Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

People we've grown to love:
teachers and fellow students
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Thunder pounds against the concrete walls of the house as we tidy up after our school brunch. A small gathering (14 people) spend a noisy, happy final morning together, celebrating the end of term. At school, we break from 9:30-10am for tea, coffee, Indonesian snacks, and conversation. Sometimes the Korean, Indian, or we Canadian students have brought our national goodies to share.

W and I are still bad at deciphering rapid conversations in Indonesian but the simpler phrases are clearer. We've learned a lot of words – and some grammar (barring exceptions) during our semester of language school. Yesterday, our class was tested. And I stayed home to cook.

One of the bits of advice I've received as well as given is, "Is this is something God expects of you? Or are the “ought”s and “should”s of others creating a sense of obligation?”

As we are preparing for the exam, it occurs to me to ask those questions. Is there any advantage to taking it? Do I need the class certificate as well as the information gained? In other words, should I invest the time and energy to study for a test or will my time be better spent crafting a meal?

Some of the guys from language school
It is no contest. I stay home and listen to Indonesian lessons online. W and our classmates pass the spoken and written tests with flying colors. And we have a nice brunch. Win-win.

Brunch goes off without a hitch. I’ve done the cooking, with W assisting. It’s the helper’s regular day. She does a quick pass through the house with broom and mop, clearing the debris that continues to fall from the ceiling and the last day’s construction mess. (Her husband has begun repairs on the ceiling and roof in the badly leaking wing.) When we haul dishes to the second kitchen, they are miraculously cleaned. We chase her out after noon, “early time off” since we have travel plans for the afternoon.

Ugh. The lock has jammed – W has to fiddle with the front door deadbolt for an hour before we can lock up. It’s 2pm before we’re on the road.

We are celebrating Thanksgiving dinner away from family for the first time. But a morning call from Mel and Martha in Seattle cheers our hearts. 

In the evening we head for Jakarta and Thanksgiving dinner with friends who are becoming increasingly dear to us. We're so grateful to be included in personal friendships as well as the ministry of IES Jakarta. We’re dreaming and planning into the future with them. God is good!

“It’s Thanksgiving. But look at the weather!” W exclaims as we drive in. Yes, how we love the tropics in November and their 83o (30oC) temperatures.

Gigi serves up a feast of turkey, ham, pork, and side dishes. Dessert includes apple cobbler a la mode and other sweet treats. We eat downstairs in the building's auditorium before heading upstairs to talk and relax in Kenneys' flat. What a lovely day!

We are so thankful for all our partners in this adventure. Thanks for your notes, your prayers, and your encouragement over the past 5 months in Indonesia.

It’s been a week since I last wrote. Here’s to catching up. Remember to check out the easy recipe at the bottom of the page if you need a quick-and-easy dessert.

Friday, November 21
We are planning on a day off but have a last-minute appointment at the seminary. In the morning, we meet the academic dean and his assistant. They ask if we are interested in teaching there. Certainly, if we can work out details and permissions.

W needs some tools and gets a screen for the back door, left open during the day by helpers. What a relief: we immediately have less bugs and mosquitoes in the house. W stapled screens to the open windows last week so that’s helped too. I still need the mosquito net over our bed but am learning to untangle it from the blanket in my sleep.

LR before: potential for improvement?
When we arrive home about 4:00, a text pings on my phone. “Are you home? We’d like to visit.’ Yes, please come, I text back. I’m baking Christmas cookies, trying out an Italian cookie press ($4 at the local hotel ware shop). When Dr Hanna and her daughter Alice arrive at 5, we sample the fresh baked goods.

It’s nice to have people drop by. We put aside our chores and sit down to talk together. My mom taught me the basics of hospitality: always have food on hand. Keep the door open. Enjoy the guests God brings. We do.

LR after, almost ready for Christmas guests
“Would you like to go to an art gallery? My friend is co-owner,” Dr H asks. Sure. I’ll be ready in the morning as arranged. We could use some regional art that suits our budget (low) and dresses up a few of our many white walls.

Our visitors walk home with a bag of cookies after the rain stops: they live just around the corner. At 7:30pm, it’s pitch dark with only the neighborhood lights on. Each home is responsible for turning on the streetlight connected to their electric bill. W has put ours on a timer after we forgot a few nights. I finish baking by 10:30pm.


