Monday, July 4, 2016

Celebrations galore

Happy Birthday, Sanni!
Sunday, July 3, 2016
During the offering, the congregation hums along to help; the guitar soloist stumbles a bit and then keeps going, accompanied by the humming.

After the church service, W leads as we consider Proverbs together. The collection of wise sayings from the ancients is inspiring.

It's Pastor Sanni's (pronounced Sonny) birthday. We send a birthday card around the group for signing before he comes in and surprise him with it. Greeting cards are not a big item here: they're an added expense and effort. (Except that I've brought a bunch with me from Seattle, which makes it simple.)

The birthday boy has no lunch plans so we take him to a local café. The space is quite empty, and quiet despite its great prices and a special Ramadan menu. (Chicken cordon bleu is about $4.50.) During Ramadan, most Muslims will feast at night but fast the days. Tonight it will be packed with families and friends breaking their fasts.
The setting is pretty and the company is warm. Another friend has joined us. He poses at the balcony beside our table. 
Menu items: durian or avocado juice with coffee flavor, anyone? Sadly, they're out of avocados.
No one swims in the family-sized pool today. Usually, men in Western-style swim trunks and women in full modest costume are splashing around with their kids.

Everything takes a little effort, actually. Here's what we encounter for a hot shower:
Our Monday morning group studies Mark 15, the crucifixion of Christ. I am reminded on this July 4, while Americans are celebrating their independence from a colonial power, where our true freedom comes from:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then,
and do not let yourselves be burdened again

by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Prayers resound from the mosques over the neighborhoods day and night. We hear the universal human longing for freedom of soul and spirit. It's also a big national party, similar to Thanksgiving in the US and Christmas in Canada. Everyone is visiting, bringing gifts, and eating together (nights only, of course.)
Shops and restaurants with Ramadan decor
How grateful we are for God's peace in our hearts, that comes not by our efforts, but his. Unimaginable and unfathomable - except that He has done it on our behalf. Astonishing indeed.

Read more:
*But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 1 Chronicles 29:14

*I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. Psalm 104:33

*Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it? Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart. Joel 2: 11-12

*The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12

*Paul wrote: At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality. 2 Corinthians 8:14
*So let us not grow weary in doing what is right. Galatians 6:9
*Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19
Moravian Prayers: Good Shepherd, we praise you for your abounding love and goodness. We thank you for your boundless and sacrificial gift of grace for us when we were lost to sin, and for the gift of eternal life!
God of all creation, all we have is yours; we are but caretakers of your bounty. Open our hearts and our hands and make us willing to give back to you so that others will hear your good news! 
Savior of the world, the time of your return is drawing nigh; bring your light into our hearts and rekindle our spirits as we await your return. Equip us to endure the darkness that surrounds us. Amen.

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