Thursday, May 28, 2009


Physiotherapy is an interesting process. Some people in the group session for hip and knee replacements are athletes. They swing through the exercises, their strong muscles helping them push through the pain. They are determined to do more and better each time. "Wow," say the PT crew. "You're making great progress and will back to normal in no time."

Some are sedentary older people, for whom this is a delay in a decline of mobility or health. They do the exercises and hope it doesn't hurt too much. Some of them have not moved this much in months or years. "C'mon honey, you can get just a little more out of that hip," say the helpers. "If you want to have good range of motion, you'll have to push a bit."

Our daughter continually gets the comment of "You're too young for this!" from co-participants. (We agree.) She strains through the motions, bending as far as she can, and trying to straighten the knee back out. We watch the effort needed for simple moves. "Keep trying: your knee is doing very well," encourage the therapists.

Each time I stride up the stairs to the third floor room, I am reminded that a healthy body and mind are a great blessing, not to be taken for granted. Thank you God for every working member and the capacity to enjoy life and mobility! And thank you for the encouragers who tell us the truth and our potential.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Standing by

Today I'm eating and our daughter is fasting for surgery. My months of fasting and other spiritual disciplines have ended. My appeals to God have come again to this: God is God and we who serve him resign to his decisions.

Our daughter is preparing for her knee replacement this afternoon, provided a new cold bug doesn't interfere to push it off. We just want it to be over so she can get back on her feet. This is her fourth joint replacement and fifth major surgery. Between, there's a kind of painful equilibrium where she deals with her rheumatoid arthritis and friends and family pray.

Every time surgery rolls around, my entire being brims with sadness. On the day of surgery a mother is supposed to be 'up' and strong for her child. It's not about us parents, after all. Not about anyone but our daughter. So there is a front to be upheld and a cool functionality that kicks in.

Each time this happens, the process deepens my longstanding relationship with a heavenly Father who could speak a word, a Creator who could easily breathe his life into a body or joint, and a God who could heal with no loss to his person or power. It's also about loving a God who helps us endure pain, comforts us, and faithfully watches over us. Christian friends warn me not to forget to be grateful for many blessings, even when I'm feeling betrayed by the ugliness of reality.

The process of faith is about trusting that nothing is wasted. Not the hideous scrape of a surgeon's saw or the medical miracle of anesthetics to dull unbearable agony. Not the generosity of caregivers, the skill of doctors, or the greed of the American medical system. Not even my disappointment with God or the closing off of emotions to wait out the day. Especially not the trust that God and his love remain the same when life is intolerable.

As my husband goes off to do what he loves - teach - and I stay behind for the hospital run, we are bound together by prayer for this child. Grief pushes down everything but words on paper. Speaking would smash the defenses that keep me alive and upright.

Read more:
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. N one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:1-5 NIV

Friday, May 22, 2009

Job training

Thirty-five years of accumulating creative skills, networking, building a business, and perfecting an area of expertise helped when I was hired as a non-traditionalist to develop a niche. But working for myself hadn't prepped me very well for institutional conformity.

A traditional workplace that emphasizes correct channels is a great teacher. Participants learn compliance to bring the best effects with the least effort. Some employees see work as holistic, while others show up for work and happily punch out without giving the job another thought until the next day. Some are naturally gifted with smooth speech, and some are blunter. Some instinctively understand administrative expectations while others spill over and create messes. A bureaucracy has a long memory that notes and charts stepping outside the lines.

Inside the box, we gain job skills and negotiate with internal allies. We watch how power and powerlessness shapes character. We learn job consistancy and careful attention to rules and regulations. We learn to keep our own counsel while nurturing non-institutional mentors for balance and insight. Separating job performance from self worth is crucial for survival.

God knows how past and present lessons will inform us and shape our resume. Politics and hierarchies can be good preparation for the future. While trying to twist ourselves into a functional mold, we are wise to stop occasionally to ask what we really want from life. To examine how the past has shaped us. And how the present will help us love and serve God in days to come.

