Sunday, September 21, 2014

Don't look my way

Grateful for dear friends here and there!
Dr. Joseph Castleberry speaking in Jakarta
Sunday, September 21

My heart is full as the new week starts. As usual, we've had a great weekend at IES Jakarta. We've traveled back every second weekend since our move to Bandung. It means 2 hours in traffic plus a 3 hour train ride each way.

We always return home refreshed and encouraged by Pastor Dave (nicknamed PD), Gigi, and the IES team. They have supported and helped us beyond all expectations. Thanks, everyone! We're so glad to partner with what God is doing through you.

Thursday when W and I get to town, we settle into the flat and rest up. Friday morning, we walk down the street to the Rempoa Outlet store. W finds Royal Robbins travel shirts for $8 (retail $80 in Seattle). I find some blouses. Oh hurrah... finally, a change of clothing!!! It feels wonderful to put on a different blouse in the morning. In the afternoon, I pop into H&M, a British-based retailer and find lightweight rayon trousers for $13, a God-given sweet bonus. Though I'm not a clothes horse, I was getting sick and tired of wearing the same clothes for 3 months.

We catch a ride to church with PD. President Joseph Castleberry of Northwest U in Seattle has arrived in Jakarta for the weekend. W and I participate in the university info event in the afternoon, encouraging parents to consider Christian higher education for their children. Later that evening, Joe preaches a wonderful message that synchs with the series of the previous weeks.

Joe is a friend as well as having been our boss. Seeing a familiar face in this context is surreal - our two worlds collide. I especially miss seeing his wife Kathleen but SO much appreciate the Trader Joes chocolates and chocolate chips she sent along!

Beautiful fresh veges - with a kick
W's stomach heaves from eating fresh veges at a Vietnamese restaurant. He misses the service before his system settles down with a generous dose of the charcoal pills we carry with us. I'm fine; I stick to cooked vegetables and enjoy my noodle soup.

We leave the cake from Bandung on the office table for staff dinner. We can't stay. Bramonos take us to the mall to transfer our phones from their names to ours. Earlier this summer, before our visas and bank accounts came through, they graciously put our phone cards on their account. However, we need our names on the contract to pay online. (After running around all week without being about to recharge our data in Bandung, W's put this at the top of his Jakarta-chores list.) It takes the Telcomsel assistant until 9pm (store closing) to complete the transaction. Meanwhile I run downstairs to buy more of the same rayon trousers from H&M.

Our late supper is worth the wait. W has butter chicken, while I enjoy a Malay chicken curry with roti (our go-to breakfast when we teach in Singapore). B's find their favorites in the traditional-food court as well.

W snaps pictures of the scenes outside the train
Sunday morning, we catch a ride downtown with Gigi, who is headed for church. We hop a cab from Dr. C's hotel (next to the skyscraper where the church holds its services) to the station and board the 10:15am train.

At the station, we experience the curious dynamic that we've noted in malls, on the street, and in other public context in Asia. Expats walking past each other don't look each other in the eye. We ignore each other.

Why? It's strange to see someone so out-of-context (=someone who looks like us rather than like local Indonesians, Singaporeans, Chinese, etc.) Foreigners grow accustomed to being stared at by the locals but when we meet, it somehow feels awkward. We often pretend we haven't seen each other.

One day when we were riding the bus in Jakarta, another European couple boarded. "Hey, get off our bus," W whispered to me with a laugh. I knew just what he meant. We're considered out of place ourselves; seeing more of "our people" multiplies the weirdness.

We're still not immune to this beauty: rice fields
We approach the young Dutch couple sitting a few seats ahead of us on the train. They tell us they're in Bandung overnight before heading to Jogja and Surabaya. We give them our contact info: if something unforeseen happens, our friends in both places would be happy to help them. Once outside the station, we flag down an angkot mini-van to take them to their hotel. Off they go! Godspeed, you two.

The angkot driver who picks us up knows the complex where we live. There's hardly anyone on the street. Apparently he and the passenger in the front seat are friends. They buy a cigarette each from vendors walking between the cars. Before lighting up, they ask our permission.

Then they ask if we want a ride all the way home. We say, "Sure!" There are no other passengers so they detour off the main route to wind through the neighborhood. They drive us to our house! The driver asks for $4 and cheerfully accepts the $2 W counter-offers. (W finds that drivers often ask him for double their actual fee.) Cool. We've never been driven to the door before by a bus driver. It's just as good as a taxi, at a fraction of the cost. We schlep the carry-ons inside and unpack.

