Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Growing things

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
A drum and vocal solo from our birthday boy!
 It's our third grandchild's third birthday. Isaac's mom invites us to call him the night before (it's his birthday already over here). The grandkids are bouncing around and having fun together before bedtime.

"Why did you call the day before?" asks the almost-7-year-old. Her mom briefly explains the time zone difference. The kids are back to playing in a heartbeat.

In the early morning, we host a meeting to move forward our partnership with a new community center. Afterward, I sort my notes. We send the minutes to attendees just after noon.

For relaxation, I put my hands into the soil along the house and plant three hot pink geraniums. That's a rare color; usually the flowers are red or pastel. We don't have newer hybrids in Indonesia yet. I spotted the pinks at a roadside nursery earlier this week.

The main street of Lembang, the "Garden City" north of Bandung, is lined with fields and greenhouses of plants - flowers, shrubs, vines, orchids, trees, ferns, etc.
The Vanda orchid reblooming on the porch with a heavenly fragrance
Upstairs, the flower boxes are growing like crazy with plants left behind by the previous owner. I can take no credit for abundant maidenhair ferns, Boston ferns, orchids, impatiens ... and who knows what else? I break off a few orchids and fasten them onto the branch we saved from pruning a guava tree.

Cut a few inches shy of the porch ceiling - so that ants don't climb up the trunks and into the roof
We expected to be in Jakarta today. However, our visa appointment was postponed: yesterday was one of Indonesia's 143 annual "red-letter" days (holidays for various reasons). The visa office needed 3 working days after we left our information there last weekend. (The office was closed yesterday.)
Coconut monkey "art"
This afternoon, we get news that we're expected at the visa office in Jakarta early tomorrow. Last weekend, we took the train in so we had to leave our place for the station at 4am. Zzzz. This time, we'll drive from home at 5am = we get an extra hour's sleep. Hurrah. Since we usually wake with the light at 5:45 (this time of year,) it's not that much earlier than usual.

But we have to cancel tomorrow's morning study. Fortunately, a study member is leading the evening group; we tell her we'll be away. I'll have to conduct two online interviews in the car ... traffic is expected to be terrible because this Friday is also a national holiday. That means Jakarta will be headed our way for the weekend.

Read more:
*The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

*Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Psalm 103:22
*Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves. Ephesians 5:18-19
Moravian Prayer: All glory, honor, and power to you, Lord God Almighty, for you have created all things and by your will they have their being. Our spirits rejoice in your steadfast love and faithfulness. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for your depthless mercy and grace. Grant that our lives may be lived in praise and adoration of you. Amen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bouquets, orchids, and broken sleep

At a local restaurant, the servers wear batik "skirts" as their uniform, whether male or female.

Two of our sons have birthdays this week. We miss them! The bouquet Ann left me blooms much of the week - so refreshing.

W is helping to fix the sound system at the International Church. We take Gypsy on walks most days - today he also meets the shitzu-poodle we'll dogsit while her owners are at a conference. The little dog yaps and chases Gypsy around the yard - quite hilarious as Gypsy plays and his friend thinks she's scaring him. Both are having fun and eventually stop for a sniff and to make peace.
We go out for lunch (cheaper than cooking). There's a pile of building supplies and construction rubbish alongside the parking lot. We walked since the place is newly-built in our neighborhood, but the cars are double- and triple-parked in a big driveway beside the restaurant. Mind your step!
 The tea is good: I order it hot with a glass of ice on the side. Normal iced tea is laced with too much sugar.
We head for the hills again. Acres of vines are strung on bamboo trellises on both sides of the mountains. See the two workers below right? Everything is done by hand, from plowing, building, cultivating, and harvesting.

They've dammed a volcanic spring into "hot springs" - pretty. We have to cross a few bamboo bridges to get to the pond.

We were going to swim but dawdled on the walk and everyone is ready to have lunch instead.
At the end of the walk, we are in hydrangea fields - W gets me 10 huge blooms for $1.50. What a guy.
The evening study is well-attended and interesting. We're home about 8pm.

