Friday, November 30, 2012

In times like these, it helps to remember there have always been times like these. Paul Harvey

In 2004 my husband and I were blessed with a trip to visit our son in Japan for Christmas and New Years Eve.  He was teaching English as a second language in a small town south of Tokyo.  Above is a picture of some ladies collecting for charity.  I’m not sure what organization they represent, maybe Salvation Army.  Their outfits may be similar to outfits worn by the Salvation Army in the 40’s here in the United States.  Today, in our country, we usually see a Santa or someone dressed in a casual manor as a bell ringer.

As we traveled by train, bus, and car, I was amazed to see all of the Christmas decorations and holiday activity in Tokyo and the other big towns we visited.  The spirit was of shopping and materialism just like it is in the United States.  There was no mention of God being born as a baby in Bethlehem until we went to our son’s small protestant church he attended.  There we were enveloped with warmth of our people—Christians.  A missionary offered to translate the sermon for us so we could know a little bit about what was said.  We were greeted with many smiles and given a gift bag of cookies after church.  God’s people everywhere have a completely different focus than secular people.  This was like coming home.

On New Years Eve in our son’s small town the people built a bonfire and set up serving areas for hot bean soup and hot sake in the town’s evenly raked dirt square between the two Shinto shrines.   We were introduced to the important people in the town like the principal of the school.  I always enjoy doing something special on New Years Eve so this was a highlight for me.  We even stayed up past midnight.  The other English as a second language teacher in our son’s town asked if we would like to make a wish in the big or little shrine.  We declined. 

I began thinking about the difference between secular and Christian people.  God wanted His people—Israel –to be separate so He instituted the laws in the Old Testament to keep His people isolated.  But today God has given us a New Covenant because of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if I have a clear picture, but then, as I understand, in the New Testament God rescinded the dietary laws as symbolic that the disciples should go to the gentiles and teach them the Good News. Constant study of the Bible reveals to us a little more if we keep studying and don't give up. Through cross-references that we look up in the Bible we can understand more and grow closer to God. I do cling to my Bible until Jesus comes back and we can sit at His feet!
But our country is increasingly hostile toward Christians.  When I look at the first amendment to our Constitution (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances,) I see that the political correctness of this generation has squashed the free expression of our faith.  We can’t set up anything in public that will remind people of God or Jesus.  It is fine for Muslims to publicly pray or anything else they want to do, such as putting in foot baths at the University of Michigan using tax payer dollars for them.  If a Christian wants to set up a Nativity display, the Ten Commandments, the cross, sing Christmas Carols or any other reminder of Jesus or God it is challenged with a lawsuit or the threat of one. 

I think God is allowing all of this so that the Christians will study our Bibles, know what we believe, become strong in our faith, and be separate.  Maybe we can’t pray in school publicly anymore, but as long as there are tests there will be prayer in school!

Homeless in Tokyo live in neat tarps along the river.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Man cannot change the direction of the wind, but he can adjust his sails

Copyright Chris Brown

I’m giving myself a day off today.  Yesterday was a wonderful day.  Our daughter and son- in- law had us over for a turducken Thanksgiving.  (That’s a chicken stuffed into a duck and then stuffed into a turkey.)  Son-in-law and daughter worked so hard and created a wonderful meal. Everything was delicious.  Son’s sweet potato casserole was a big hit.  Son’s girlfriend contributed the roasted vegetable recipe that I love.  She also made wonderful yeast rolls.  She is one talented lady!

Later when the youngest granddaughter, five years old, had a temper tantrum, the older granddaughter, seven, and I prayed and God answered our prayer.  She said, “Thank you Lord!” So God was glorified in the middle of a bad situation. The rest of the day was fun.  Pops took pictures, the kids played, older granddaughter took us on an “Art Walk” of all the Thanksgiving masterpieces made in the last few years at school, church, and home.   We were presented with foam board drawings of ourselves with the granddaughter. Son’s girlfriend taught letters to the five year old.  Son played a Brazilian beat solo on the antique cowbell that had belonged to great grandpa. I visited with the other grandmother and she explored the yard and pasture with the granddaughters.  Daughter played a couple of Thanksgiving hymns and we sang.  Grandson cooperated by changing his clothes for a picture and had fun riding the ATV.

But today I’m exhausted from the 80 minutes it took us to drive to and from their country home.  Also the visiting tires me out.  People with fibromyalgia need more rest than most folks.  Sometimes the pain gets to me but then I remember that life is short in the light of eternity.  I try to look at my life in that way. Also I read biographies of great Christians like Susannah Wesley, Amy Carmichael, Fanny Crosby, David Livingston, George Muller, and others. They had all kinds of problems and overcame. I look at my own parents and grandparents and see that they made it through to the end so I can too. God is interested in our souls not our goals. And sometimes it is just better to not think! I listen to music and smell great smells. I watch funny movies like "You Can't Take it With You," and other movies from the 40's when I need R and R.

Sometimes God will comfort and or convict us through The Holy Spirit.  The picture above is of our granddaughters playing with a toy sailboat.  They are creating wind.  To me it represents the way the Holy Spirit works.  In John 3:5-8 it says, 5 “Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 

We can’t force ourselves to be born again.  It is the gift of God.  We need to stop "trying" and just trust God. It's hard to do but with God's help we can begin.

PS Here is granddaughter's drawing of Pops and MeMa with her.  She labels it, “Family is Forever.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing

A Russian church rents our church facilities.  Each fall they build this beautiful display in our sanctuary.  Makes me think of this hymn:

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;

he chastens and hastens his will to make known;

the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing: 
sing praise to his Name, he forgets not his own. 

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
 ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
 thou, Lord, wast at our side: all glory be thine!

 We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
and pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
 Let thy congregation escape tribulation: thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the Last Days

3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, II Peter 3:3

3 The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it. Proverbs 22:3