An ugly surprise on top of the bookshelf:
3 days of termites at work
We love this house. Walking in the door means coming home. Sadly, wood and termite debris is scattered over the living room: the beams are rotting away. It better get fixed before it falls down. We send pictures to the landlord but don't hear back.

For our late lunch-supper, we walk down the hill, through the neighborhood alleys. We discover a new food court behind the Catholic University. The food is good. And cheap. W's schnitzel ("chicken steak") costs $2 and my noodles are a few cents less.

Some female students leave the tables at the same time. They shriek and don't know what to do: 2 mid-sized dogs are walking in the alley. Many cousins are afraid of dogs (classified as unclean). I motion to the girls to come with us, pointing at the dogs and saying a stern "NO!" as we walk by. The girls are very happy! to escape the potential fierceness of these friendly unknowns, who wag their tails as they stroll by. The girls kindly point us through a warren of options toward the main street. We'll return to that food court another day. The gals say the food is good and lots of students eat there.

An old man stops us to ask us where we're from. He understands some English, acquired 20 years ago for business. He bemoans his need for a cane and we talk about where we're from, etc. Like nearly everyone else we've met in Bandung, he offers a warm welcome to his city.

W needs to get a key cut for Bu A's husband. Mr A plans to repair our termite-eaten windows and back door this week. A heap of wood moulding lies on our porch, ready to go. The key shop is closed, but we stop by the market for a brush and some facecloths. We walk back to the house and relax.

Oh dear. My Mac computer mousepad has been crushed and cracked in W's bag. Luckily it still works. We catch up on writing and email until 9:30pm.

Music from IES Jakarta streams through the house this evening as we wind down. (To listen, click here.) It's been a lovely weekend. But I'm not sure that I'm ready for another challenging week of language school.

God is enough, right?

Read more:
*Happy are the people whose God is the Lord. Psalm 144:15 ESV

*For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Philippians 1:21 ESV

*You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19 ESV

Moravian Prayer: The promise of life with you, dear Lord, fills us with joy! This joy comes from the simple fact that we have union with you, no matter where we are in our lives. Thank you. Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Instead of more books...

Before: A fraction of our books on 7'X12' shelves
I'm a book lover. We had to shed thousands of books in the past years of downsizing, and W cut and scanned thousands more to take with us electronically when we moved overseas. So I'm not against writing or buying books.

This morning I open email to find messages promoting books on sharing our faith, being better followers of Jesus, and how-tos on being good people. None of the books are bad, as far as I can tell.

But as I listened to Proverbs in my devotions, a few thoughts struck me about dealing with the exhausting heaps of advice and never-ending how-to fads:

1. Do we know the Book? How many observations do we need about scripture - before we actually read it for ourselves? Can we be discerning about what others write if we don't know God's message to us first? Reading the commentaries before reading the Bible is a bit like building a house without a foundation. When you get to a certain mass, the whole thing collapses. Without pouring strong spiritual footings, we may not know where the builder went wrong or the warning signs of a leaning structure, whether of theology or practice.

Idea: read the Bible in big chunks. Read it often and think about the implications of following or not following its principles. What patterns of God's character become obvious? What does he care about? Do we value the same things?


A quiet corner for meditation
2. Live out the Book. W and I have marveled at the complicated "theology" that some preachers work out. We've talked about how much simple and practical counsel the Bible offers - without our complex twists and turns added.

We have a hard enough time doing what the Bible obviously says. Never mind trying to make up more intricate stuff. Lord have mercy! (not said lightly)

Idea: stick close to what we know for sure, without worrying so much about potential rule-breaking. Live a good life, far from the cliff's edge of "maybe I can get away with this because the Bible doesn't specifically forbid it." What happens to the obedient? What happens to the rebellious? What outcome do we desire - for ourselves, our families, and those in our circles of influence?

3. Be accountable in / to a community of believers. In a conversation this week, friends noted that the higher up a leader is, the less willing s/he may be to let others point out weaknesses in his/her character, actions, or thinking.

Gathering one or two people around us who think like we do isn't always helpful. We also need people who see things differently, who challenge our ideas, and who will call us to account when we swerve from what is right.

Idea: let's let God bring people into our lives. Carefully listen and evaluate what they tell us, aligning their advice and their lifestyle with what we learn from scripture.

4. Let others get to know you. Our family, neighbors, and cities will be more greatly impacted by how we allow Jesus to shape and form us into a godly persons, than by seeing us try one gimmick after another from books about: "101 cool ways to share your faith."

