Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meeting and evaluating

Tuesday, December 29
The early morning walk starts at 6:30, after we do an hour of work online. We go through the lanes and streets with our yard dog. Gypsy needs a long walk - and even so he is frisky throughout the day.
A quick learner: no tugging on the leash
and an immediate sit-down when we pause
Then the day really begins. W is working on the visa situations on several fronts. We prepare and rehearse a talk for the first weeks of January. I have some letters to write.

We are surprised when our helper hails us as
we're walking past her house.
And at 11, K and I meet with a friend from the walking group. Madju explains how she keeps her arthritis pain under control with Indian herbs and natural foods. K has tried many of the foods herself (but without helping).

The ingredients for Chai tea: Indian basil,
ginger, cinnamon, and peppercorns
Sumathi and her daughter Amitha (visiting from Singapore) join us for lunch. Amitha is marrying next summer and we hope to attend the wedding. We met her boyfriend last Christmas - a fine fellow indeed. Today is also Sumathi and Augustine's anniversary. What a treat to spend time together.

Friends old and new 
Amitha will be setting up her house before the wedding - she comes over for ideas on furnishings and layout. We share some tea before they go home.

Exploring the tea cupboard
While we're at lunch, W is retrieving a parcel from a family in the US. They have blessed us for Christmas - and we are stunned at their generosity in finding and sending children's books (for learning English) and dog toys (dog management!) We are delighted with the books and the dog is ecstatic with the squeaky toy he drags around the yard.

It's time to review our year. We discuss how God has blessed us. And how have we blessed others? We are so grateful for people who have supported us  during this transition to a change of vocation. We love this city and its people but there are times when we really miss old friends. Knowing we're not forgotten helps a lot :-) .

Funniest snap of the day: on the opposite hilltop,
a cell tower disguised as a very tall tree (left)

Read more: (ESV)
*David and all Israel were dancing before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8

*For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

*God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. Daniel 2:21 

*The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Luke 2:20

*Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17

Moravian Prayer:
Loving Giver of life, receive our words and deeds of celebration as offerings of praise and thanksgiving for the magnificent gift of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Please accept our undying gratitude for his life, death, and resurrection.

It is difficult to discern your will, God of Wisdom. The Scriptures inform us, but interpretations can be controversial, even adversarial. Forgive our allowance of such disagreements to obstruct the work of your Spirit in us. Show us how to live the way, the truth, and the life of sacrificial love. Amen.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Days 3-4

Sunday, December 27
The days spin by. We are tired from our travels and got in late last night. W adds a second morning service to the regular one: that means a trip toward town via angkot (mini-van for passengers). We are speaking at both in January.

Cookies baked by neighbors in language school
It takes me all afternoon to unpack a small carry-on luggage. That's the last time I leave it for the next day. Somehow, done immediately upon return, putting things away and into the laundry hamper is efficient and thorough. Today it feels like I'm puttering here and distracted there before the suitcase is empty.

One meal at our place
We're writing an invitation to the neighbors for a New Years Eve gathering at our house. K and I set off to buy groceries while W takes our first draft of an invitation to the Pak R.T.'s house. (He's the man voted in to keep harmony in the neighborhood.) Properly, we should have the council secretary's stamp on the invitation before giving it to others.

A strangely heart-shaped schnitzel
These families have lived here for 30-45 years: someone like us from outside has no idea about correct procedure. W gets help from the women of the house. They rewrite the invitation (what we had was not considered an invitation.) W upgrades our effort to reflect theirs.

Discovering a baker in town
"They were very specific on what was proper," W says. Which we appreciate. We'd originally thought of making a light supper and guests bringing something to share. That's not good, we find out. We're now providing a dinner and no one else brings food. We wonder what an Indonesian would write - and who would deliver such an invitation - to ask neighbors over in Canada or the USA.

Homemade baking
This event is not as simple as one might think! We do lots of informal gatherings that we don't ask about - but this is different .. It immediately becomes more formal than our original idea to "have the neighbors in."
  • Should we personally take the invitations over? Or can our helper give them out? 
  • Who gets invited? Who gets left off the list? 
  • Do we invite all close neighbors or ? (There are over 60 houses in the neighborhood where we reside.) I don't even know where all the women of the arisan (women's group) live.
  • Will we know how many are coming? Will they RSVP or not?
We wander back to the RT's house with the corrections. Neither he nor his wife are in but we leave some homemade cookies. We'll have to go back in late afternoon. I'm so sleepy that I nap in the afternoon.

