Monday, March 30, 2020

Shuttered but hopeful

What a joyful hope we have! When I visit friends online from around the world - North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, we share good news with each other.

Some gals are having babies; some are trying new things online, while yet others are just glad that God has everything under control. It's a strange contrast to the hope that many of us have. When the world changes, we know God is neither surprised nor are circumstances beyond his control.
I download a sheet of orchid samples. There's a fine painting class online - free. I have so many art options I can hardly choose one. I scribble here and there.

One is my favorite, a quote from Don Ross, a friend and mentor: "Fear is just a way of identifying the areas of our lives that Jesus doesn't control yet." What a great meter for understanding that emotion.
I asked friends to take part in a 9-day art challenge. Some messaged me and sent pics of their creativity in food, music, art, words. One writes that she is expecting a baby. That's the most creative thing of all.

Saturday, March 28, 2020
It's my birthday, starting with greetings on Friday. I check messages a few times during the day. A driver knocks on the gate: Clau and her family have sent over breakfast - delicious real Brazilian cheese balls and more! And cute notes as well.

We also talk to the grandkids, which is great fun. They send a video of all four singing Happy Birthday. Their enthusiasm is hilarious - they're not bad singers, either.
It's only the second time in my life that I haven't had my parents and kids nearby on my birthday. I miss them but talk to most of them.

It's nice that Kirsten is with us. I think a few times about taking a picture, but keep forgetting. (W the photography buff snaps landscapes when he's out and about, not people.) She and W spoil me with attention and gifts. I set up the cylinder from my office - it's so nice to have a quiet companion on my home office desk.
For supper, W tries out his new pizza oven for the second time. The first time, the pizza was raw inside and burned on the edges. This tastes much better. W is a quick learner! And I don't have to cook. That's the best part.

It's odd, preparing a talk and not being around others to present it. W and I head to the office, from where he livestreams the video he's prepared. Several of our team participated - they sent in their messages and W put them together.

This morning, we join team members across the city to monitor the live feed. After noon, we walk back home.
I make lunch but W heads out and buys restaurant food. We'll eat it tomorrow. He wants to take advantage of the places that are still open for takeaway. Most are shuttered, as is our office.

The study that usually takes place on our porch is online. I have an earlier meeting. Then it's time to finish editing my chapter on outstanding women in religion. The final draft is due to the editor tomorrow She'll do the final edits before publication.
Several friends ask for our bread recipe. Outside, there's a reprieve of sunshine in the mornings and a deluge in the afternoon. The plants love it.
And the dogs always love the walks.
Friends of Indonesian friends have begun to die of the virus. Others die from other conditions (heart attacks, diabetes, strokes) but it all seems related to the viral fears going around the world. We pray that they know that God is with them. That God is for them.

Read more:
*I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. Psalm 130:5
*When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. Psalm 142:3
*When people fall, do they not get up again? If they go astray, do they not turn back? Jeremiah 8:4
*Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37
*Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Moravian Prayer: Gracious Savior, in the times when we go astray, fall short, or lack faith, you are there. In the times when we are heart-broken, grieving, or discouraged, you are there. Thank you for always welcoming us with open arms.
Gracious and almighty God, as we weather the storms of life, may we look to you as our shelter and source of strength. Bless and comfort all who may be experiencing difficult times. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A week of acceleration

The guava tree is ageless. As is the tall allee of trees nearby.
W has come back from the States - his meetings there were cancelled. We're glad he's back. We feel the acceleration of almost everything ... as our social life comes to a pause. We've been deprived of face-to-face, so that means ramping up things online.
W's happy to be learning new things (of course). We have several Zoom meetings every day - what a lifesaver.
We connect with friends in Australia, Europe, and North America. It's quite amazing how tech bridges the world.

We walk the neighborhoods with our daughter who can stay because Immigration posts a notice: "Don't come see us. Just stay safe until this is over." (That is a miracle.)