Saturday
Dr Hanna picks me up at 8:20am. I don’t know what to expect at the gallery. W has work to do around the house so I go with $85 cash in my pocket. We are furnishing our Bandung home with money from selling our things in Seattle. It’s interesting to think about what will find us here after shedding so much back there.

Oh! We pull in at the Reading Lights bookstore W and I have passed many times. I’ve wanted to go in as recently as yesterday. I have only one novel along (a gift from W’s sister) and misssss books. W loves to read online so he’s fine without.

The bookstore used to be Galeri Bandung. They’re downsizing their artwork. Their shelves are filled with used books but the walls are hung with 40 paintings. The barista hands us a price sheet, ranging from $30-300. I find several framed originals: 2 in markers and one enameled with sand and metal.

Sumathi and Augustine are over, having taken an angkot in early morning. They and W headed to the market and to Setiabudi grocer with my short-list and their long one: they’re preparing an Indian menu for the class Monday at lunch. Indian food is extremely time-intensive: Sumathi will be cooking tomorrow as well. Our Bosch mixer/food processor slices onions galore and the blender smashes the fragrant spices together. Meanwhile, Ibu A makes us a good chicken and rice lunch.

When W drives them home and Ibu A leaves, I bake more Christmas goodies and start to roll newspapers into cones for an art project. I run out of papers before enthusiasm. We’ll get old ones from the library next week.

New friends around their Christmas tree
Sunday
Dr. Hanna comes by for the two of us. We begin the day with a visit to neighbors. She went to school with Edward, a bio-chemist and his wife Hunny. Hanna’s cousin, the head of Indonesia’s Autism Society, is also there. (Seems like everyone knows each other on the hill.)

Hunny has decorated the whole house for Christmas. Their kids live in the States so they have familiar ornaments, including motion-and-singing Disney characters. The tree by the piano is lit. The piano! I head over and play a quick carol.

Hunny is also a gardener. She shows us unique plants including a Brazilian grape (or Jabuticaba, known back home at smoothie caf├ęs as high-nutrient guarani). The deep purple fruit hangs from the branches in her front yard. It is sweet – and we leave with some seedlings and a bag of fruit. I can’t wait to go back and explore her yard.

A rainy morning
We’ve left the house early. On the way to church, we intend to view the ITB faculty-student art show that takes place only once every fourth year. We hop out a half-kilometer before campus and leave the driver to find parking in the stop stop stop and crawl traffic. ITB is a prestigious university for arts and technology; the campus swarms with students, families, and Bandung residents. At squeeze points, the pedestrian traffic jam holds us in place for 10-20 minutes.

Oh my! A sudden downpour – rainy season after all – completely soaks us below the raincoats we pulled out of our bags. Our trousers drip and our feet wade through one to six inches of run-off. Dr. Hanna and her daughter find raincoats at a vendor and quickly don them. The little booths push the heavy water off the tarps above, but not everyone successfully defends their wares. Some gear and artwork gets soaked and ruined.

One blond head in the crush
By the time we push through the crowds and find the car, we are quite wet. Our shoes and feet are muddy. Dr. H and Alice will have to dry off in the car: they point out that it’s too late for church and they are driving straight to Jakarta. We don’t have a chance to make the service: even the angkots are standing still in traffic and we’re a few kilometers away. We might catch the closing prayer – but even that is iffy. We snag a hot dog and fries (what?!) and walk up the hill toward home empty-handed. Maybe meeting these people – friends of friends – is what God has in mind for us.

A traditional dance group - under shelter
But there is the bookstore again. W asks if I want to go in. Why not? We leave carrying two framed gouache paintings @$60. The angkot driver is surprised when I wedge them around me on the front seat, while W hops in the back with other passengers. The driver carefully moves the gear shift around the bigger painting. (We hang them Monday night and the house begins to feel like home.)

Monday
What a great review class with Ibu Josie. She grills us on grammar and structure, helping us understand how Indonesians ask and compare jobs, time, and places. After going through the material, this reprise helps the information to stick.

Great friends and good cooking
During break, we head upstairs to faculty housing next door where Sumathi and Augustine live. They cook and listen as Josie continues. Then the rest of the classes arrive. Thirteen people squeeze in and around the table, heaped with biryani rice and marinated mutton, curried fish (tails and fins cut off, unlike Sundanese style), eggplant, and tender butter chicken. The roti and chapattis fill us to the brim, while raita cools our tongues with cucumber, onion, and tomatoes in sour cream. I baked a fruit cobbler that S serves with ice cream and sugared balls of dough, Indian style.