Idea: put away the evangelism trends for a few months. Let's take the pressure off. What if, instead, we'd live thoughtfully and truthfully from morning to night. What if we'd pause throughout the day to ask, simply, "What is the best way to speak and act, following close to Jesus?" Also consider: "Am I doing this to please and glorify God or me?" Let's watch how others respond to Jesus, reaching out to them through us.

Read more:
*This was Hannah's prayer: "How I rejoice in the Lord! How he has blessed me! Now I have an answer for my enemies, For the Lord has solved my problem. How I rejoice! No one is as holy as the Lord! There is no other God, Nor any Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:1-2 TLB

*The righteous know the rights of the poor. Proverbs 29:7 ESV

*We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1 ESV

*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

Moravian Prayer: As we go about our days dear Lord, remind us that we are to love one another, weak or strong, just as you love us. Amen.

C. S. Lewis,  Weight of Glory:
When I attempted . . . . to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the land- scape loses the celestial light. . . . . For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. 

Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.” 

A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. 

By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. 

And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On our feet (most of the time)

Good homemade Korean food!
Thursday, September 18
After my third fall, these comfy shoes are history. The first time, I slipped on wet leaves walking in Singapore. The second time, I skidded onto hands and knees on a muddy patch along the road in Jakarta.

We were coming back from dinner in the dark the other night. Pavement in Indonesia can range from great to awful. I stepped sideways on a 3" repaved edge a foot or two from the side of the street and my foot tilted sideways. Before I knew it I was on the ground. Again. In the same sandals. (Hands and knees have a few scrapes and bruises. My trousers are intact. So the fall itself is no big deal.)

I've worn out four favorite pairs of walking shoes since we arrived. I have to splurge on some lasting footwear, a pain for someone who finds item-specific-shopping a chore. There's no Nordstrom's Rack nearby and I can't return a non-fitting shoe to Sierra Trading Post, my former go-to shops. Great walking shoes are expensive here so I will pray over an online order and have W bring it back, taking my chances.

Squished silver
It's been a learning and exploring week again.
Wednesday after class, we went to a family spa and had someone try to press the kinks out of us. W's back has been spasming (he says it's unrelated to the walking) and sometimes he's in a lot of pain. The massage relaxes us but doesn't help with physical issues. We put our watches and rings into W's knapsack. My silver family ring gets crushed out of shape and there's an imprint of woven cloth on the top. Oh no! W says a jeweler can fix it so I hand it over and put on the original brass one.

The insect exterminators came Thursday to explore and give an estimate ($1000). We are not imagining the infestation in the house. There are two kinds of termites everywhere in ceilings and wood trim (including a few doors and windows about to fall down) plus we have carpenter ants. The workers will have to take off some roof tiles and shimmy into the attic to clear the ceilings. The landlord had promised us he'd take care of insects before we moved in; we figure he'll negotiate a better rate for himself. We'll pay maintenance fees once he's paid the initial exterminations.

School was hard. The new teacher (W/Th) teaches kids English, so she brings pages of grammar exercises to help us make sense of the vocabulary we're acquiring. SOOO helpful, thank God! A few more things make sense and we have the basics to chat on the bus and along our morning walks.

Better than a good restaurant! Korean food
A Korean couple hosts a class lunch at their home for Thursday. With a few gas burners in a small kitchen (and a huge Korean-imported fridge), the wife cooks us an 8-dish meal with kim-chee, sticky rice, spinach omelet, noodles, and more = fantastic flavors, beautiful colors The food is mostly steamed (not fried!) so we all dig in and enjoy it.

Thursday, W also drives to school for the first time. The commute takes half the time and cut 4,000 steps out of our morning. Being a passenger to a "new" driver is a hair-raising experience. (Remember your teens learning to drive?) W's getting the hang of having the driver's seat on the opposite side of the car and driving on the left. He'll have to be as patient with me when I get my license (lost with my wallet the first week, so it's being replaced.)

We're home at 2, in time to pack up and head for the train station. We walk to the main street with our one rolling case and two little carry-ons. An angkot comes before the taxi so we hop on and for 70c are dropped at the station a mere 3/4 hour later. W drags our luggage across the long rail station parking lot and finds us bubble tea, which we sip before buying 4:15pm tickets to Jakarta. The 3-hour train ride costs $20 for both of us - much cheaper than car maintenance and we don't have to sit in traffic. The last two City-Trans (van) commutes were 5.5 hours for 100 miles.

The teachers and students we're beginning to love
The train winds past green mounds of rice plants waving on terraced slopes, palm-covered forsets, and houses both cobbled and crafted. The reddish soil along the track sis littered with cigarette packs, plastic garbage bags and food wrappers.