Read more:
*But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Psalm 31:14-16 NIV

*A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. Proverbs 10:4-5 NLT

*Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. I want you to be free from the concerns of this life.” 1 Corinthians 7:31 NLT

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mind reading

One of the nice things about social media is that we can read others’ thoughts. The fear that computers would prevent society from progressing or people from meeting hasn’t materialized. Those who prefer their own company have always avoided others. Those disposed to visit, include, and socialize now have another venue, in addition to coffee shops and homes.

Donne’s poem was in two young men’s conversation, talking about their love for fiancés and difficulty in saying goodbye upon parting. I was delighted by their chat as well as the verse. For the romantic, it may be worth memorizing to bless our spouse as we separate for the day or a journey.

John Donne: A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Staying until we go

There’s something about staying in place. Over the years, we’ve watched friends drift from church to church, job to job, group to group. They leave a little of themselves here and there. Unless they are intentional about blooming where they’re planted, these transplants grow very shallow roots.

We’ve also watched others serve at the same church, work at the same job until they are pensioned, and maintain childhood friends. When it’s been to the exclusion of growing and changing, that hasn’t been healthy either. They become narrow and judgmental of anything not like them or their circle.

Somewhere between, there’s a healthy balance of staying put until God moves us. No church, job, or friendship is ideal. There are times of glory and times of pain. Through it all, we are learning, stretching, and realizing our place in God’s big world. Christ promised to be with us, to lead us with his voice and the Holy Spirit, no matter what the situation—highs or lows.

In contrast, Buddhism emphasizes living in the moment without trying to improve or strive so that over many lifetimes we become immune to suffering. Hinduism says that we deserve what we get and should make the best of it so the next incarnation is more positive.

What will this day bring? Only God knows. Outlook calendars, planned commutes, and schedules are guidelines. Each morning, afternoon, and evening unfolds under God’s watchful eye. There are no surprises for him.

Let’s listen for the Voice, bend to the day, and live abundantly in the grace he will provide for today.

Read more:
*But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NLT

*I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:26-28 NIV

*Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. … Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don't let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. … Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20–21, 24

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good night. Sleep tight.

The woods out back have burst into leaf. After a few warm days when the sap moved through the cells to the tops of the firs, each branch is tipped with fresh green needles. We lost a few trees over the winter and the woodpeckers have been busy eating the bugs in the trunks. The clicking of beak against wood wakes us some mornings.

It’s started to rain again after a sunny weekend. The ground smells like peat, the pond is refilling, and the birds are settling down for the night as the sun goes down.

From morning until night, scriptures tell us God’s love never fails. That’s something to give us sweet dreams tonight.

Read more:
*Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 NIV

*Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king." Daniel 2:19b-23 NIV

*He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth--the Lord God Almighty is His name. Amos 4:13 NIV

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"You're such a character!"

Sunday. Today my husband and I are together in church for a whole service. W teaches at various area churches, and this is my first Sunday to join him in a few months. We sat around the dinner table yesterday with our kids, talking theology, politics, and history. It was like old times. Watching W light up, talking with his children about application of scripture to life and work, makes our hearts glad. We also talked about personality and character, and how sometimes those get muddled during conflicts. Attacking character because of personality issues can create confusion.

W's dad went to college to finish his education years ago, something Jono and Kirsten hadn't known. Dad K was influential in sending W here after a year's study in Germany. At that time, this school was the only semi-local college where students in ministry could finish a BA. W's dad passed to W his passion to know and teach.

Dad K was called to ministry as a youngster and raised in a ministerial family who founded many Canadian congregations. Until he was 41, he was blocked by his pastor from obtaining ministry credentials. He may have waited nearly a decade, as I remember. The pastor refused to sign off on Dad's papers. He insisted Dad 'was not ready,' though he preached, led worship and the choir, visited the sick, and carried much of the burden of pastoral care, along with another full-time job. Other ministers would discuss the injustice of it when they came through our home. But the pastor was dead set against Dad's ordination and influential and vocal in his circle of presbyters.

