Sunday, August 21, 2016

Making the World Beautiful

The green at Takayama where our grandchildren played this summer is very beautiful these days - a far cry from the soggy, mosquito ridden bog our older children played in years ago.

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It’s the work of my friend Wendy who, like the Lupin Lady, is busy making the world – or at least the Takayama corner of it - more beautiful. Wendy does it with hydrangeas and willow trees.

Although not the work of her hands there many other improvements for which she should probably get some credit.

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The Store

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The Chapel

She’s done what I always wanted to do – made Takayama more beautiful.

But I think what I love best about her is how she loves our kids. Everybody’s kids really. But I’m especially grateful for how she’s been there for my kids when I couldn’t be.

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And been there for me, too.

I like the NIrV translation of Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times.

He is there to help when trouble comes.

A Happy Birthday

Lately we’ve been singing Psalm 85A almost every day. Sometimes more. The tune, BERA, is so very beautiful. And the words touch my soul.

Especially verse 4:

Will You not give us life once more,

Your people’s joy in You restore?

O LORD, Your lovingkindness show,

And Your salvation now bestow.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I think that this is all I want.

Favor

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Counting it All Joy

All week I’ve been thinking about my pastor – the pastor of my childhood. The man my husband says has been my measure ever since.

He always looked into your eyes – even if you were a child – and LISTENED.

And his smile. It gave – and still gives – a person courage.

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Pastor Ted Ekholm

I’ve been thinking about him because if ever there was a man who could “count it all joy” it’s Pastor Ekholm.

Aging and all its attendant trials just seem to make him sweeter. And sweeter is what my husband and I have been aiming at.

The other night we prayed, yet again,

Dear God, we want both to flourish – and bear fruit! – in our old age. We want to be fresh and flourishing and seen as fresh and flourishing so that when people look at us they will know that God is still upright.

We don’t think we can be accused of running from the refining process BUT we haven’t been allowing ourselves to grow sweeter!

Its pretty hard to keep that sweet spirit – but it must be possible. I see it in my pastor. And I want to be like him!

And I take comfort in the benediction he used to pray over us:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,

and to present you faultless

before the presence of his glory

with exceeding joy,

To the only wise God our Saviour,

be glory and majesty, dominion and power,

both now and ever. Amen.    

-Jude 1:24-25

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Power of Memories to Sustain

For several weeks now I have been thinking about the power of memories to sustain. There is a particular story that I have been trying to find – so far without success.

It begins with children flying kites on a beautiful sunny day in some European village. A golden, unforgettable day when mothers threw off their aprons and fathers set aside their work to join the children in the joy of watching the kites sail high above in all that blue.

Months pass, maybe years pass and the village is ravaged by a horrible world war. The writer of the story is incarcerated somewhere and during the long months of suffering he is sustained by the memory of that golden day when the village spontaneously threw everything aside to watch the kites.

At last the war ends and people begin to share their stories and to his surprise, he is not the only one who has been sustained by the memory of that golden day.

What is the memory that sustained me through the long months?

I have thought and thought. And I keep coming back to the moment when Daughter # 4 and I stood gazing at the new bookshelf holding my books for the program of study I would have to abandon in my exile.

The young man who custom made the bookshelf for me had so many difficulties and heartaches in life. But he also had a talent for woodworking and that bookshelf was to me a precious work of art, full of promise. For as my daughter and I stood there praying the thought came to me that perhaps the newly finished bookshelf was God’s way of saying, “I will bring you back.”

The memory of the bookshelf and that moment sustained me through months – many months - when I felt I was in the middle of a vast and trackless ocean of uncertainty and so completely without moorings that I wondered if I would ever have a life again.

Daughter, home … bookshelf!

I don’t know where you are J.L. But I thank God for you. For the bookshelf.

I lost so much that I loved yet God has brought me back to children, home and bookshelf.

I still hope for the study.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Love and Fear

This morning we read Psalms 1, 25, 40, 52 and 66.These are among our favorites. 

