Thursday, September 29, 2011

God sightings

This is a photo of volunteers praying together at the end of the day in the neighborhood where our Cornerstone Team worked this summer.  Its not just volunteers, though.  Neighbors who have been touched by the service of many believers from inside and outside Japan through relief, mudding out, rebuilding and emotional care are also joining the circle.   Dean wrote that one neighbor looked out of his window and saw them praying and ran to join them.

Keep praying for God to establish his kingdom in the hearts of the people of Ishinomaki!

Spending time with the Mission Family

Asian Access Missionaries (less 5 who had already gone by the time we had photos taken) along with at team from a  church in Okinawa that ministered to the Asian Access children
Our mission family gathered in Kobe this past week for our "Fall Gathering."  Originally scheduled for training for short-term church planting missionaries five years ago, the fall gathering has become an important time for all of us to be together.  Our missionaries are located at the two extremities of Japan--Hokkaido and Okinawa--the Osaka and Tokyo areas on the main island of Honshu.  We have done our best to keep in touch in this distributed fashion, but these face-to-face times are treasured. 

This time all missionaries joined in as we looked at the Strengthsfinders results and talked about how we can each contribute to working better in teams and as an organization. We were reminded of our core values, and went through the Vision and Mission statements of our organization.  We talked about our passions in ministry, and what it means to have a vibrant community.  We talked about cultural changes in Japan in the last ten years (a surprising number were listed on the board), and sent the short-term missionaries on a cultural plunge into Osaka. We also reminded one another of some of the challenges of living cross-culturally, and encouraged each other to be more culturally aware. The whole time was bathed in prayer. of our missionaries headed to the hospital in labor part-way through the time (she lives nearby, and the hospital was actually closer to the seminar house than her house!)  So by the time the gathering was over our mission family had increased by another little boy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My new favorite book on parenting teens...

I have been studying the Prophets for a Bible requirement of my Masters program at Columbia International University.  We're going at quite a clip to do a survey of the prophets in one semester, so I'm only getting the highlights.

What surprised me the most in this course, is that I am encouraged as a parent while watching God deal with his rebellious and not so rebellious children.  Why?  Because when I read popular Christian parenting books, I'm left with the sense that if I only do A, B and C, my kids should comply and become model children. I don't think I'm the only parent who has found that my kids didn't read the books.

But when the Father of us all does A, B and C his kids still rebel or  insist that they are doing what he asked while not having a right heart.They assume that because they're his kids he'll not allow bad things to happen to them, etc.  And there ARE consequences to his children's decisions that are not pleasant.  And he watches them go through pain and hardship. He reminds them over and over of what he would love to do for them if they would only change their hearts and their behavior.. He longs deeply to have them turn back and reconnect to him.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, The Holy One of Israel, says:
"Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
But you would have none of it." Isaiah 30:15
I am not a perfect parent, but I'm grateful that the Perfect Parent had troubles with his kids...because it gives me hope. There is always hope.  The prophets see a day when God's children are restored, and established.  And it is fulfilled in Jesus.  So I've decided that Isaiah is my new favorite book on parenting teens...


Monday, September 12, 2011

Why do you want to study the Bible?

We sat around the table last Wednesday morning for the start of the new season of Ladies' Bible Study at ICCS.  We are looking at the Over-Arching Story of the Bible and we started by talking about the Bible itself, it's structure and a bit about the canon and the transmission of the Scriptures. I included the illustration of the Bible as a Library of Smaller Books (from the Group Study Guide of Henrietta Mears' What the Bible is All About ) and already have had one lady tell me its been helpful to see how to categorize the various books. 

 But before that, I asked them why they wanted to study the Bible...

Several talked about wanting to know the Bible better, and there was general enthusiasm for putting the stories they've heard here and there in a context and time line.  But the answer that sticks with me is from one woman who comes quite regularly.

"I have to take care of my elderly parents, and I am not happy.  I heard that the Bible teaches about how to be happy, and I want that."  This same woman has asked, "who is Abraham  that Pastor Stan keeps talking about?"  And she thought that Jesus wrote the Bible--a natural assumption for someone coming in new.

I have appreciated how the ladies care for one another, and especially how people have reached out to this woman.  I hope that through our study she will come to find out not only that the Bible shows her how to be happy, but that she will discover that she is precious and loved very deeply by God.

This year I'm challenging them to memorize verses.  Here's ours for this week:

While our study is primarily in English, we have made every effort to encourage those who are not strong in English to still feel like they have a place at the table.We are letting people choose which language they want to memorize.  I am going to try the Japanese versions this year. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

28 and counting

We celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday. It promises to be a hot and humid day in Tokyo, which reminds me (Faith) of the hottest day of the summer of 1983 -- our wedding day.  We married in the old sanctuary of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois...which at the time was NOT air conditioned. My dear bridesmaids were in long sleeve taffeta dresses...I'm amazed they still keep in touch with me! I should also feel badly for the groomsmen in tuxes.

We've spent most of our married life in Japan--it was already a "given" before we married that we were coming here as career missionaries. That was back in the days when career meant long time, not 3to 5 years. God has given us plenty of opportunities to grow and be stretched in our relationship over those years. Some I've referred to in other blogs. We sung "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at our wedding, as well as at the memorial service for our sons 23 years ago. It is a challenge to be in a ministry family, and we are so thankful that we don't do this without the faithful guidance and enabling of our Lord.

Last year on home assignment we bought one-year passes to Disneyland and made a point of setting aside a day a month to get there to enjoy time together at "the happiest place on earth."  Since we've been back here it has been harder to carve out those times, so we wanted to get it started again and tried to think of things to do to celebrate our anniversary.  We looked at going to Kabuki, but the only seats available for this month were a bit out of our price range.  Next week starts the Sumo tournament, and we thought about trying to get seats for that, the English reservation site had closed two days before! Maybe we'll take in a Japanese baseball game...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

goodbye, old friend

This morning when I went on blogger, my old template had disappeared...

I was pretty attached to the old template, and there are some add-ons that I had which don't appear on this one. I've been blogging for five years, and suppose it was time for an image-redo, but I would like to have been the one to make that decision!

We've spent some time looking through possible templates, and so far this is what we've chosen.  I'm not 100% sold on it, but hope you find it pleasant enough as a backdrop to our posts.


Monday, September 05, 2011

Celebrations with some "extended family"

Today we went to the TGI Friday's near Ueno Station in Tokyo to celebrate Stan's birthday lunch with our friends Carol and Doug. There are times in the course of our life here in Japan where we miss being with family. But we have been blessed with friends who have filled those spaces.

Our first connection with this couple was when our oldest daughters were in first grade and they rode the trains to school together.  Those girls are in their mid 20's now. Many of those who were our close friends when we first came are no longer serving in Japan, so its especially nice to still have Carol and Doug as good friends and extended family.