Ibu Greti starts on dishes as soon as she finishes eating. It’s nice to have most of the cleaning done before everyone leaves. We sink onto the couches, replete and happy. What a feast! S sends home leftovers and hosts other faculty in the evening. So much food…

Tuesday
It’s the last day of class, a wonderful review session with Ibu Greti. I’ll miss meeting these friends and our teachers. “They have heart,” I think. Both a heart for God and for his people.

Afterwards, we eat lunch at the Sundanese restaurant around the corner of the school with the academic dean and his assistant Ibu Dwi. They choose “beef foot” soup (delicious broth; you don’t eat the gelatinized hoof). It is a mix of Chinese and Indonesian food: gado-gado (our favorite Indonesian peanut salad), dried fish and bean sprouts, deep-fried spinach, and fried chicken legs.

The wreath starts to take shape
Since we are out and about, we drive to ACE Hardware for some nails before hitting Lucky Square to retrieving W’s pen from a store. We shop for groceries for the class event on Thursday, too. We splurge on $4 one-hour foot and back massages outside the grocer. (Two days later, W’s soles are still sore: we get a work-over so painful that we talk and plan today’s events to make it bearable. The young men grinding into our feet with bony fingers smile charmingly as they inflict pain.)

I finish gluing the newspaper cones to cardboard backing. Yikes – it’s big: 5’ in diameter and needs a larger backing so the upper cones don’t flop forward. W runs to the store for the Indo version of Elmer’s All-Purpose glue and we glue a large sheet of cardboard across the back and let it dry overnight.

Snickerdoodles and shortbread
Wednesday
W finishes the test, along with Sumathi and Augustine. He gets off the angkot at the grocer on the way home, replenishing our kitchen cupboards with a long list compiled from what I used up this morning. I’ve baked 2 kinds of bars (recipe for the smash hit below) and 2 kinds of cookies. The meatballs are formed and baked. The sausage and onions for the egg casserole are fried. And I’m so not hungry, looking at all the food stashed in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. (That’s why I was skinny when the kids were little: by the time I’d prepped and fed everyone, it would be 3pm and I barely had an appetite. Evenings when the kids went to bed, W and I ate everything in sight.)

Done. Chinese and Indonesian newspapers,
a few curled leaved, and a cake decor logo in the middle.
Merry Christmas!
We hang the wreath above the sofa, where it fills the empty wall almost to the ceiling. Our guests Thursday exclaim over it: it’s spectacular, another one of God’s surprises – more than the sum of its parts. Its quiet colors and humble materials sneak up on the moving eye.

In the evening, I assemble the egg dishes, check supplies, and write a list for the morning. We’re asleep before 11, quite early for us. We sleep tight and awaken, rested on Thanksgiving morning before the regular alarm at 5:30am.
-----

Here’s the promised recipe. These easy bars got rave reviews from my primary tester (W) and were the favorite at our Thanksgiving brunch.

No Bake Chocolate Oat Bars


Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 32

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or smash into pieces ½ -¾ of a “pound-plus” Trader Joes Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds bar)
1/2 cup peanut butter
DIRECTIONS:
1.
Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.
2.
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in the oats. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended. Press half of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve the other half for topping.
3.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon.

4. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A day on the road

Alternative city transportation
Wednesday, November 19

By Wednesday, we've had two days of language school about "transportation" and "asking for help." We are happy to have a cultural day on Wednesday.

On the way to school, the first angkot driver pauses for 10 minutes at the side of the street to fill his minivan with passengers. The second one pretends he's almost ready to leave when we board, rocking his foot on the gas occasionally. He drives a block or two after 10 minutes and stops again for 10 minutes. He shows no sign of moving. We are now late and just a few streets from where we transferred.

Finally a young man says to us, "Better to walk!" and scrambles off the bus with us. We hand the driver the lowest possible fare (20c) and begin a fast walk toward school.

Ojek drivers (motorcyclists) wait at intersections for passengers
We flag a third angkot after walking a mile. This driver is on a mission. He passes everyone. Zipping along, he has us at the school entry in no time. The "sitting duck" driver never passed us on our 20 minute walk. Perhaps he's at the corner still.