We get out on the wrong side of the station but one of the taxis dropping off passengers pauses for us - just as a policeman is explaining we have to go to the other side where the taxis queue.  We hop in for the $7 taxi ride. The driver thinks he's in the Grand Prix, racing between other vehicles and motorcycles. I quit looking at the road and pray for safety - which God grants in a record time of 1 hour.

By 8:30pm, we're hauling our bags into Sebastian Coffee Shop (a funky little restaurant across from the flat), where we eat a light supper. Then we flag a break in traffic (wave hands, palm down as we enter traffic), cross the street to push open the gates to the courtyard, and wave hello to the security guard. Up the steps and ---

oh, Gigi has been hard at work! There's pretty bedroom furniture, a flower arrangement on the dining table, and red-framed mirrors brightening up the LR wall. It's a lovely respite for this visual person. I sleep like a log, knowing nothing will fall on my face from the ceiling.

Friday morning, one of our churches sends me an email. Their women are shopping for their church-sponsored missionary wives, so it's time to think of Christmas presents. Is there anything I'd like? A few things spring to mind but the note itself makes my day. I laugh and then I tear up. That women across the world would think of blessing and praying for us ... wow.

The transition - from Seattle where I knew what was in my cupboards, having a clean and organized home with everything at hand -  to here where I'm missing doors on kitchen cupboards that are mildew-ing and being eaten alive - is probably bigger than I realized, if I'm having such an emotional reaction.

I'm feeling peckish from not sleeping well (bugs above my head) and not being able to communicate with locals. A few emails last week also sideswiped me with unexpected challenges. So submission to Christ and the learning process continues. Emails like the one this morning are God's gifts to my heart and soul. W and I are finding out that missy's are the ones most affected by their calling. Beyond what happens in others through our service, we are being changed inside and out. Thanks be to God.

Here are some random things about where we are that might interest you:

  • Many motorcyclists wear flip-flop sandals. Some gals drive wearing high heels and formal office wear. A few riders wear their coats backwards for better protection. 
  • A lot of people wear sweaters and coats in the tropical heat. Students pile backpacks on top, and a lot of women wear full head scarves in the 90o heat. I'm gasping in a cotton T-shirt. (I usually wear ugly but efficient heat-wicking travel gear since we're outside so much. If I were indoors, I'd wear normal clothes.)
  • Nights are pleasant in Bandung: 67-72oF. The lizards inside the house chirp to each other as soon as dusk, dark, and cooling begins.
  • A motorcycle takes the place of a 4-5 passenger car. Men and women pile 2-3 kids on the bike and take them to school or shopping. Sometimes the whole family is on one cycle. (We've become so accustomed to it that we hardly blink now, but it was a source of wonder at first!)
  • Kids learn to drive early. 12 and 13-year-olds take the car for a spin around the neighborhoods; youngsters 8-10 years old putt by on motorcycles. By the time they'd be getting a license (if anyone did), they're experienced drivers. 
  • Trees and plants shed their leaves, blooms, and seeds constantly. Everything needs trimming, pruning, and shaping. Maids and gardeners sweep, mop, and rake at least a few times a week.
  • Indonesia is green. Wherever a tree sprouts, it's left to grow. In the cities, sidewalks and streets veer around trees. The roots lift pavement and pavers. The trunks block the sidewalk or side of the street. 
  • Just like in North America, you have to be intentional about eating fruits and vegetables. Other than chilies, most food is fried and tan-colored, not green, red, purple, or yellow.
  • The violence of US movies seems shocking from our distance. When we see movies on the train or in electronic shops, know they're from Hollywood when people are getting stabbed, beaten, or assaulted. 
  • Cement has pliability added for flex during earthquakes. It's not the hard-cracked surface we know, though it looks the same.
  • Garbage is collected, sorted, and recycled by hand. Trucks may bring garbage to a central point in a neighborhood. It's often dumped on a sidewalk for sorting, so we breathe deeply before and after we swerve onto the street around it. Men and women go through the bags and take out recyclables to sell them. The man who called out in our neighborhood last weekend was thrilled with his haul of cardboard from our unpacking. He filled his cart and went off as happy as we were to see the last of it. 
  • It may be rainy season, but it hasn't rained in Bandung for weeks. The streets and water drainage ditches stink with garbage and dust. We're all waiting for a cleansing rainfall.
That's it for today. Blessings! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puzzling through the new culture

I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what the Yahoo headlines mean (translated from Indonesian). Can you figure these out?