But today I was particularly struck by Psalm 25:15.

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I feel caught in a trap.

Psalm 66 also talks about traps.

66C verse 3

Bless God, O peoples, sound His praise;

He who appoints our soul to live.

And keeps our feet from slipping.

As silver, God; you tested us.

Delivered us into the net,

Oppressed us with a burden.

Men rode over us;

We have gone through fire and water

By your doing.

Yet You brought us forth in freedom.

Fear is a powerful emotion. A woman (man) trapped will say/do some pretty awful things.

I have said some pretty awful things.

Psalm 66 says God delivered us into the net – to test us.  I feel I fail so often. How can I pass the test? Psalm 25:15 says by keeping my eyes on the LORD.

But to be honest I think most of us can’t stay this focused during times of testing without encouragement.

How I thank God for every hug, every look or word of encouragement. So grateful for my Japanese colleagues here in Aomori and for how God loved me through them last week.

Love – another strong emotion – casts out fear.

There is no fear in love,

but perfect love casts out fear.

For fear has to do with punishment,

and whoever fears

has not been perfected in love. 

1John 4:18

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Place of Abundance

I was not in a good place this today and this morning’s Bible readings really resonated. Psalm 27, Psalm 35, etc. In fact, I wanted to stand on a hill somewhere where I could shout to heaven, “Brandish spear and javelin…”  et cetera.

But instead I called someone who always points me back to God and His Sovereignty.

“You need to find your sufficiency in God, not people. It’s time for you to give not receive.” 

Ouch!

So I bought a chocolate bar, made a cup of tea and worked (a little) on letting go of my old life. I did not go out to garden in the rain. (His other suggestion.)

Tonight I’ve been looking at verses about abundance. God’s abundant goodness, grace, provision, peace and security. But I think the verses I liked best were these:

Bless our God, O peoples;

let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept our soul among the living

and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us;

you have tried us as silver is tried.

 

You brought us into the net;

you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

you let men ride over our heads;

we went through fire and through water;

 

YET you have brought us out

to a place of ABUNDANCE.

Psalm 66:8-12

We are still in the net and men are riding over our heads but one of these days He will bring us out of the net into a place of ABUNDANCE.

Yet even now God is blessing us.

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A world of grief and pain

Flowers bloom

Even then.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

“That Look”

How did I – a vehement dog hater – end up loving a devoted little dog of my own?

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The long answer is very long and some of it is chronicled in this blog. (Just type “Yae” into the search bar at the top left.)

But the short answer is that she always looks at me with that trusting expectant look that makes me think of these words we often sing:

2 As to her lady’s hand

A slave girl turns her face,

So we look to the LORD our God

That he might show us grace.

- 123A (ST. MICHAEL)

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My husband wants to know why she always looks to me even if he feeds her more often. I think its because I discipline her, give her longer walks – and, quite frankly, I respond to that look of adoration.

There is a spiritual parallel, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

 

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As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,

as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the LORD our God,

till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,

for we have endured no end of contempt.

-- Psalm 123:2-3

Monday, July 25, 2016

My Comfort

I used to tell people that I married my husband because he promised me a rocking chair. And over the years he has given me/made me a number of rocking chairs.

2016-07-25 22.30.21My Favorite Rocking Chair – Made by John

There is something terribly comforting about the rhythmic rocking.

Although it didn’t work out exactly the way I anticipated with my babies. I had always pictured myself in the middle of the night gazing fondly down at Baby after having soothed my little cherub with rocking and a lullaby. But this proved purely fantasy!

I quickly learned  that in reality what my babies wanted from me was mother’s milk. Rocking and lullabies were relatively inconsequential!

I found new meaning in the words of Psalm 131:

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:2

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My babies are all grown now but I still find comfort in my rocking chair – and in God who “tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”    Isaiah 40:11

When I feel injustice pressing in I can still say, Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7