Then we go back once again. Pak RT is not there but his wife comes from cooking dinner. She has W sign all the invitations and promises to deliver them to our neighbors. So the event is out of our hands. It's so different from what we would expect. Life here is full of surprises.

Hope you enjoyed the food pictures - much of life here happens around the table.

Read more: (ESV)
*The Lord said to Moses, “Who gives speech to mortals? Is it not I, the Lord?” Exodus 4:11

*The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey. Joshua 24:24

*Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

*And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

*You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit. John 15:16

**Be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Moravian Prayer: Who, us, Lord? You chose us? But we are too small, too old, too young, too poor, too busy to heed your call. Forgive our excuses and fill us, instead, with your Spirit of unselfish commitment and action so that we bear fruit for your kingdom

Tireless Creator, often we succumb to post-celebration doldrums. We lose our enthusiasm for service and witness. Help us remember that even in the dullness of daily routine we can share your grace. Rekindle the coals of our hearts with the fire of your love. Amen.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two days of Christmas

Glory to God in the Highest: Lessons and Carols
from King's College in Cambridge UK
Wednesday, December 23
The kitchen sink is piled with dishes from last night's Christmas party. I am so grateful for a helper who washes and puts them away while we pack for our Christmas trip.

The walking group sends a WhatsApp: do we want to meet for brunch at Warung Ethnic? Sure! and we're there by 10:30. I order a cup of tea before walking home. Merry Christmas, ladies!

Lunch? I've been invited to a neighbor's - and Dr W picks me up at our gate. It turns out to be a reception after a little boy's circumcision: so Dr W scoots back home for an envelope with a gift for him from both of us.

Delicious lunch at the neighbor's
The little guy's grandma is a great cook. She's made a big meal. Oh yum. (She also teaches foreigners to cook Sunda food - when I have time, I hope to have her teach me a few dishes.)

W, K and I are on the train to Jakarta by late afternoon. What a beautiful trip, through valleys and along mountainsides and rice paddies. It's about 100 miles between cities. Some drivers are in their cars on the toll road from Bandung to Jakarta for over 10 hours. Traffic is practically at a standstill. We're glad to be on the train, which takes 3 hours ... plus 3-4 getting to and from the station on either end.

Rice paddies terraced beside the railway

Thursday: Happy Christmas Eve! 

Hand-tied belts
Kenneys loan us a car to get to lunch in Chinatown. Sun City has best dim sum in town. The restaurant is decked for Christmas!

We walk to the main street and see a bizarre sight: 3 guys installing LED lighting onto the electric poles along the street. The worker at the top of the ladder braces the light between his thighs. Another man holds the ladder and still another pulls at a rope to raise the light.

We catch a taxi to the big market nearby. It's a 5-story bazaar: K finds a few belts and I indulge in a $1.10 (US) back massage (20 minutes). What a relief to unclench my shoulder muscles after the busy week of events and travel. There are extra security guards at every entry.

The footings for an enormous skyscraper
IESJakarta overlooks a building project that has been going since we arrived last year. It's fun to watch the progress in filling in the enormous hole below the offices.

A "real" piano on stage. WOW.
There are 3 Christmas Eve services. We enjoy the beautiful celebration of Christmas: music, an inspiring talk that encourages our hearts, and staff dinner and hangout between services.

Kamille plays peek-a-boo
while Kirsten and Kristi visit
Kirsten and I take a picture in the lobby under the Christmas tree. I suddenly realize that I'll be 60 in March. The picture confirms that I'm no spring chicken. (No surprise there.)

IES has 2 morning services. After the first, K and I enjoy the second one from the lobby before heading to Bintaro and the flat with Pastor Gigi. 

She stops at an expat store for her lunch order: she's preparing the Christmas dinner for 16 family and guests. Her gatherings always homey and gracious - she has the lovely gift of making people feel welcome. PD and Gigi's daughter is on Christmas break from USA university - what a treat to see her again.

Gracing the Christmas feast at the Kenneys'
After the food is cleared from the tables, we talk or play games. There's a noisy game of Yahoo, a tradition from which PD and Pastor Mike are barred: apparently they are almost telepathic and wipe out the competition when they work together.

In the evening, K and I are too wound up to sleep so we watch two episodes of a drama before crawling into bed. 