My father-in-law persisted and did not give up. Ironically, he became interim pastor when the other fellow left that church - and of course he was ordained. Then Dad K moved on, becoming a pastor to several hurting congregations. He knew how to reconcile people to each other and God. His experiences made him a compassionate advocate for the powerless and weak. He pastored with an intimate understanding of deep hurts inflicted by "a brother" and the patient, painful process of doing God's will.

Those years gave all of us an insider view of church politics and hierarchy. "It is God's Church. It belongs to no man. Each one is responsible to God for how we obey and love him, " Dad K said over and over again. "They will stand before God also, but I am not responsible for them. I must love and shepherd the sheep in my care."

W's mom was here for Friday's wedding, and her visit gave us time to reflect on the legacy of a family that has loved and known God. Our children have a long heritage of faith and ministry, dating back to medieval times. Still, they must traverse the path of serving God in their own generation. They must overcome their own brokenness and flaws, and perhaps fulfill their calling over the objections of those with other ideas. But if they have the moral backbone and spiritual stamina to follow the gentle example of their Opa, we will be very happy indeed.

Read more:
*The LORD is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident." Psalm 27: 1-3 NLT

*He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.... Psalm 105: 7-8 NLT

*In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 6:26-28 NIV

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Circumstance and caution

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day

Repudiate \rih-PYOO-dee-ayt verb
1 : to refuse to have anything to do with : disown
*2 : to refuse to acknowledge, accept, or pay

Example Sentence: The nation's president has unequivocally repudiated the arms treaty, and it is very probable that he has green-lighted the manufacturing of strategic nuclear weapons.

What an interesting word. Reading the definition reminded me of my ongoing discipline of situational avoidance to prevent self-immolation.

The definition also made me smile because I have an exact opposite relationship with my hero, a mentor with whom I am utterly safe. He’s my dad. I admire him for many reasons. This morning I was considering his loyalty to others and his ability to boost others' confidence while developing their strengths. He is pleased rather than threatened by new ideas. He approaches innovations (even those accompanied by failures or gaffes) as opportunities for growth rather than opposition to his agenda.

When my father headed his various companies, he looked after his employees. He mentored and taught his teams to boost their skills. He was secure in himself and his ability to lead, so he rewarded originality - whether or not it was a perfect fit. He regularly went to bat for those who worked for him, even defending them legally if they had messed up a process. His team responded with hard work and loyalty. They were steadily at the top of their game, #1 in their industry, earning awards for productivity, creativity, and great outcomes compared to competitors.

We've all seen how personal giftings and strengths have corresponding down-sides. People-pleasers bend to the pressure of peers to avoid conflict. Strongly opinionated people use bad language and inappropriate, racist, or sexist comments to make a point. Dreamers forget to implement the details of a plan. Good administrators get caught up in their positions and bully underlings. Big picture idealists don’t always think through the implications of their actions. No matter what our gifts, all of us mess up. And some of us have more than a few mistakes among our success stories.

There are good reasons to limit or repudiate some people’s company. Gossips hurt our reputations. Negative people drain our energy by assuming bad motives behind poor actions. Some people remember our malfunctions to define us. No matter how often we exercise discipline and succeed, our failures shape the pattern by which they confine us, especially if our lapses are public and humiliating.

It's important to forgive, to stay open to disagreements and different views. Wisdom and experience, however, makes us extremely cautious of those who value rules above relationships, and wary of those with more confidence in exercising control than in boosting others to the next level of achievement.

Let’s invest ourselves most where we can be fully alive. We can't always - nor do we want to - avoid the pain of a hard lesson. But let's surround ourselves with people who assume our good intentions and teach us good judgment without leaving us undefended or vulnerable to attack. We'll do our best work in the haven of those with complimentary strengths, aware that each person has strong gifts and weaknesses. Whenever possible, let's find those partners whose gifts cover our very real and obvious flaws.