Our van with students and two gurus head up the side of a mountain to Lembang, the local gardening district. The streets are narrow, crammed on either side with booths that hide the storefronts behind them. "It's too bad for the store owners," Josie notes. "No one can see their store because of the stalls draped with plastic (tarps). So ugly."

The class in front of the DIY tofu instruction board
She points out the "rabbit district," streets lined with rabbit cages. "You can buy them for pets or food."

Our first stop is Tahu Susu Lembang, where milk-and-soy tofu is made. We beat a group of 100 other tourists into the factory. Good thing. "We are fully booked for tours today," they had told the teachers. But they let us in and show us around.

Soybeans are soaked for four hours before being drained, ground up, and boiled in clear water for an hour. The huge vats of water are just heating up as we arrive. The gas burners roar under the tanks."You've come too early to see it cook," we're told.

Delicious product! Fried tofu.
After the soy cooks, milk is added.Then the tofu-in-process curdles in a vinegar broth before the water is poured off and reused. The curds are pressed and molded in pans, cooked 15 minutes in salt and garlic water - with or without turmeric for "white" or "yellow" tofu. The blocks dry on shelves near an electric fan.

Flies cruise through the air and land on the tofu at every stage. We sample the delicious deep-fried cubes afterwards. "Whatever happened with the flies is now cooked," remarks a fellow student. True. And it's very tasty, regardless.

Our second stop is Kedai Tehteh, a popular shop with traditional Sundanese food. "People will be lined up all the way down the drive on weekends," we're told.

The teachers buy a "paket" for each of us: fried chicken, rice steamed in banana leaf, fried greens, deep-fried tempeh, a little fried circle of potato, and a quarter of fresh cucumber on a lettuce leaf ("which I don't recommend foreigners eat," warns Josie.) It's hot and fresh, the best meal of our school excursions, especially after adding spicy sanbal and soy sauce. We'll come back with guests. W's stomach rumbles before he swallows charcoal pills. Mine feels full and happy.

The local "chicken combo"
Corrugated roofs over traditional rattan in rainy season
We handed the metalworker on the corner a sketch yesterday. In the evening, he welded a simple base for a yucky piece of furniture we found in a bedroom. We pick it up on our way home. Suddenly, it's a proportionate cabinet, perfect for dining room storage.

Before: low and awkward

After: with a simple metal base = useful
We can't always take pictures of the people we meet, so I'm sharing our surroundings.

Before: "and darkness covered the face" of possibly the most boring living room ever
After: getting there, slowly but surely
The house is full of mosquitos and flying termites. (The helper's husband leaves the back door open when he works. We'll have to talk about that.) We swat them away and drape the mosquito net around the bed as night falls.

Read more:
*Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 ESV

*My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? Psalm 42:2 NEV


*The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10 NIV

*Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 ESV

*We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Father, just like children we often think we know what is best. We long to be closer to you, and yet we fail to follow in the path you have laid for us so many times in so many ways. Thank you for forgiving us and welcoming us, even though we aren’t worthy. Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A squelching Saturday

Suradi's lawnmower: a machete
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bapak E, Ibu A's husband, has come to look at the leaking roof. W drives him to a building supply to buy a long beam. The repair supplies for our bedroom leak - wood, water-proofing, and whatnot - cost $17. Pak E clambers up a bamboo ladder onto the roof and goes to work.

Without a winter, plants keep growing, trees drop leaves, and palms shed fronds year-round. The yard man, Bapak Suradi, arrives on his "every-two-weeks" rotation. Usually we're in Jakarta and he prunes the hedges whatever way. I demonstrate the slant for hedge and ask him to trim the shrubbery where we park the car. From the roof, Pak E translates our future plans to move the guppy pond closer to the house. Pak S clips with a hand-shear and mows the grasslike foliage in the driveway with a machete. I forget to ask him to buy bug-killer: mealy-bugs are devouring the poinsettia tree.
15'+ tall - in the mall (the little trees are 6')

We ignore our own good advice after last week's excursion: "Stay home on weekends," and head out to do three quick errands in town. "We'll be back for lunch at 1," we say, waving goodbye to the helper at 10am.

We call Ibu A just after noon to say traffic is bad. We are on our second errand. "We'll probably be late. Please put lunch in the fridge if we're not back by the time you leave."

Then, with the assistance of the WAZE app, which apparently has no other foolish drivers on the cross-streets, we follow stand-still traffic through one back street after another. Motorcyclists huddle under trees and move from shelter at any little letup in the downpours. Our arrival time moves from 2pm to 3pm to 4pm to...