I watch the annual BBC program of Lessons and Carols online - from King's College Cambridge. The music and setting envelope me in beauty and gratitude. (We loved Evensong at Kings when we lived in Cambridge.) I listen to the whole thing and finally fall asleep at 2am.

Saturday: Christmas Day 2
It's a lazy and quiet morning. I wake at 7 to listen to scripture, read a novel for a few hours, and then snooze for 10 minutes. It's already such a meaningful season: my heart is full of thanks to God for the gift of Jesus, his Son.

We catch a taxi to Daniela and Mario's and arrive about noon. They take us to a Chinese / Indian / cafe - with fabulous food. It's so good that I keep forgetting to take pictures!

But on the way back to their house we snap a pictures of a monstrous house with statues, carvings, and lots and lots of pillars. We're not sure who built it, but every imaginable decoration from the Mediterranean has been crammed onto the facade or rooftop. Amazing.

Jakarta train station
In the late afternoon, we take an Uber cab to the train station. We wait for a few hours before an uneventful ride home. We pray for the families waiting with us. And what a beautiful skyline at sunset!

It's always nice to be back in Bandung. Our hearts are here, for sure. We happily miss the Saturday night traffic jam that happens soon after 10pm, when restaurants close. 

I don't bother to unpack my suitcase (a first this year?) but write and think until almost 1am.

What an impossible Story. 
What a generous God. 
What a creative and loving solution to our dilemma and separation from God: 

AMAZING. I can't comprehend it. But I am so grateful to be reconciled to God through Jesus.

Read more: (ESV)
*Even the stork in the heavens knows its times; and the turtle-dove, swallow, and crane observe the time of their coming; but my people do not know the ordinance of the Lord. Jeremiah 8:7

*David and all Israel were dancing before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8

**And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

*The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Luke 2:20

*(Simeon) took (Jesus) up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32

*Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

Moravian Prayer: Loving Giver of life, receive our words and deeds of celebration as offerings of praise and thanksgiving for the magnificent gift of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Please accept our undying gratitude for his life, death, and resurrection. 
Remind us that Christmas isn’t over! We know the story of Christ’s coming must not be packed away with the nativity figures. Help us stay focused on the message of salvation we are called to celebrate and share every day, all year long. Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ho ho ho! Christmas is almost here

Candles lit for celebration
Tuesday, December 22
We celebrate at our house with friends a few days before Christmas. But first, we have to make something for our guests to eat.

The day in the kitchen starts shortly after 6. W walks Gypsy so I can keep baking. We ran out of a few ingredients yesterday so I'm finishing up Nanaimo bars this morning.

Ibu Apong loves to bake and cook: she pitches in to make thumbprint cookies. They spread all over the pan: the eggs are bigger than the originals in the recipe - I should add more flour but don't. Too much else to do.

W and another strong fellow haul a bench and an 2.5-meter (almost 8') table down from upstairs and set them in the nook by our front door. K arranges colorful flip-flops for guests' feet just outside.
Before the nook gets torn apart
During: a table full of goodies and guests
By noon, I'm asking, "What shall we eat tonight?" I have a vague idea but guests won't be here until 6 or 7. I rarely plan meals in advance: we keep ingredients on hand for spur-of-the-moment guests as well as for bigger events. Somehow food tastes better when the cook is in synch with the day and the food, doesn't it? So you never know what inspiration could strike. haha

So I prioritize: I think there's time for a nap before looking through the fridge and freezer.

C'mon already ... I wake refreshed. Ibu A has been smiling all day as we bake and wash up. She mops the floor. Usually she cleans up Thursdays after movie nights (held on Wednesday). But because of the helper rotation, her counterpart will be stuck with the dishes tomorrow.

"Merry Christmas to you!" we say, and pray over her and her family before she leaves. She has been a great blessing and God's gift with so much company coming through the house this year! She leaves with her Christmas gifts and bonus, the cookies with dark edges, and lots of food.

By 3, it's time to dive in. W and K come through the kitchen to help throughout the afternoon.

At 6, our first guests arrive. Dr. A, the landlord of our first place, brings his lovely wife (married this year) - they've moved into the house next door. We are delighted to renew acquaintance and include them. The house resounds with conversation and laughter.
The Christmas reading
There's lots to eat - I dash back into the kitchen as the house fills up and fry up some chicken to make sure we don't run out. (Good to have food in the freezer!) Guests bring baking and desserts to share.