We take the 5am train into Jakarta for a conference. We're boarding on the track beyond the first stopped cars, so we have to walk up and through one train to get to our own. Everyone shleps their luggage up the steps. Then we either jump 3' to the ground (no stairs on the other side) or step over a 2.5' gap onto a platform on the other side and take stairs back to the ground and across to Track 4.

We see where trains go to die - piles of decommissioned rail cars are stacked along the tracks. They'd make a fun garden house or writing studio, don't you think?

Arriving at 8:30am, we walk 20 minutes from the train station to the conference center in humid 90o. W, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, is soaked with sweat. I'm wearing a cotton blazer, T-shirt, and long trousers and am just comfortable. I love this weather!
The sidewalks aren't exactly even. But at least these are wide.
I get to sit beside a dear friend - Livia - for both days of theology and hermeneutics with John H. Walton. Whenever the interpreter doesn't quite understand the meaning or agree completely, he finishes the translated sentence with a deep groan. (I've heard that sound before, when a driver or helper doesn't understand what is expected.)
We have supper with John and Oyan, a delightful time of talking about family, God, and scriptures.

After the conference wraps up, there's a lunch with other attendees.

Across the street from the conference is a mall, a challenge to get to. We walk up and down ramps, along the fence for a block, and finally end up in the basement. There's not much in it besides food stalls and restaurants. It's decorated for Ramadan, complete with pillars, faux buildings, and printed-tile flooring. We spend a half hour walking in the air conditioning before heading back to the train station. Exercise without exertion.
The landscape on the trip home is breathtaking, as usual. 

We catch a taxi home late in the evening and fall into bed.

The mosque loudspeakers start every night about 2:30 or 3:00am. The first interruption is calling people to eat before the day starts. Most Muslims won't eat or drink while the sun is up. We're not getting very deep sleep but neither is anyone else.

I'm leading the church service, so have to be there early. W comes along to check the wiring for the sound system. Voila! For the second week, we have sound in the speakers. (For a few months, there's been sound either in the monitors or speakers.) His theology class is postponed for a week because of a community potluck.

I love the Presence with us. Jesus promised to be among his followers, even if a few were together in his name. This morning, the worship leaders are energetic and full of spirit as well as the Spirit. We're not big jumpers, but some of us sway to the music or lift our hands in praise to God. Ron and Faith are going back to the States after a few months of teaching. Ron's speaking this morning on mentoring - on Jesus as our best example to follow.

I toss off my casual duds in the afternoon to dress up for a 5:00 appointment but it's a no-show. Suddenly, I have time to edit a dissertation proposal. By the time I'm done, the pages are marked up with ink so I send a note: "Don't be discouraged; all papers look this way at the first edit." It's even harder for students who write in English as their second or third language.

The morning and afternoon include online calls, meetings, and editing an academic article for a journal. At the morning meeting, the female participants cover themselves with fleecy blankets from our stash. It is COLD on the porch where we're studying: 74o (23C), and we're shivering. I take a picture of Alice, all wrapped up.
Every few minutes, a big black ant carries a white egg casing across the path of my foot. Squish. I can't believe how many are moving their eggs. And I'm not willing to let even one pass - they'll be in the house before you know it if I do. We've had a few infestations these past weeks but I'm doing my best to keep the house clear.

Well, we have an early supper at another new restaurant in the neighborhood (7 total built near us ... this year!) Everything is empty, since most people won't eat until sundown. The landscaping feels more like a resort than a neighborhood restaurant where we pay $12 for a pizza, fish and chips, and tea.

At the grocer, meat and vegetables are at least as expensive as in the USA or Canada: it costs $10-12 to cook meat, vegetables, and potatoes for two, on the rare occasions I make Western-style food. (Sometimes you just crave the taste of your own culture, between fried rice, spicy tofu, and other local cuisine.) Our friends observe that helpers aren't moving very fast: they're hungry and thirsty so we and our friends try to avoid meals at home.
Just stunning

A friend has closed her bedlinens warehouse in the city. She brings over some storage bags for me to pass along to a friend. They're zippered, made of beautiful cotton prints, and jazz up my office floor for a few days until I put them away. I know we're swamped with work when my office looks like a small tornado has blown through.
After a restless and noisy night, we start the day about 6am as usual. Meetings, edits, mail, bookkeeping - and W's grading an online class. It's date day so eventually we drive into town. The restaurants are half-shuttered so Muslims don't feel hungry watching other people eat.