How about this one?

Or this?

Sometimes I think I get pretty close to understanding but other times I'm plainly off track! Word orders, alternate meanings that get translated strangely, and not knowing what's going on make for funny reading.

Sunday, August 10

I'm home resting when W bursts into the flat. He hasn't been gone more than a half hour. He was on his way to the transport company to arrange our trip to Bandung, phone in pocket. When he stood up up from his seat on the bus, his pocket had been picked and his IPhone was gone. The thief immediately turned off the locator so W can't find it with my phone tracker. He puts it in lost mode, wiping data and programs.

W texts my number to his phone. If someone buys it and tries to use it, they will have a way to contact us to let us purchase it back. As is, it can be hacked for parts, but it can't be used. (Needless to say, I've kept my returned phone in view since its return!)

We relax together for the rest of the day.
Friday: August 1:
One of the things I love most about moving to Indonesia is the eternal summer. The thought of 3 months of summer, squeezed between rain or cool days, has always made me feel desperate as the calendar flips from month to month. No longer. In spite of it being dry season, we hear rain on the roof almost every night. Sometimes a nice ocean breeze sweeps through Jakarta and cools the moisture from our skin. Other times it’s just plain hot. Lovely.

In the morning, we catch a ride to IES (church) to watch a recording session and catch up with the staff. Pastor Dave’s recording all day, but we break for lunch after 2. Mario and Daniela are amazing at finding food. (We haven’t yet figured out the protocol for bringing something for the staff shared meals.)

We’re on our way out of the foyer when Gigi calls us back for apple crisp and ice cream. I am so not hungry (didn’t we just eat?) but W loves fruit pastry. Totally worth the 40 steps up to the offices again! along with the million-layer traditional cake we’re still munching on since VBS two weeks ago. Here everyone walks the stairs, ignoring the elevator. No wonder they’re trimmer than back home.

At 4, we hop Bus Blok M for a jaunt to see what’s what at Glodok. W finds a tech mall that’s mostly closed, so we walk by and he’ll return. By 6:30pm, we’re ready for supper at Sun City, where we had dim sum another day. It’s not far from the bus stop, but we can’t find the entry. We end up being waved to a service elevator and coming out beside a garbage truck on Floor 5. It’s a quick walk through the parking lot to Sun City, a whole different world = Chinese elegance. Above us, three 8’ wide crystal chandeliers hang in gilded ceiling nooks. Over the balconies, 2-3’ crystal lamps droop from rounded gold domes.

We are the second table seated in a restaurant with 70+ tables. Gradually Our server puts the napkins on our laps and hovers at table’s edge. He refills our jasmine tea the moment we’re down ½ inch. He adjusts the table # sign (62). And the minute food is ready, he takes it from the person who brought it from the kitchen. We decide on steamed rice and 2 dishes: first, crisp Szechwan chicken (teeny skewers = toothpicks). Hot hot, deliciousness. And second, a mushroom/port noodle combo. Oh yum to both. We have leftovers for another day.

When I put rice in my plate, the waiter rushes over with a separate rice bowl. Oops. He brings a fresh plate once our plates are near empty. It’s slightly strange to have someone watch us eat. Good thing we’re not self-conscious.

We walk out and around the block since we come down another elevator and don’t know where we landed. A gal on the street points us to the next bus station. W’s happy: he walked through a new neighborhood (dark put populated) and gets to see what’s around a new stop. He notes how safe things feel and how friendly people are. The occasional person glowers at us, but they might do so to their neighbors as well.) A man shakes his finger and acts embarrassed when his little daughter looks up in surprise and exclaims, “Bule!” (foreigner). We smile and say, Yia (yes).

We hop the bus for one more stop: Senaya malls. We’re not in the mood for much, though W finds the tea shop he spotted the first days here. He buys a teapot (IngenuiTea type, that drips tea out the bottom when placed on a cup.)

We’re happy to catch a taxi. The driver has no clue where he’s taking us and makes a U-turn which makes it obvious. He stops so W can hop in the front seat with GoogleMaps to steer us home before 10pm. In the night, I get enews from Seattle when I wake to turn on the Bible reader. As usual, we have things to pray for and things to thank God for.

Saturday:
Our daughter emails and calls with a practical question. She has decisions regarding flat rental. She’s not accustomed to being yelled at or having her stuck wrecked by roomies, so it's time for a change. We pray God’s protection and provision with her. All is well that is under God’s control.