We read the Christmas story - and share something we are thankful to God for. W prays over us for the Christmas season.

And then it's time for dessert and the White Elephant gift exchange. It's a new idea to some, but great fun.

Josie and Pauline make us laugh
Rules of the game:
1. Each person chooses a number for their chance to pick a gift or take a gift that someone's opened already.
2. If you choose a gift from someone else, that person gets to go back to the tree for another gift.
3. Gifts may only be rehomed twice: then they are the property of the 3rd person.

We've never seen such a thing: Pak Budi opens one present after another, only to have a "next number" claim it. He's a good sport - we are giggling by the time the rotation is finished. Everyone seems happy with the gifts wrapped and shared.
Another try: will Budi get to keep this one?
When all the guests are gone, the food parceled out and put away, and the dishes are piled at the sink, we relax as a family. It's so nice to have our daughter with us.

We exchange gifts and thank God for this special time to celebrate the birth of Christ together.

Read more:
*When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. Leviticus 19:33 ESV

*Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Psalm 150:2 NIV

*God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. Luke 1:52 ESV

*So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7 NKJV

*[The Shepherds and the Angels ] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 ESV

*Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7 ESV

*Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! Luke 2:14 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Infinite One, Creator and Ruler of all, may we glorify you not only in our worship today, but every day, with our whole selves, for that is the purpose of our lives. 

As we prepare our homes and hearts to welcome you again, Divine Savior, may we do as much to offer welcoming aid to the stranger in need, native or immigrant. Remind us of our call to serve you to the glory of God. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II On worry:
A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.

Christmas Week begins

Sunday, December  20, 2015
We start the morning at a wedding. Shera is a friend from movie night. We're happy to cheer her on at the celebration of marriage to her friend Dani.
A young wedding guest
 The bride is stunningly beautiful. The groom is nervous and handsome - our wish is that they love and care for each other all their lives. It's the beginning of a new season for both. We pray God's favor and blessings on them.
Dani and Shera
We stay for an hour but have the honor of attending a second event. We wave goodbye to the bride and groom from the doorway and hop in the car. K is under the weather so she stays with the driver while W and I go into St. Paul's.

We prayed for a couple last year who hadn't been able to have kids. This year, Desmond is thriving under the loving care of his mom, dad, and extended family. Thanks be to God for this miracle boy.

He's being baptized. W and I pray over him along with our other grandkids.
Desmond's baptism
The light of Christ at Christmas
Pascall and Yunni invite us to lunch with their family. What a privilege for us!
Oma K and Desmond
Love this family!
The setting is stunning. Here's the view from our table.

Two loving grandmas and an Oma
We need groceries and a baking supplies for the upcoming week, so we stop at a mall. It's late afternoon when we pull into the driveway. W and I write thank-yous to supporters and partners.

It's so strange to be far from home at Christmas. Some of the routines of the season have followed us.

Today is baking day. Our daughter K's helps. W runs to the store for more eggs and butter. We use up bags of flour (they come in half-kilo size), sugar, and other goodies. By party-time Tuesday, we've made Nanaimo bars, peanut-choco cookies, thumbprint cookies, cream-cheese-frosted brownies, and puff-pastries.

I'm always grateful for experience in baking and cooking at full speed. While our kids grew up at home, I taught piano in the afternoons . I learned to put together meals quickly. That comes in handy here when we have friends over.
Our friend Pauline admires desserts. She made the
gingerbread house; someone else brought the middle cakes
We pause the baking to head out for lunch with K's friend. Beth is a doctor, learning Indonesian in Bandung.
Tip-toe: K towers over many locals 

Then it's back to work. I take a mini-art break: it's our tradition to share an ornament each year. Out come the Sharpees and they're done in 15 minutes. Back to the kitchen!
Star ornaments for 2015
Meanwhile, W takes Gypsy to the local hash run. The rain's held off so it's slippery but not treacherous.
Gypsy loves the trails!
Read more:
*If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. Isaiah 58:10 ESV

*Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 NKJV

*Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Jesus, grant us the gentle strength we need to be steadfast in our compassionate conduct toward the suffering people of this world. May our persistent actions shed light on the plight of the hungry and thirsty, so others may see and act on their behalf. Amen.

C.S. Lewis The Problem of PainThe golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. 

But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance ‘makes heaven drowsy with the harmony’. All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. 

There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exist for us, but we for it.