We are looking for supplies. Along the way, we pass an all-you-can-eat-for-$5 dim sum place, tea included. The only sauce offered is sambal (spicy hot sauce) - there's no soy sauce, which I miss. But it is flavorful and cheap. We're the only ones eating in the whole place, sitting behind the curtain.

When we trimmed our guava tree a few months ago, we kept a few 8' lengths of colorful branches. I'd planned to hang native orchids on them. Today we head to the metalwork district to have a stand made. W designs it and the shop solders an angle-iron onto a heavy round metal plate. 

W and Pak Entang set it up and bolt the trunk to the base when we get home.
 I hang some orchids from it, unwinding a few roots from our trees to add to some from a local grower.
What a beautiful country. What a beautiful world. What a Good God we serve.

Read more:
*At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. Numbers 9:28
*Thus says the Lord, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you.” 2 Kings 20:5
*Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. Isaiah 6:3
*Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5
*Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
Moravian Prayer: Lord, we give you thanks for the witness and teaching of those who came before us. We thank you for those who, in faith, walk with us now and will follow after us. Make us fearless messengers of the Good News, praying at all times for all, until all are united.
Your word is always trustworthy and true. In your mercy, drive away the discouragement that leads to apathy; restrain the rebelliousness that leads us to choose our way over yours; and provide meaningful work that will give glory to you.
Faithful God, giver and sustainer of life, in your boundless love for us, you provide the tenderest of care. Work in our hearts, calming our fears and deepening our trust, so that we may live with confidence and courage. Give us hope, that we may know that suffering and pain never have the final word. In Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ramadan, royals, and reflections.

Ramadan has started in the Muslim world. Buildings, lanes, and even cakes (below) are decorated to commemorate the month of daytime fasting and nighttime feasting.

Of course, we walk - and the overcast sky keeps us from getting too hot on the 4.5-mile trek. The mosques and temples we walk past are constantly upgraded or collapsing. You never know which it will be.

The jungle is in full bloom - the variety of plants is astonishing.

Many old structures are leftovers from another era: Dutch colonial bunkers and irrigation houses.

Some hills are steeper than others. The muddiest plunges down and climbs back up. Our walking sticks prevent us from sliding up or down. We stick them deeply into the muck and pull ourselves along.

The old tea bushes are deeply rooted in their plantations. It's a beautiful view, and the green is cooling on an exposed walk.

Lunch is at Kampung Daun (Leaf Village), a series of traditional huts tucked into a hillside. It doesn't rain until we are under shelter.

Annette and Andrew are headed to England this weekend, before returning to their country of New Zealand. How we will all miss them. In the afternoon, Annette drops by the house with a beautiful bouquet, a handmade card, and a gift.

We're trying a new venue for the evening study. The group says goodbye to Andrew and Annette with a farewell card. 

It's quite amazing how some people drop into a community and have such a positive impact. That's certainly been true for these two.

W and I are irregular at keeping our weekly date. For lunch, after running errands, we stop for sushi on our way down the hill. We skip the octopus zooming by on the conveyor.

Between obligations and meetings, I've treated myself to a free online sketchbook course. It's designed to kick up artistic and note-taking skills, as well as feed the imagination. One day, we do patterns. I scribble a quick page of boxes. I'm not sure how that will help me take better notes in a meeting, but who knows.

Indonesian time is great for watching the royal wedding. The ceremony starts at 6pm for us.

The prince, the princess, the carriage, the queen, the pages and little bridesmaids. All perfection - apparently I've overcome my aversion to the spectacles of weddings. It's on TV when the day is waning, providing an evening of pomp and majesty. I wonder what heaven will be like, with the splendor of the King of Kings on display!

W has the time of his life: he reconnects a few cables to makes the sound system work better, all before the church service starts.

Between songs and before the talk, we worship by naming the names of God. We pause to think about how those names have been life-giving for us. I have lots to reflect on and think about, hearing: "Father, The God who Heals, Our Provider, Lord of Lords, Creator" ... the participants call out many wonderful qualities of the One and Only God.