We walk past beautiful quiet houses where hedges bloom.
There are beautiful vignettes everywhere - God keeps renewing the world. The air is so much cleaner with fewer people going about.
We buy some rice in case there are shortages later. Microwave to kill bugs, then dry, then bag.
We go to a restaurant for pizza one more time before the restaurants close. The virus has been hazardous to business health.
Nearly every afternoons, it pours. Some mornings are dark as well, but most have at least some sunshine to gladden the heart.
The beautiful Sunday bouquet slowly fades into other arrangements as first the roses, then the mums wilt away.

The office is empty - I go in every day to keep the paludarium going. All the little ferns, orchids, the mosses, and even the weeds I've plucked from the roadside are thriving.
We still work at the office, just the two of us. The others work from home.
 It's so quiet. And peaceful.
In a stack I'm sorting, I find a book from 20 years ago about the city. So much has changed. So many expats have left over the years and their shops, clubs, and "hot spots" have disappeared.
Our whole hill has an outbreak of dengue and cikungunya, two mosquito-borne fevers. Friends spend days in hospital for meds and hydration. The fogger goes through our yard as well as the neighborhood, creating a hostile, kerosene-laden atmosphere against the mosquitoes.
We are blessed with small pleasures, like homemade cookies to eat -
 and a cheerful, bright nook to work in.
I do a week of collages, just because there's time to play.
 And I paint. How many faces do you see in this? (Finding seven is easy. Can you find more?)
A friend bakes a traditional Kazakhstan recipe - home-baked bread buns. Oh yum! They are sweet and flavorful.
I'm trying to snack on fruit and nuts instead of chocolate. One of my goals is to lose another 5 lbs on top of the 10 I've lost since Christmas. Nice that my clothing is starting to fit again.
 What's pleasing you right now? Stay safe, everyone!

Read more:
*I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. Psalm 38:18

*The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways.  Jeremiah 17:9-10

*Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret. 2 Corinthians 7:10

*I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:20-21 NIV
*By this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20
Moravian Prayer: Merciful God, forgive us, we pray. As far as the east is from the west, remove our sins from us. Cleanse our hearts and free us from the weight of guilt and regret. 
Forgiving God, we confess that at times, we rely more on our own abilities than your grace. May we open our hearts to you again so that we may follow where your Spirit leads. Amen.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A prayerful mess

I don't even really know
   what prayer looks like

Is it this breathing in and out,
   the gasp of appeal
      where the soul unwinds?

Is it this chorus of hallelujahs
   when the faith-filled gather
      in reckless wonder?

Is it this encounter with the Almighty
   that no worshipper can grasp,
      where one staggers in awe?

Or is it this lone whisper
   behind closed doors,
      where praise and pain mix?

I'm a prayerful mess.
   Part breath.
      Part glorious daring.
         Part childlike hope.

Thank you, Lord and Father,
   for hearing and speaking,
      both loving and beloved.
One God.
   Forever and ever.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Living in a time of fear

The world has never been a safe place. There’s always been something to be afraid of.

The world has never been so prosperous or healthy as now. Humanity has never had such knowledge and good medical care.

But with the current pandemic sweeping the globe, we’re being pushed once again into fear mode.

For some, that means stocking up on toilet paper and beans. Others freeze in fear or get caught up in the online frenzy of "what's next?" and "barricade yourself inside your home."
The one thing that is true about human experience, for every single one of us, is that we are passing through this life. Once we are born, we will die.

We grieve for children, teens, and young adults who don’t live a “full lifespan” of reaching retirement. We cry for those loved ones we miss.
Most people try to stave off that end of life  as long as possible. And yet we can be certain – as certain as we are that we were born – that someday, others will weep for us as well.

Yet every day that we're alive, we get to choose. Will the days marked out for us be full of joy and life ... or anxiety and worry?

Today, you and I can and will choose either a positive, hopeful life or deepest despair. The day is ours.
It depends on whether we decide to dwell on what is true, noble, hopeful, full of life, or what is wrong, what could happen, and our deepest fears. Where is your gaze focused today?