Today’s typically the day we go to service at IES Central.  We leave the flat by 11:30 and are working online by 1. W catches a nap in the office while I write. It feels like another day in paradise - except that there's work to do and prayers to pray and books to read and . . . 

Guess who came to dinner?

Courage, matey! First bites
as we dug in
I've never particularly liked fish - unless they were in an aquarium or in the river.

I have wonderful memories of weekends when Grandpa took us kids fishing so he could throw an extra line into the Fraser River. A little Evenrude motor putt-putted his aluminum boat across the water, sometimes catching only after the current swept us 100 feet downriver. The spring floods would bring logs and bramble with them but it seemed an adventure to avoid them. Ah, little did we think about the dangers of tumbling into the fast-moving torrent.

Grandpa kept the sturgeon and salmon he caught for smoking and cooking, and tossed the bullheads (catfish) back in. We children loved running across the gravel bars and exploring the shoreline. Grandpa would call, "Hey, you're scaring the fish!" when we got too rambunctious. He caught enough that we could eat all the fish we wanted, which wasn't much.

I preferred my finned swimmers in a tank. Over the year we had salt and freshwater aquariums of all sizes. I found the fish, cruising around their habitat, very relaxing to watch.

But today - a fish came to dinner on each plate. He looked at us. We looked back. After the first bite, we attacked with gusto, fork and spoon in hand.

Bu A is our new helper. When we interviewed her, I asked her if she like to cook. (Why hire someone to prepare meals who doesn't like cooking?) She said she liked cooking and was willing to make recipes that were translated to Bahasa Indonesia. I thought I'd see what she could make, so instead of recipes, I put a collection food in a fridge drawer the first few days and asked her to make something with it. She cooked up outstanding dishes with the chicken and shrimp.

At the market last weekend, she asked if we liked fish. I told her we'd give anything a try once. She chose 3 fish, which the vendor gutted and cleaned. When we got home, Bu A washed them again and put them in the freezer for another day.

All that was left 
Today was the day. I wasn't sure I was going to like the meal when it began to cook and smelled of the sea. But oh my.

What a wonderful taste. I like fish - who knew! if it's cooked by an artist. We left only little slivers, a head, and tail for each fish on the plate. Her "ketchup" (sambal pepper sauce, Bango sweet soy sauce, and minced shallots) went perfectly with the dish. Rice and broccoli rounded out the lunch.

I asked her if she'd be willing to cook that for company sometime. She's said yes . . . and we'll hold her to it! Guests, you are in for a gastronomic treat, whether you thought you liked fish or not! And they do look kind of cute on the plate, don't you think?

Read more:
*Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13 ESV

*This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 ESV

*See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV

*So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is
love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, we thank you for creating and breathing life into each of us. Create within us a desire to get to know you and your Son more deeply. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

All His benefits

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits. Psalm 103:2 ESV


How many times have you and I have read that? Sung it without thinking? Taken it for granted? Yet the writer of songs tells us not to forget the benefits of belonging to God.

The advantages of being rescued from darkness and brought into the marvelous light of Good News have never been more obvious to us. As calls to prayer begin in the neighborhood before dawn and echo through dusk, W and I remind our hearts to turn to God. Here are some things we celebrate as we pray:

  1. Our faith brings us into partnership with God. The One who sent his Son to redeem us willingly becomes part of the lives he has paid for. We don't walk alone. And God is happy that each of us is not like other people: he could have made copies of the "perfect" person if he would have wanted us all alike. Instead, he chooses to make and remake each person day by day ... and loves each one: you as you, me as me.
  2. Our faith is hopeful. We know that the price Jesus paid is enough. We don't have to slave away with rituals, hoping to do enough to win salvation. We are certain that God has us covered. After all,  he knew the cost of reconciling us to himself - and paid it in full.
  3. Our faith covers the present and the future. Great opportunities and hellish hardships come to each human. Sometimes there seem to be few answers or we don't feel like we can meet the good (or bad) of the day, but nothing takes God by surprise. Have you ever looked back in amazement at the unexpected resolution to an "impossible something?" I sure have. When there seemed no way forward, God brought me through to the other side.
  4. Our faith demands of us only what we can do with God's help. W and I are in language school and tied up with obligations most days. Our minds are weary and our bodies never seem to catch up. Living day by day, we know God is at work. As we meet other Christ-followers, we see how their paths and ours intersect with the world around us. In this day, this obligation, or this opportunity, God is leading you and me for his purposes. What we do today is enough.
  5. Our faith is a Story worth sharing. We are redeemed for a purpose. God has placed you and me in our communities because others need to hear how much he loves them. How he looks after them. How he longs to conform each person until we are truly his. What joy! What comfort! What peace! he provides. These benefits are utterly unlike - and far above - any other offer that might seek to seduce us away from him.
What benefits can you celebrate today?