Motorcycle helmets:
$4.50 in the supermarket
We get home just before 5pm, 3 1/2 hours from the last stop. (That's how long it takes to drive from Jakarta to Bandung on a bad day.) Good thing we're with each other. W flips through radio stations. "Oh joy!" he says, finding an all-Disney music station.

We read Matthew 18, today's daily passage from IES Jakarta. W notes the "believing children" and theological implications regarding the age of accountability. I mull how Jesus uses parables for more than one lesson. Here the lost sheep imply the value of every person, no matter how humble or childlike. In Luke, he stresses God's search for the lost. We wonder if Jesus knew the child he placed in the circle of disciples. "Did this youngster belong to one of his followers?"

Discussing theology and how to live it out makes the time go faster. Not fast. Just faster.

Ibu A has left us Nasi Goreng Ayam (fried chicken rice) and salad. And she's used a package of chocolate chips W brought from home to bake the sweetest-ever, oil-not-butter cookies. W likes them a lot. I brew myself a stiff pot of unsweetened black tea as accompaniment.
The weather forecast this week: chance of rain, 100%.
My hometown of Winnipeg kicks off the Christmas season with its annual Santa Claus parade today. We've also seen a few decorated Christmas trees in the malls of Bandung. Is it time to get out our little Christmas tree?

The reflecting pool at Warung Ethnic
We have one more appointment in the evening. W is still on German time so he's anxious about us being late. I send off edits on the journal article of a friend. We walk through the rain and dark to Ethnic. The potholed gravel road has been replaced by excellent paving. Wow! and eek. There are no curbs so the drop-off at the edge of the road can be over a foot down. We're seated at 6:30pm. The owners must be Christian: there's a Bible verse posted on the wall. Prices vary from $2 for local dishes to $30 for Australian steak. We've just eaten so it's tea and coffee for us. They have a limited number of menus. When others come in, the servers take our menus to their table.

We're meeting an undergrad student from the FB group Expats in Bandung. He's on a motorcycle, texting back and forth as he tries to get to us. Normally, it's a 5-minute ride. It takes him 2 hours in the gridlock ... on a motor, which usually zips by the cars. Not this time. We're not sure what's going on. Reza has lived in Bandung most of his life. He says he's never seen traffic like today's.

A pretty surprise on the guest bedding
He arrives at 8:30pm, sheds his rain gear, and orders a strawberry smoothie. We have a great chat about his project - water desalinization and filtration - and his passion to be an entrepreneur. He'd like to come to our Open House in December. He explains a few Sundanese customs and asks if we'd like to visit his house. Of course, we'd love to.

He remembers, "But my mother doesn't speak English." No worries, we say. He is fluent and can translate if he's willing.

At bedtime, the sheets we washed are still wet. Laundry takes a long time to dry, even with the house-fans on. We pull out new "guest" bedding and - oooh, what a pretty surprise! The embroidery is cheerful and the duvet cover fits the blanket perfectly.

Before crawling into bed, I ask W to check temperatures in the house. I am shivering cold after the walk home in the rain. I guess 65oF. His thermometer reads 82o. Brrr. Maybe I'm feeling the fan-moved air and the damp. The moist air is probably good for the skin. I put on a sweater.

I'm reminded to pray for our friends in Tonga: Dave, Rhonda, and their son. They live with "wet air" all the time.

Read more:
*O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.

No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:1-5 NLT


*It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomsoever I please. Jeremiah 27:5 NEV

*For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:15-16 NEV

*You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Loving Creator, you gave this wondrous world to us, your chosen children. Every day, we must do all we can to protect and nurture all that you created: sea and sky, rock and tree, beast and humankind, and treasure it as the gift of your power and love. This we ask in your name. Amen

Friday, November 14, 2014

Puppets and people

I'll let the pictures tell the story.
Two monkeys perform in the intersections at the traffic lights as we walk to school.
This one walks on high stilts.  The other resignedly rides his little bike in circles, looking bored. 
IES Jakarta uploads last weekend's photos. Ours make us laugh.
I look tired but W looks like he's dreaming up new IT stuff.
The new mixer and blender work great.
Our helper passes a jasmine shrub on the way over. She plucks a few branches. The fragrance fills the house.
We do a Google Hangout with our daughter-in-law and two adorable grandkids.
The language school sets up a visit to a puppet-making factory Thursday. It's a "cultural event." The owner tells us she inherited the business from her father. 

