Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Grasshoppers and grit

An enormous grasshopper
Sunday, April 24.16
We arrive at church at 7:45am. W continues on his walk with Gypsy: he'll be back at 9. I'm in music rehearsal for the service. Church attenders typically call the music and prayer portion of a church meeting "worship." It's our community response to God, enjoying his presence and singing words of adoration and thankfulness to him.

It's the first time in years that I've play for "worship." I've had piano lessons since I was four; when I gave up playing to focus on other things, it felt like part of me had been amputated. Every few years (in the last two decades), it's nice to be back. 

I watch artists wield their brush in natural sweeps and dabs. It's fun to hear a speaker who's worked at her craft. It's a pleasure to read a writer who has honed his skills. 

And even after so many years away, the sounds come up with minimal effort from the keyboard. The ease with which I play doesn't mean I don't have to practice and focus. But my reach across the keys is a combination of reflex and attention. Playing refreshes my soul.

Our $2 typically Indonesian lunch: chicken saté
We have been trying a used keyboard at home. It sadly won't be suitable. The keys are unequally stiff, which makes control of the "touch" in classical music impossible. (Imagine speed-typing on a keyboard where several keys inconsistently have to be pushed harder than others.) But even with the problems, my fingers are warming up, playing nearly every day.
A beautiful setting
We eat lunch at Bumi, the restaurant at a conference center a short walk away. We sigh over the beauty of Indonesia: families play in the pools or gather to eat and visit. How we miss our grandkids when we see all the little ones running around!

At this neighborhood gathering spot, food is cheaper than most other places = $2 for chicken saté. (Fees to play tennis, use the fitness club, and hold meetings must cover groundskeeping and maintenance costs.)
Family playground
In the afternoon, we study Genesis 38 with friends. It's the story of a charismatic man, a visionary leader who is gifted in administration and management. Whatever the situation, he works hard, brings God's blessings to the business, and rises to second-in-command - entrusted by his boss with everything in the company. Does he prosper? Sure ... before he is sabotaged by the interests of others and unjustly punished.

We talk about the consequences of our honesty and integrity. Good character, great skills, and hard work are not always rewarded and applauded. Politics, insider relationships, and jealousy can sideline us. 

Wherever we are, we are called to faithfulness. To work our hardest and invest our talents. "It is God you are serving," says scripture, so we do our best, as did Joseph. Eventually, God elevates him and saves both Egypt and his family through him. 

But we're not there yet in the story. I'm feeling the awfulness of Joseph's dismay and his shock at being attacked and abandoned - because of his attractiveness and success. He's in prison. And still serving. Still working. Still using those strong leadership gifts, even in jail.

"Hang in there, everyone." I want to shout encouragement to readers who feel it's not worth trying because your hard work, popularity, and honest efforts are overlooked - or even punished. "God sees you and is directing your path - he's your Boss, in control even when life spins into wild territory."

A friend comes by to talk over choices for the future. A few doors have closed. Others are opening. We pray for God's direction and peace of mind for her.

Avocado juice: tastier than it looks
We have a new attendee at the Bible study, an encouragement to us. This week, I read Pete S's blog on the impact of life-on-life with a few. He notes that Jesus spent most of his time investing in 12 disciples, though there were bigger groups and crowds around. We want to faithfully pour our lives into others, too.

A new part-time helper is trying out this week. She speeds through the upstairs, scrubbing lizard poop off the walls, washing grime off window ledges, and mopping the floors. How quickly things decay in the heat and moisture. The cracks in the home-built windows let in the dust of the fields and city. 

The dynamics of household help require harmony between workers, just like in any office or factory. There are long-standing relationships (and family ties) among people in these hilly neighborhoods. The workers here and at the neighbor's house know this lady or members of her family. They welcome her and there's a lot of chatter this first week.

I meet with a social worker at a nearby orphanage to organize classes and connections. The task would be impossible without Sharon, a friend who shows up early on her motorcycle. She gracefully negotiates times and subjects. I leave with our calendar ready to go.

W is already in the next meeting with Josie and Pauline, our language tutors when we first arrived. These dear friends advise us in many aspects of life in Indonesia. The walls ring with laughter whenever we meet. Today is no exception. We learn a lot, but always have fun together.

Then we're off to check out a new language school. It's not that far, but takes over a half hour to get there in relatively good traffic (up to 25 mph!!) 

We get a sample lesson and my whole body breathes with relief. We won't have to speak right away: the first stage is pointing to a toy or picture, or doing an action (running or walking in place, sitting, standing, etc.) They'll send home a photo and sound recording for review each day.

One pressure in learning the language is that only one sense works strongly at a time for me. When I'm forced to repeat a string new words, my mind focuses on the sound, blocking understanding and retention. I hear: "Apa ini blah blah blah."  2-3 words, and my brain blanks out. I zone in only to the unrelated sounds; I have no idea what is being said. (Other friends complain of the same problem, while learning Indonesian.) After I connect meaning and sound, bit by bit, it begins to make sense and stick. 

We stop for groceries on the way home. Suddenly I feel sensory overload from people, cars-motorcycles-carts-near misses, language, noise, movement. Ah, get me home.
Out the car window: carts, motorcycles, pedestrians, vans ...
I'm exhausted but it's suppertime. I manage to make ramen, tossed with peppery greens and other vegetables from our fridge. Yummy.

Today is crunch day. I have to finish a PPT for the 3-hour presentation W and I give on Friday. We'll engage local scientists and researchers in Methods of Teaching Adults. Typically in Asia, a teacher tells students information. Students memorize the facts for tests. However, these scientists want more options so their students can grasp the implications of knowledge and can manipulate the info.

Participants are accomplished university lecturers. Many will not have studied pedagogue. Most speak limited English. We're counting on those who are more fluent to help out. I've taught the subject elsewhere but never here. Should be fun. Back to work!

Read more: (ESV unless noted)
*Does God not see my ways, and number all my steps? Job 31:4

*For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5

*Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me. Isaiah 46:9

*For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6

*God reconciled us to himself through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18

*Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Lord—Father, Son, Spirit—you call us together as your people. You bless us with gifts and abilities to use in service to you and your children. Everything comes from you; today we pay special attention to that grace.
Lord God, you amaze us by not rejecting your sinful children! If we came before you on our own merits, no one would stand. But thank you for choosing to love us and to work wonders through us. Your love never ends and never fails. Thank you for the grace which redeems us through Jesus. You see what is unrevealed and redeemable in us.  In Jesus’ name we give thanks and say alleluia! Amen.

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