Read more:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23 NIV

Friday, May 15, 2009


The children have married. What a lovely service: they couldn't take their eyes off each other, and they are smiling in every picture. Justin Bryeans (bro-in-law) did a fabulous job of the vows and sermon. The barbecue and chocolate cake was tasty. And they're on their way to a life together. Congratulations, Jeremy and Rebekah Kowalski.

YAY! Parents, siblings, and grandparents are cheering!

It's time

Today our son marries his best friend. Since they were little, her family and ours have prayed for them. Before they were born, we dedicated them to God and his work. Grandparents and friends helped us pray them through childhood, teens, college, and into their first jobs. When they became friends, we were glad.

Yesterday, I'd told my boss I was taking a day off to prepare house and heart for the wedding. The day had other plans: I worked from 6am-4pm, not catching lunch until 2pm. Obligations flooded into the day, pushing me aside. I fielded alumni questions on diplomas and transcripts, spent an hour on a long-distance conference call to plan a joint summer reunion, set up a new student worker... the calls kept coming. Finally I just quit and shut down my computer. It's been a work week that started at 6 or 7 am most days and ended late. One night we were still driving home at 10.15pm. Oh well, I didn't get my day off after all. (I've worked more than a week's hours, though the sun has just come up on Friday. Fine. Some weeks are like that.)

Our daughter walked into the house last night after a 15 hour trip from NC (thanks, today's airlines!) How lovely to see her face. The siblings and spouses set up the great room. The young men lined up the chairs to face the bay window where the couple will stand. The young women made the corsages and bouquet. The bride's sister cut the groom's hair on the deck, porch lights cutting the night air. The bride's brother-in-law officiates, so he mapped out the service with the couple. The bride's mom and sis sang through the communion song so I could write it down and remember it. Since summer school has started and Waldemar is teaching 6 hours a day, he napped in exhaustion on the sofa, part of the evening.

The bride slept over and is here for breakfast. Soon the grandparents arrive. We'll take photographs withe the bride in her beautiful white dress. Our youngest son has practiced the wedding march and is ready to play in the bride. The groom will watch his best friend walk toward him. They will kiss in front of the family who have gathered to witness their commitment.

I'm glad this wonderful day has come. It's the right time for young love, the answer to our prayers. Thanks to Grandmas who have covered and prayed the youngsters into adulthood. Thanks to my dear WPPRk friends for years of prayers, sound advice, comfort, and counsel. And above all, thanks be to God, who will be enough no matter what the future holds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Butler

The Butler is the latest handbag, complete with compartments to organize a woman's life. Now if they would create a brain butler with massive upgrades so we could tuck things neatly into files... imagine having all info and personality profiles instantly visible and retrievable... now that would be useful.

Parts of our house are topsy-turvy. Yesterday evening, we pulled everything out of the living room into the family room; the guest rooms are full of people tonight. The bride-to-be will come later to arrange the room for tomorrow's wedding. Gone are 7 small tables and their lamps, clocks, and other accessories; various chairs; 2 sofas; a rug... it's a big room. The grand pianos have stayed. If we were dancing people, we would have a lovely pine floor to swirl around on.

Once my work obligations are over, I'll be able to enjoy wedding preparations. I'm looking forward to putting away the checklist and relaxing with people I love.

Read more:
*How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. Psalm 31:19

*Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:35-40 NIV

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Box seat

I'm taking a little break after long hours of work. My office has new events coming up and everything seems to have 101 details attached.

Where is my planner book with old, safe lists? Life is safest in maintenance mode when we step away from creative flow and live in the box. Keeping head down and blending in can be a lifesaver, especially in seasons of change when thinking is less clear and the horizons are tilting a little.

