants. It's due to be mailed tomorrow.

The theme this year is "From a Distant Shore." I paint eyes on 12 pieces of art paper and print over them - alphabets, shapes, and colors. Here's one I sent off:
The Golden Mean
 The balance and chaos
of learning a new language.
Knowing is golden
but not straightforward.
Letters floating.
Eyes watching.
Gradually flowering.

We harvest a jackfruit from the tree beside the driveway. Ibu A cuts the peel off, careful not to touch the sap. (The white sap can be used as glue - it looks a bit like Elmer's All-Purpose glue.) Ibu A wipes the sap off with a piece of newspaper as she goes around the 14" fruit. 
Then Ibu A cuts out the core and chops the fruit into pieces. The core is keras or hard. But the flesh around the seeds shreds into strips as she touches it. She washes the pieces and puts them on the stove to boil in water. She wipes the sap off her hands with cooking oil. Tidak air, she says - you can't wash it off with water.

When she's done, it's a feast of curry spices and peppers. We eat it over rice, stirring in salad bar fixings (bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, apples, and other veges). Probably not the way the Sundas eat it, but it's delicious. The oxtail I splurged $4 on is hard: it didn't cook long enough but its flavors infuse the dish.

Read more:
*So Abram went, as the Lord had told him. Genesis 12:4 ESV

*Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. Isaiah 55:3 ESV

*Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:29 ESV

*If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:31–32 ESV

*By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and set out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 ESV

Moravian Prayer: God of Abraham, you call each of us to follow you, though we often do not know the way. Give us faith to go, and give us trust in your guidance.

Author of our faith, let us hear you when you impart your truth to us through your word. Let us live faithfully as your disciples, listening to your will for our lives, and freely following where you lead. Amen.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

On feeling: And of course the presence of God is not the same as the sense of the presence of God. The latter may be due to imagination; the former may be attended with no “sensible consolation.” The Father was not really absent from the Son when He said “Why hast thou forsaken me?” You see God Himself, as man, submitted to man’s sense of being abandoned. The real parallel on the natural level is one which seems odd for a bachelor to write to a lady, but too illuminating not to be used. The act which engenders a child ought to be, and usually is attended by pleasure. But it is not the pleasure that produces the child. Where there is pleasure there may be sterility: where there is no pleasure the act may be fertile.

And in the spiritual marriage of God and the soul it is the same. It is the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes, and that’s all about it.