"The man in the corner is a master painter," she points out. "He's worked here for 40 years, since my father's time. Parents used to pass along the skills to their children, but now the children don't want to learn for such low wages. I think in 10 years, we will no longer have a factory." 


Each employee has a specialty: the men carve and paint the faces. The women embroider cloth, assemble jewelry, and sew the costumes.

Women and men from the villages work at the factory to earn extra money between harvests.
Indonesia's version of Romeo and Juliet
as beautiful puppets. These are nearly 2 1/2 feet tall.
When we try our hand at painting faces and costumes on wooden pens, the results are not like the experts. However, Waldemar's pen is the best-looking - almost professional. We are in awe.

We are growing to love the culture and the people here. Can you tell? We feel God's heart, urging us to embrace those who have not yet heard and to share Good News.

Read more: 
*Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord - rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows - this is God, whose dwelling is holy. Psalm 68:4-5 NLT

*Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols. Ezekiel 14:6 NEV

*Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God.” Acts 14:12,14-15 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, so many things blind us to you: health, money, family, responsibilities, reputation, recognition, personal goals. Please help us to follow and trust you in all things. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain:
It has sometimes been asked whether God commands certain things because they are right, or whether certain things are right because God commands them. . . . I emphatically embrace the first alternative. The second might lead to the abominable conclusion . . . that charity is good only because God arbitrarily commanded it—that He might equally well have commanded us to hate Him and one another and that hatred would then have been right. I believe, on the contrary, that “they err who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides His will.” God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and His goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good. 

But when we have said that God commands things only because they are good, we must add that one of the things intrinsically good is that rational creatures should freely surrender themselves to their Creator in obedience. The content of our obedience—the thing we are commanded to do—will always be something intrinsically good, something we ought to do even if (by an impossible supposition) God had not commanded it. But in addition to
the content, the mere obeying is also intrinsically good, for, in obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam’s dance backward, and returns.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More than keeping busy

Part of the cool staff team at IES Jakarta:
typical Saturday night, post-service dinner
Can it be Wednesday already? We've met a few new people again this week, most notably several grad students on the angkot. W and I just got home from dinner - but we missed meeting a new friend from the Expats in Bandung group on FB. The roads are wet and they are in class until late, so we postponed our joint supper. It gives us time to talk through our priorities and make sure we're on track with what we feel called to do. We arrive home sated.

Sunday, November 9:
IES (International English Service) Jakarta hosted a Fun Run before the morning service, 5 km for adults (actually more like 7, but no one complained) and 2 km for the kids, who got a tattoo or stickers at every way station. Lots of volunteers made this one happen but the event was fully staffed by the time we showed up for the weekend. So we watched and hopefully learned a few things.

Anything worthwhile takes time: the view from the office at
IESJakarta of a year's worth of construction. It will be
hidden from sight and undergirds new skyscrapers
Several staff members stayed in hotels near the church overnight since their duties started early. We were heading back to Bandung after service, so we took the car, following the WAZE app to church in the morning. Big mistake. We'd planned to arrive as requested, at 8:30. WAZE couldn't figure out why we didn't want to take the main road so we criss-crossed the city. We made it in the door just before service started at 10.

The central core is closed to cars some Sunday mornings. W squeezed the car through narrow alleys - and ended up parking in a nearby shopping mall. We walked the rest of the way. Hundreds of people were jogging in the car-free zone, pushing baby strollers, or sitting and talking. Little carts with food and chochkies kept everyone well supplied with treats. By 11am, everyone packed up and the cars returned to the streets.

Hanging out and fooling around: Pastor Micha
and Julius ham it up before the Fun Run
We enjoyed the service but this one was special. Both Saturday night and Sunday morning, Pastor Dave reviewed the DNA of the church and talked about its unique mission to Jakarta and Indonesia. We left inspired and encouraged.

One of the staff couples is moving. He's Indonesian; she is South African. They'll be living near her family. She's packing and hands me two boxes crammed with yards of beautiful lace from her career as a fashion designer. When handed an unusual gift, I'm on high alert, asking, "Where will God will send it, here and there?" I have plans for the silver yardage: draped decor at Christmas!