Read more:
*So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said. 2 Chronicles 36:21

*Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

Monday, May 11, 2009

Worthy work

I wrote a lot about the pleasure of food and company in Malaysia. What I didn't say much about was the work. So a few people have asked why I went. Was it a holiday? Was I working for our college? While in Malaysia, I didn't think readers would be as interested in the work aspect, especially on days with very long hours and sustained, hard work. So each night I would take the last hour of the day to reflect and focus on the times between working.

So how did I get there and what did I do? Here's an update for those of you who want to know the serious side of a working trip.

During the winter, we received an email from someone connected to a university board member, asking if I could teach two courses, preach, and present a seminar to high-school and post-high schoolers on preparing spiritually for college. All in just over a week in Malaysia. It seemed a good way to support a valued relationship and extend the work of our university with its mission to Carry the Call. My boss agreed. So it was time to hit the books and get ready.

The work started early this spring with preparation of over a hundred hours of reading, study, and writing for teaching two courses: one on World Religions and the Christian response, and the History of Spiritual Formation. I arrived Friday and taught 8 hours Saturday over a 10 hour day bisected by a one-hour lunch break, with 2 breaks morning and afternoon. After church Sunday where I was introduced as a representative from Northwest, I taught another 4 hours. Tuesday, I preached to a women's group on being light in a dark world.

During the week, various pastors and church staff asked about the university and issues related to ministry, whether over meals or at other meetings. It seemed there was just enough time between for prayer, revising the studies for the students I was meeting, and asking God for guidance as the days flowed from one to the other. Any spare hours between 6am and 11pm were spent working remotely with my office, interacting with alums at home, taking care of data and requests, preparing for graduation, and working with my student assistant.

Friday was a national holiday, so the church had scheduled an all-day course: 8 hours of class time for about 45 or 50 students, over a 10-hour day. Friday night after dinner, I caught a ride to church to talk to about 25 student leaders (got home around 10.30pm). Saturday, during a three-hour afternoon session, I had an opportunity to talk to over a hundred young people and their parents about their spiritual preparation to enter college. I had taken college favors and 150 units of enrollment materials along, so hopefully some students will come our way in coming years. I caught supper on the way to the airport and flew out that day. I slept like dead in the Singapore airport between flights.

Sure, it was lots of fun. I had asked God for a heart to say yes to every opportunity and for enjoyment in meeting his Church halfway around the world. I took sleep time to write about the good food and lovely people so others at home could enjoy the between work time with me.

But was it work? Yes. Very demanding and challenging work that I hope accomplished our spiritual and vocational goals.

Have I slept almost 8 hours a night every night since I've been back? Yes. I was beat when I got back, amid snail-mail catchup, meetings, prep for grad, a big alumni breakfast Friday, and a weekend of commencement exercises, preaching, and Mother's Day.

I'm not quite rested, but God is faithful, and I trust that the efforts on this trip will accomplish his purposes for NU and his Church. Thanks to you who have prayed over the past weeks so the work would not be in vain.

Only God knows!

Sometimes we are thinking more clearly than others. Two days in a row, we visited friends who were ill. They remembered the second visit but not the first. Funny, they had sounded lucid and told their story as though they were fully present both days.

When I am tired I don't always make the best decisions. I'm a snap-judgment person, looking at my surroundings for pragmatic solutions. The room looks empty, what could complete it? That fellow looks lonely, who is around to talk to him? She wants work, who has a job opening? What fits where? It can be a challenge to think beyond a narrow focus of question and answer to all possible implications of an action.

Today I happily acknowledging that only God knows everything. When we are weary, overwhelmed, or off balance, he teaches and cares for us. When we are alert and at our best, he cheers us on. The best thing is that he always loves us, though he knows us inside and out.

