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.

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