The drive home from Jakarta is unremarkable. It's nice to come in our door 2 1/2 hours later. It has rained inside as well as out while we were gone. I enjoy setting up the end tables purchased on our quick stop at IKEA on Friday. (Today, Wednesday, we stopped by a tile shop. 60cmX60cm black granite: $4.50 = and upgraded tabletop. What do you think?)

Before: raw wood top. Love the textures.
After: what a difference a tile makes
Monday we take the little bus down the hill toward class and also notice that we haven't been walking much the last week. It takes us a little longer to get to school. It is exam time .... but happily not for us. The Korean students completing LEVEL 4 this semester lead a service, complete with worship and preaching in Indonesian.

They do an amazing job of involving all the students. W and Augustine pray. Sumathi helps lead the music. I have to read the Bible passage in Indonesian. Ah, butchery. I apologize for what I will do in advance. With Google Translate, I can ask them to stand for the reading in Bahasa Indonesia, too.

Final test before an international group
Tuesday and Wednesday we run errands after class, so I drive the car in one day and W another. Wending our way through a two-lane street with 3-4 lanes of slow-moving traffic is interesting. It's more nerve-wracking as passenger so I usually catch up on email when W drives.

On the bus: a beautiful Sundanese
grandma holds her granddaughter
We get a very nice surprise this week. Our daughter mailed a package from Austin TX full of "sweet littles" - tins of goodies and skin care and a Christmas stollen. We open it with delight. Gift-giving is one of Kirsten's more consistent giftings since childhood. It's lovely to be the recipient.

Gradually we're acquiring the basics: this week we finally purchased a kitchen mixer/blender combo and a few wall mirrors for the guest rooms. We picked up screen cloth to staple over the bathroom windows to bar mosquitoes from entering. I'd be happy if we no longer need the mosquito netting over the bed: I wake up each time it brushes my face or hands during the night.

I am also glad to find a $13 Christmas tree at ACE Hardware. It's little  - only 4' tall - but we'll decorate it this year and put it on a table for height. (We're unwilling to pay for a taller tree if there are pre- or post-Christmas sales!) Our kids sent individual ornaments along with Waldemar. Hurrah. We look forward to the season. We're hoping to host the people we've recently met when December rolls around, before everyone leaves for Christmas vacation.

We are in rainy season. I pack a little rain jacket everywhere we go. Thunder and lightning are common before the downpours that wash away garbage and bad smells. But when I look up the temperatures where friends and family live (minus13oC / 8oF in Edmonton, for example), I'm even happier to be here.

Read more:
*The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever. Deuteronomy 29:29 NEV

*God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. Job 37:5-6 NEV 

*Jesus prayed, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” John 17:6 NEV

*This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus, may our hearts be reformed each day so our lives will be a living alleluia. Thank you for receiving us and helping us to lead others to receive you. We give praise for your truth and salvation. Alleluia! Amen.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Choose this day - will you have this or that?

"He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only," wrote C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

IES Jakarta, waiting for people
to arrive and celebrate God's goodness
God gives each person the choice to serve him or to follow other gods. Sometimes those idols are of our own making. Sometimes our idols are values inherited from our parents or learned from our culture. Joshua presented a decision to the nation he had led:

...If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

His mind was made up. He chose the LORD he had served all his life. He stayed faithful from first to last.

Reading the books of the Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament, the options seem so obvious. Serve God and thrive. Live. Experience abundance of crops and protection from God. It's not that Israel didn't have to fight off their enemies. Their lives were not always easy. But God guided, helped, and intervened as needed.

Serve the Baals and foreign gods or choose our own path - and God lets us and those around us reap the consequences. 

Here are some of the gods W and I have observed:

  • money - for power, admiration, or a sense of security
  • relationships - friends, spouses, parents, or dare we mention ... children (whether we have them or want them)
  • the approval of others
  • self-will or selfishness
  • addictions - sex, food, drink, drugs, habits
  • ambitions
  •                                            (you fill in the blank)
None of those idols fill our souls or satisfy us to the core. These diversions are demanding. Never satisfied. Unattainable.

IES teens pray a farewell blessings over their pastors,
who are setting off on the next steps of obedience
So why is it so hard for us to consistently choose what would make us happy?

Read more:
Do not be afraid, land of Judah; 
    be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!

Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
    for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
    the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.

Be glad, people of Zion,
    rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
    because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
    both autumn and spring rains, as before.

The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm-
my great army that I sent among you.

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed. Joel 2:21-27 NIV