We have lunch with friends after W's Hermeneutics class. The restaurant is empty except for a Chinese family and us. The theological discussions continue throughout the meal. This time together is great for processing information and Immanuel - God with us.

We admire the flowers blooming along the streets. It's a good day.

The morning and early afternoon are taken up with meetings. W is ill - his head and joints ache and he has a fever ... the flu is going around. Other friends have similar symptoms and misery.

W sleeps most of the day. The rest of us meet. In between, I edit papers and plan future events.

W and I work in the morning. Thankfully, he is on the mend.

I need some cooking supplies so we drop by the kitchen supplier. Oh yikes, the pots I need are so expensive! (I'd forgotten how much. Maybe I blocked it from my mind because we were spending our own savings when we set up our kitchen here.) One commercial pot and lid are $100. I have that one. In it, I've cooked for thousands of people without burning anything on the gas range. For our monthly movie night, I cook one main dish after another in it ... emptying it, stashing the cooked food in the fridge, and then cleaning it for the next menu item. Might be time to splurge on another one. Gulp. It would cut down on cooking time, for sure.

The shop has bottles of smoke flavor, which work great in lieu of bacon, a forbidden pork product. (There is beef bacon, of course, but it's not very good.)
We also stop by the picture framer. The glass on a picture shattered after movie night and another painting has come loose in its frame. Repair or lose them...

The blooms on his fence are beautiful.

For the cost of a small custom frame in the USA, he frames the inexpensive art we picked up in Vietnam: a small painting of a tribal mother and child, a large propaganda poster, and some typical embroidered landscapes.

This wood frame surrounding the Vietnam "propaganda" poster highlights its beautiful colors. The post-war poster promoted the use of water buffalo to grow healthy crops.

This week, our book group also meets. We discuss an interesting presentation of Islam, If the Oceans Were Ink. Carla Power, a Westerner who loves Middle Eastern culture, reports on her exploration of the Koran with a Muslim scholar and friend. It's very interesting; in this Q&A, an academic expert in the text responds to the curiosity of a journalist who knows nothing of her Jewish and Christian family roots. It's an unequal conversation from the start.

I shake my head at some of the 'scholars' and studies she mentions. As an academic, I dislike speculative findings presented as honest research, especially without citations. [One example. She cites a 'scholar' who speculates that Rebekah may have been 3 years old when she married Abraham's son Isaac (supporting the idea of child brides throughout history.) Um, reading Genesis 24, that's ridiculous. Rebekah is introduced as one of the daughters of her village who draws well-water for her family's livestock. She slakes the thirst of a traveler as well as his camels = can you imagine a family sending a 3-year-old to the well to water a flock by herself? That bad scholarship and other undocumented 'studies' are tossed into the mix with theology and historical facts. It's a mashup.]

The journalist's modern teacher of the Koran offers good insights into the Muslim religion. He insists that his Western pupil read the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in order to understand the foundation of Islamic scriptures. Islam agrees with Judaism Christianity that there is only One True God. Despite the author's unequal mix of possibilities, academics, and hearsay, I find it useful reading.

I like hearing the viewpoints of the women in the book group. We belong to all the major religions and are respectful in listening to the beliefs of others. I always learn a lot. Next month, we're reading a novel based on characters in Egypt. Wonder what that will teach us?

Read more: (ESV unless noted)
*They have made themselves gods of gold. Please forgive their sin. Exodus 32:31-32

*When I was brought low, the Lord saved me. Psalm 116:6

*Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever. Psalm 133 NIV
*As you enter the Temple, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don’t be a fool who doesn’t even realize it is sinful to make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven and you are only here on earth, so let your words be few. Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, so being a fool makes you a blabbermouth. Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 TLB
*Gods made with hands are not gods. Acts 19:26
*Paul wrote: I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Moravian Prayer: God, you are our strength, our shield and our fortress. Uphold us when we are weak, and protect us. Remind us that we rely on you, not on ourselves, for you are the source of our power and our salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Holy and Almighty God, we can make idols out of every good gift you have given. We are rich in your love, yet are distracted by the desire to acquire “more”—more accomplishments, more power, more prestige, more possessions. Free us from the desire for these things, and give us a greater desire to know and worship only you. We pray in the name of Jesus, the faithful one. Amen.