Read more:
*Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95:1-7 NIV

*For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:24-25 NLT

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Balancing Life

I’ve been home a week. A week filled with meetings, catching up on office routines, breakfast for 180 graduates, Commencement for 330 students, playing piano and speaking this morning in church. I didn’t have to do it all. I showed up for parts of the week and worked with others on the rest.

Meanwhile future projects and events are in the works. A wedding this week, for one: our son marries his sweetheart Friday. Our daughter has knee surgery in two weeks. Comps, reunions, and other alumni get-togethers are coming in summer.

The relentless progression of days brings one opportunity after another. I admire Christ for his balanced life. Within three years of ministry, a restricted field of influence, and a criminal punishment, Jesus accomplished everything he was sent to do. Here are a few of the world's take on time management:
There are many books and blogs with stress management tips, relaxation tips, and ideas on balancing life and work. Reading them can keep us very busy, using up time that might be better used in meditation, prayer, or memorizing scripture… the way Jesus balanced his own life.

Read more:
*Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

*My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.' And my heart responds, 'LORD, I am coming.' Psalm 27:8 NLT

*The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11 NIV

*He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:8–9 NLT

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Malaysia Day 9

I’m up early, wondering if I have enough material for three hours with high school kids and their parents. With prayer and more work, I think I have the outline I need. Two staff members drop in and out all morning, and I putter, pack, and eat a green mango that didn’t ripen this week. Clearing out the remaining food from the fridge and washing up the last few dishes, getting a few video clips from Tab (youth staff), and making sure everything we need is printed out… then it’s noon and time for lunch.

We head out with a group of six youth leaders – and what a feast they order. The claypot restaurant specializes in minced pork, thick noodles that end in a tip (called “rat’s tail”), topped with an egg. Someone stirs in the egg. Indescribably tasty! Then the rest of the dishes start to arrive. An omelet with minced ham. Chili veg (like Chinese spinach). Roast pork on noodles. Breaded squid in a sweet cream curry. Sounds awful. Tastes fabulous. I wash it down with some kind of herbal tea.

We barely make it to the youth service on time, but the band isn’t ready for 25 minutes anyway. Kids mill around, find their seats, and chat with friends while the musicians get together. I thought I had three hours. It dwindles down to less two by the time all is said and done: two breaks (one extended for refreshments in the outdoor lounge). We do a few breakout exercises, show some videos, but in general, I’m not sure it is effective or what they were hoping for. I wasn’t permitted to hand out my college material so not to seem as though we were promoting one school. When I agreed to come, that was actually the point. I tell the kids that the material will be available if they are interested.

Several parents stop by, and that may have been the most lasting thing from the whole trip. The children of Malaysia are under extreme duress to get straight A grades. The competition for seats at the university is fierce. Few will get in – and whether they do or not determines their future job potential.

One mom, herself an academic whiz who easily was among the best of her class, mentions that only top grades will do for her children, and they are not working hard enough or able to get them. What should she do? I tell her to ask only what my parents did: “Did you do your best?” That would have to be enough.

Another mom asks about her daughter dating boys who are not in the circle of faith. I say, be friends in groups. Non-Christian boyfriend? When dating is to find a life mate? I don’t think that missionary dating is wise…

I am very disappointed in the last session, and have to let it go as the letdown of the trip. I had too much material, and the kids were young and not used to moving around the room for interaction. They did talk a lot to each other during breakouts. I am utterly exhausted from the long day yesterday, particularly since I got no rest after class (straight to supper, straight to youth leaders’ meeting, home late.) Having interruptions in the morning didn’t help because my thought were scattered. Since I did my best, that has to be enough. Can’t get As on everything.

Tab and two guys from the youth group take me to the airport. But first we eat. One last time. One of the Chinese guys knows food. We stop in a neighborhood on the way to the airplane for a particular vendor’s Black Chinese noodles from the Hokien tradition: Bee Hoon (thin) and thick noodles, a duck soy sauce, crispy-fried pig fat chunks, prawns, cabbage, and thinly sliced pork. We dip them into peanut sauce flavored with dried shrimp paste. We’ve snagged a table in the middle of vendor stands and pushcarts. Tab bounces off (she really does walk off the tops of her toes) to get some deep-fried chicken wings (“special only to this stand”) and another plateful heaped with steamed clams with chili sauce.