“God has not given us a spirit of fear,” wrote a mentor to his spiritual child. Their time was full of political upheaval, crazy murderous Caesars, and deathly persecution all around. “But [God has given us] the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind," said Paul to Timothy.

Another way to put it is this: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Are you living out that reality? Are you timid. Fearful? Or are you awestruck at God's power, his understanding, and his presence everywhere? (Theologians call that His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.)

Today you get to choose.
 Every morning, you get to choose love, power, self-discipline, and sound thinking. OR fear and timidity.

With all the fear swirling around you, will you choose to love and care for others? Will you choose love and God’s power?

Will you trust God to wrap your fears in the confidence that he is watching over you and yours? It's up to you.

Some day the doors of eternity will swing open. You will see what you only dreamed of.

You have this hope, God’s loving gift to you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the debts we could never pay and heals what we could never heal.

You can be certain that God will mend everything that is broken on this planet. He will also untwist what is twisted in you.
So when everyone is panicking around you, take a deep breath. Take in the love of Christ and take that love with you. Live life to the full. Whether you’re in quarantine or 'out and about.'

It's still true: "God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything!" 1 John 3:20b You absolutely can trust him with your life today. And tomorrow, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Rice paddies and fish stairwells

The house is quiet. Time to do some writing.

In early March, our daughter Kirsten flies to Malaysia for a visa run. She gets to spend some time with Tabi, our friend.

Thursday, March 5, 2020
I get to an outlet center for a few gifts to take to the States. What an interesting sculpture in the courtyard, a historical bike and lady.
 When we get home to our room, I look above our bed at the picture of my folks and another of my uncles and aunties. It makes me feel at home in a country where almost no one has hair and skin like mine.
 I've put the scripture plaques together on the wall in our room. Some are from my grandma. Some from my parents. And I got one from Sunday School in 1965. Nice to see them all together.

W and I take the train to Jakarta to meet the area director of a non-profit. We have a nice supper with some friends. We stay at a hotel overnight, not the swanky one in the mall, but a half-price one (still nice) nearer the train station. And then it's home in the morning.

The stairs have been papered in the station. Gorgeous all the way up.

 The hotel flowers are bouquets tied inside palm fronds.
 And the artwork behind the reception desk takes me by surprise.
 On the way there and back, we see a lot of rice paddies and towns.

 People wait on their motorcycles for the train to pass. Yes, they duck under the barrier to be the first across.
I find a new favorite ginger drink on the train - it has peanuts in it (right).
There are bamboo trellises for grapes along the tracks.
 And long long fields between mountains shelter the rice paddies. I find it a stunning landscape. Sometimes I can hardly believe I'm here.

 There are kids coming and going on the dirt roads, with school backpacks on.

The train trestles are amazing as they span the valleys. We glide over.
 Some platforms are right next to the train. People know not to get too close as trains speed by.
At some stations, when you step out, they have to wrestle the steps to the platform into place.
In Bandung, we walk off our train, go along the platform, step through the train on the next platform over, and then take our luggage out the other side and down to ground level and across several tracks before we get to the station.

 Sunday, March 8
Backstage of the hall, the termites are doing a number on the beams above. There's always frass falling on the floor.
We have guests over in the afternoon. I take out my mom's Canada teacups so we can enjoy tea after the excellent chicken, barbecued by Ish.
 The flowers from the hall look wonderful in the new vase. The repurposed aquarium bowl looks less fishy with streaks of acrylic paint dripped inside, doesn't it? Lots of people remark on it.
 I offer the helper a day's wages to come do dishes but she says, "Don't worry. I'll do them tomorrow." And she does. 
 I love to sit outside and study. Next weekend I'm speaking without W, which is always more work.

Read more:
*You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. Leviticus 19:17
*All his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride. Daniel 4:37
*Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45
*Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
*For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16
Moravian Prayer: God of justice, your love and peace overcomes hatred and violence. As your children made in your image, soften our hearts so that we may be kind and gentle with each other. 
Gracious God, you remind us that we are loved, and we are forever grateful. You also remind us that your love is not just for one, but for all. Send us to share your love today. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.