Read more:
*Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Amend your ways and your doings. Jeremiah 7:4-5 ESV

*Thus said the Lord of hosts: “Truly, one who touches you touches the apple of my eye.” Zechariah 2:8 ESV

*If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31 ESV

*The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, your command to us seems so simple, and yet it can be so hard to follow through. Help us to see ourselves and you in each other, so we might extend the love that we have for ourselves to all those around us.

God, as we go throughout our days, may we feel and know your protective power. May you heal our pre-existing wounds and shield us from those things that continue to try to harm us. Amen.

From C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain: 

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. 

I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. 

The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. 

For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. ... 

God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A bit more faith and gratitude - and a little less bulk here and there

"Crackers" that put the crunch into lunch
I've missed writing about lessons of faith. The blog shifted to a cultural travelogue as we moved from the USA to Indonesia. I mentioned my feeling of loss to a friend. Her good idea is that I choose a day each week - how about Sunday or Monday? - to post observations on life with Jesus. Thanks for the great tip, Kim! (Check out Kim's website and blog here.)

Oh, we had a great lunch, stopping at a restaurant we pass in the angkot nearly every day on the way to school. We're acquiring a taste for the fried flour crackers that accompany most meals. A little bagged assortment often sits in a basket so people can snack until their meal comes. We're charged for whatever we open. (Scroll down to see pics of the rest of lunch.)

W's driving has improved. He knocked someone's mirror with ours in a narrow alley. They were parked on the wrong side of the street, not very near the curb. I could feel his confidence growing, and Jakarta traffic was on the other side of town. A good thing.

Gado-gado. Vegetables in spicy peanut sauce
On this Friday night, our household continues to settle. We bought cooking pots and kitchen knives from a commercial wholesaler today. It's about time: my $3 general-purpose knife is already dull. The non-stick coating on the little $4 saucepan is peeling and scratched ... after a month.

Laundry has taken a lot of time and energy since we moved. The washing machine is tiny and requires standing by to add water for each wash or rinse. For one wash-load, we move clothes to the separate spin tub up to 4 times and make multiple adjustments for balanced weight. The spin tub was too small for a duvet cover or a large sheet. After three weeks of intensive language school, we didn't feel much of a call to stay home on days off to wash 2-3 loads of clothes. Just saying!

Last week, W checked out mid-range washers that rinse and spin the clothing in one tub like at home. The shop delivered one yesterday and the helper smiled when I cheered. It doesn't heat water, since that would have cost an extra $400 and detergent here is designed for cold-only washing. W moved the little oldie to a bathroom; we'll wash rags, the small rugs which needed at every 'wet' door, and generally dirty household things.

Bihun (vermicelli) in broth
We have no dryer. We hang clothes on the clothesline or on a big indoor rack during tropical downpours. Dryers are rare - and expensive. We found wire to redo the clothesline, which is currently five strands of twisted wires stretched between metal supports. Laundry has often snagged on the knots. Oops.

Our true luxury this week? Buying a bathroom scale. W has shed 20 lbs and I'm down 13 lbs from the high we'd packed on during the stress and rich food of itineration. Dragging the weight around each day was draining. A bonus: our clothes fit again! Sure, we could have done without a scale. But stepping on it made us happy and it sure comes in handy when packing luggage.

Our a very special "THANK YOU!" to Angela Craig and the women of the NWMN who donated a household allowance gift to get us re-started. It has really blessed us. When we sold most of our things at home, we put the money in an account to replace things here. But oh my, what a $$ difference between selling used goods in a land of plenty and acquiring them again - even on sale - in a land where decent-quality household goods are a luxury.

Greens with chicken
Our nice landlord came by again today. Instead of chipping away at to-dos bit by bit, we finally wrote a list for him. We've been renting a big space because of future plans but living in a few rooms.

He seemed a bit overwhelmed - and asked us to check out termite companies and get estimates for getting rid of the bugs. (None of us want the heavy roof tiles collapsing on us in the coming years.) When IKEA opens in Jakarta, we'll tell him how much cabinets are: W has installed them before and can easily replace the rotting ones we have now. Hmmm, these base cabinets aren't even fastened to the wall ... Our neighborhood handyman is no craftsman carpenter.