The airport is 45 minutes from the city. The guys haul the luggage. To the counter. To the next counter. Oops, it was actually the first counter… it takes us 15 minutes to find out where we are supposed to be. And then they don’t have a boarding pass for me. My ticket was cancelled because it ends in the United States, so it has to be reissued. I hand over my flight information and my passport. It takes a half hour, but the young people wait without complaint. It is nice to get my Canadian passport back!

Malaysia was a Commonwealth country, which meant that until the Americans put pressure on Canada, Malaysians could travel quite freely to Vancouver and Toronto to visit relatives. The kids tell me that it’s a pain to get a visa now, and a real hassle to get permission to go anywhere in North America, even though they are Christian and not Muslim.

My baggage goes off down the conveyer. “Did you lock your suitcases?” they ask. No, we never lock our luggage because Security will destroy the locks in the States. I always have my luggage opened by security, and careless Ami baggage handlers have smashed antique glass, china, and almost every other fragile thing I’ve ever carefully wrapped. I get the notices in my luggage. And just wonder what they’ve broken this time around. Pam gifted me with a beautiful pewter plate etched with the architecture I fell in love with in KL. I hope that makes it through – it is a wonderful souvenir.

I have two masks with me, purchased by Helen read last night. They look like hardware dust masks, but I have a strong feeling to put them on, one for each long flight. Whatever good they do or don’t do. The hotels are full at 11pm when I arrive in Singapore, so I book two, three-hour naps in the ‘Napping Lounge.” “It’s 45 minutes to the other concourse, and the train doesn’t run at night,” says the clerk as she sets my alarm for 4am so I don’t miss my 6am flight to Tokyo. (Wrong. It take 15 minutes.)

A hard single bed, night table, alarm clock, and lamp, separated from five similar units by a wood lattice costs me about $40. I sleep soundly and wake only to a doze, surrounded by the snores of several men. I can hear them through my earplugs and feel the light coming and going through the night even with an eye mask.

I stand in line at the transfer counter. Only one agent is working. I wait for a boarding pass behind a Japanese man with a complicated transaction that takes a half hour. I don’t mind getting up early, if it’s going to get me on board in time! God knew.

On the uneventful flight to Tokyo, I have time to browse the catalog from Helen’s store. The styles are great – the models are her customers, all plus-size Malaysians. They’d be normal or medium sizes in the States. The company is altruistic, worker-oriented, and values driven in a country where that often doesn’t matter outside the Church. I watch The Duchess, The Accidental Tourist. We land before the end of the movie.

The airport reflects its people: clean, efficient, and lovers of ice-cream and origami. Both are everywhere, including many vending machines with treats and a shop of landscapes made of paper. Japan must have as many fashion magazines as Britain. But Japanese are better dressed! I head for the public lounge downstairs and lie down flat on a lounger with the alarm on my phone set. It’s a relief to stretch out, even with the symphony of snores on either side. It’s like listening to my male canaries: warbles, chirps, starts and stops high and low. Who knew sleeping men could make so much racket?

I’m in the exit row beside a woman with 200K air miles because she travels to the Philippines as a call center trainer every three months. She is agitated and frustrated because there are first class seats empty on Northwest Airlines, but she has bought the wrong ticket to be upgraded: the check-in counter did not even allow her to buy an upgrade. She makes herself as comfortable as possible, propping her feet on the slide box at the door before passing out in a dead sleep, even before the seat position can be tilted back. (Sleeping pill) When she repeatedly jerks forward I take pity and wake her enough to move the seat back and let her sleep a solid seven hours.

After several hours of sleep, I catch up on writing and decide to watch the end of the Accidental Tourist. My video monitor isn’t working. The attendant reseats me to a working video. He feels so badly about not being able to reseat us to first class after my seatmate’s protests that he hands us each an uncut deck of cards and makes sure we have extra water and juice throughout the flight. “Anything I can do for you ladies?” We already have extra blankets for the cold exit row. They didn’t have extra pillows on the flight, but brought an extra blanket “to use as a pillow if you like.” (So we actually have a few blankets each.) My vegetarian meals are uninspiring, but I’ve just had a week of fabulous Malaysian food so am not hungry anyhow.

I am first through immigration, and early through customs after both bags slide onto the carousel. Then it’s grab the bags, put them on another conveyer, take the train to the international luggage carousel in the arrivals area. The metal strips are the most cluttered thing I’ve seen on my travels. There are stickers, torn papers, and bits of trash rotate with our suitcases. Kind of disgusting after the meticulous airport maintenance of KL, Singapore, and Tokyo.

But I snatch my bags and head for the door where Jonathan (good young son!) drives up to take me home. How cool the air is, how bright the sun. Safely home. Thanks be to God.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Malaysia Day 8

I don’t wake until 7am. It’s fasting day, so I skip breakfast as the meal where I can abstain without affecting my fellowship with others. Class on World Religions starts at 9am and runs until 6pm, with breaks at 10.30, 12, 3.30, and 4.45. We have lunch at 1-2pm. The class is more alert than they were last weekend – we have one pre-Christian in the group of more than 50 students. As we go through the world religions and their belief systems and values, I am struck again by the uniqueness of serving a personal God who takes interest in his creatures. There is nothing else like it in the imagination or inventions of mankind.

A group of 6 women take me out for homestyle Hakka noodles and a “Michael Jackson” (ice cubes, cincan black jelly strips, and soya milk which is their ‘black white’ drink). We barely make it back to the class in time at 2, but the rest of the sessions go well. I forget how sore my feet are from standing 9 hours until I crawl into bed at night.

It is a thrill to see how involved the students are with the information. They end the day by sharing how they came to faith in Christ. I hear later in the evening that the reminder of Christ’s rescue and how he changed their lives was a good wrap-up: someone told them the story which they tell to others.

Helen, husband Edmund, and friend Michael take me to dinner at Delicious (where I had the great chicken curry on Tuesday.) Helen orders a Vietnamese Salad of cucumbers, green apple slices, romaine lettuce, chicken, sliced onion, and peanut sauce as a shared appetizer. The main course is a lamb shank, basmati rice, and a yoghurt cucumber salad, which Helen and I split. The dark flavors of the lamb blend with the homemade ginger beer (non-alcoholic). Helen divides a scrumptious chocolate cake slathered in chocolate sauce and ice cream between three of us.

Then she takes me from her restaurant to her clothing store next door. She started a partnership with another gal thirty years ago. When the partner moved on, Helen bought her out and began to sew garments on contract. She now has her own design team, factory, and a very successful retail chain. The clothes, designed for plus-sizes (size 8 – 20? USA sizes) are classic designs, beautifully tailored, and coordinated to mix and match. She credits God’s favor for her success.

I get upstairs just in time to barely turn around to leave again at 8.30pm. This time it’s off to meet the youth leaders – 25 of them who head up the youth group at Calvary. I’m supposed to talk about how they can lead their peers: all I can think of is what made me look up to others my age. Things like a strong sense of purpose, passion, and living in the moment with a yes to God. The only question is how to encourage the quiet youth who attend meetings.

I’m prompted to ask the group to pray with me: they call out names of those students they serve, then call out the name of the leader sitting next to them, then call out the names and characteristics of God. We cover our concerns and praise the One who is True with the simple exercise. Pam takes me home around 10, but I’m too tired to do anything but write. I’ll pack in the morning since I have to take my bags with me for my last obligation, a talk to youth on how to prepare for college.