Dr A's helper fixed the water flow in the guest shower - so after the bugs stop dropping things on the beds, the house will be considered open for visitors. Meanwhile, we'll have company for Sunday lunch and we look forward to that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making progress

Miss Bee's, our neighborhood restaurant, open to the air
Tuesday, September 9

We get better information today at language school; two staffers take the class while our teacher has an appointment. She clears up a lot of clutter in our brains (grammar and vocab). We have learned some ... but there's sure a lot to acquire when learning from zero! Yesterday was a new week of language school. I was tired enough to stay home and rest rather than go out with W. He arrived back at 7, tired out - and then we walked to Miss Bee's for supper.

As we are walking through the neighborhood to catch a bus today, our helper's friend stops us. She asks if we are the family Bu A works for. When we say yes, we can understand enough that we know they've been friends since childhood. Bu A is cooking nasi goreng (fried rice) and chicken when we get home. She is very nice and always asks before taking things home. We think she is 45-50 years old. Her sister works in the same neighborhood and asked as soon as we moved in if we needed help. So far, what a godsend.

One interpretation of a "hamburger."
It sounded normal on the menu.
Grilled cheese bread
over meat with gravy
.
We've made no progress on the house bugs. I told W I can stand it one more week; then he has to tell Dr Alfred that we're hiring an exterminator and will give him the bill. Our maid acted horrified when I showed her all the black crumbs dripping from the ceiling onto the guest beds. (The plastic wrap stays on the new mattresses and the bedding in the cabinet until the insects are cleared up). It's not that there's a big chunk of yuck left anywhere (besides accumulations on the wood windows where I haven't vacuumed; there's no sense in doing those since they're being replaced.) But it's the continual flaking off of little dots from above. 

I hear the lizards chirping as we unpack our schoolwork. Hopefully those lizzies are hard at work!

Oh... the food Bu A prepared is delicious! How can she cook so well with such awful pots? All we bought initially was a 7" non-stick saucepan for $4 and a 2-quart cheap stainless pot. And a wok. Yet not once has the food been burned or spoiled. This Friday, we plan to go to the cookware shop for decent pots and baking pans. 

Miss Bee's is famous for desserts.
Our attitude to setting up the house so it serves the Lord and ministry well: "Everything in its time and nothing in haste." Of course we bought a few plastic garbage bins and clothes hampers, and picked up the cheapest brushes and a few go-to pots upon arrival. Once we find quality goods at a reasonable price, we will buy them to last a long time. After all, we plan to spend a lot of years in Indonesia!

We need to replace the kitchen cabinets, which stink so badly that we've taken most of the doors off. (IKEA opens in Jakarta soon, and we may find some there.) Gradually W is repairing things: the toilet and sink faucets drip, the plaster is knocked off in places, and the water pressure is still enough for only one shower. Good thing he's handy and we don't have sleepover guests yet! We're scrubbing off layers of accumulated dirt, bit by bit. I told Bu A today that she and I must keep cleaning until it's done ... and then the house will belong to her and me. She gave me a thumbs up. 

The sun's out, the weather's a pleasant 80o, and we have eaten. We loved our home and work in Seattle. But we are SO grateful to be here, praying our way through the neighborhoods, making friends, and enjoying the new surroundings. 

Thank you for your kind words and prayers day after day. It eases our transition to a life-as-we-don't-yet-know-it.

Read more:
*The Lord God is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. Habakkuk 3:19 TLB

*Here's the devotional for today's staff meeting in Jakarta. See why we love it and miss our coworkers? (And why we pray along with them each Tuesday?)

We gather together to worship God,
who, through the blood of Jesus Christ,
has freed us from the emptiness and futility of our former lives!
We have been reborn—we are now children of the living God!
Come, let’s worship the God who has set us free!

SINGING
One Thing Remains

OPENING PRAYER
God of justice, peace and righteousness come into our midst this morning.
Breathe your breath, your Spirit of prophecy, your energy,
your enlivening, your imagination on us.
Wake us up. Open our eyes. Unplug our ears
That we might hear. That we might see.
That we might grieve. That we might dream.
That we might follow the ways of your extraordinary kingdom
Amen

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

READING OF THE PSALMS

Psalm 115
1Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.
2Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
3Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
4But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
5They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
6They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
7They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.
9All you Israelites, trust in the Lord—
    he is their help and shield.
10House of Aaron, trust in the Lord—
    he is their help and shield.
11 You who fear him, trust in the Lord—
    he is their help and shield.
12The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord—
    small and great alike.
14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
    both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
16The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
    but the earth he has given to mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.
Praise the Lord.[a]

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

NEW TESTAMENT READING

Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. 

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!