Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Has Already Arrived in Bali

As I write this, I hear the popping of firecrackers outside as neighborhood teens celebrate the arrival of the new year. We are thirteen hours ahead of Times Square in Bali, so 2013 has already come here.

Rachel and I intended to stay awake until midnight. I was going to read aloud to her until then. Unfortunately, my words were turning to mush as I got more and more sleepy, and I had to give up. I set my alarm for 11:55 PM, handed her my Kindle Fire, and she listened to Dr. Seuss audio books. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Drenching Rain, Flat Tire, Christmas Blessings

It is now December 26th. Christmas is over…mostly. Here in Indonesia, Christmas celebrations continue well into January.

With Ibu Sara, retured director of the children's home
The last two days were full of memorable events. Monday, Christmas Eve, Rachel and I made the 45 minute motorbike drive into town to our international church. A great group of people had been working with me to prepare the Christmas Eve service. I went early to be sure everything was in order.

We arrived at about 3:00 PM, dropped off the small suitcase containing our clothes for that night, and then went out to eat a late lunch. While eating, it started to rain. I left Rachel waiting under shelter while I went to get the motorbike. I didn’t want her standing there exposed to the rain while I put on my rain poncho. I got quite wet before getting the poncho on, then picked up Rachel. She quickly put on her helmet and hopped on the back of the bike, sheltering under the back of my poncho.

We made our next stop at a supermarket. By the time we got there, one might easily have thought someone up there was dumping buckets of water on us. I let Rachel off the bike under shelter. By the time I parked and got inside, leaving the poncho on the bike, I probably looked like a drowned rat. We did our shopping, which included a raincoat and rain pants for Rachel, so she was well protected.

We got back to the church and parked near the office. The music minister had just arrived and got a good laugh over our (my) water-logged condition. He drives a motorbike everywhere, too, so he has been there…done that. (Sorry, no drowned rat pictures.)

With Hastin, wife of the current acting director of the children's home, and a dear friend.
Things started looking up from there. We both got a shower and changed our clothes at the church. The musicians came, and we practiced the music. The various participants came, and everything started coming together.

The one thing that wasn’t cooperating was my left knee. I was experiencing an acute flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis, and was finding it painful to walk. Once in a while, my knee would buckle under me, Once, I almost fell and nearly dragged someone else with me.  I asked some friends who had arrived early to pray for me. I was supposed to MC (for lack of a better term) the service that night, and was praying that my knee would not give me trouble. God answered that prayer. As the service ended, I realized that I had not even thought about my knee the whole time. What a great answer to prayer! What a gift!

Speaking of gifts…that was the theme of the service. God’s Greatest Gift. The Gift of Jesus, His Son, Who came into our world to bring us back to Him. Various scripture readings and carols retold the Christmas story. Our pastor shared a reflection gifts, and we finished by considering what our gifts back to God might be – our hearts, our talents, our praises.  

Rachel and I arrived home about 10:00 PM that night after an hour of travel, and dropped into bed.

Rachel gets kind of goofy while waiting for the tire to be patched.
Christmas morning, we got up and checked in our stockings. Rachel had filled mine. I filled hers. We went to our Indonesian church for their morning service. I was excited to see some of the graduates from the children’s home back for a visit. It was good to celebrate the birth of our Savior with dear friends here.

No need to tell every detail of the day, so I’ll fast forward to evening. We were invited to an Australian-style Christmas celebration. These friends had invited people of at least three nationalities over to their home for food, games, and Christmas carols by candlelight in the back yard. We sat around on mats and blankets spread on the ground and enjoyed a wonderful evening.

While waiting, we discovered that taking pictures of traffic using the fireworks setting on the camera, while moving the camera around made some very interesting effects.

 About 8:00 PM, we hopped back on our bike to head home. Ten minutes later, I realized my back tire was feeling strange. Great! Just great! A flat tire…after 8 PM. It could have been a nightmare. But God was looking out for us. If I had to have a flat tire, it couldn’t have happened in better spot. I only had to push the bike for about half a minute to get to a place that patches tires. Of course, it was closed, but the owner got up and helped me out anyway. I was so thankful for that.

An hour later, with the tire fixed, we were on our way. Yet another hour later, we arrived home. Once again, Rachel dropped into bed, and I followed shortly afterwards.

The same trick works on your Christmas tree. Try it out if you have a fireworks setting on your camera.

Drenching rain and flat tire. A healing touch when it was needed most. Church family celebrating together, and friends singing His praises.  Precious memories add to our collection for Christmas 2012 in Bali, Indonesia.

Christmas 2012 is over. But I trust that the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Immanuel, God With Us – and all that His coming entails, will remain with you and with me all year through.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life That Brings Love

In the beginning was the Creator.
     In the beginning was the Father.
In the beginning was Life.
     In the beginning was Love.

The Creator loved His creation.
          Love without limits.
          Love without conditions.

But His creation could not understand 
          that Love.
     They could not comprehend 
          the vastness of it.
     They could not understand 
          the depth of it.

So the Creator stepped out of His infinite world
     To enter His hurting, beloved creation.
Only by entering their world Himself
     Could He help the created ones understand
          the extent of His love for them.
 He came humbly…
     although He was the King.
He came quietly…
     although angels heralded his coming
          to some who were quiet enough to listen.


The Life  came near
     So the Creator’s love 
          could reach everyone.
The Life came near
     So we could touch it
     So we could touch Him.

The Love that began 
          In the heart of the Creator,
          In the heart of the Father
     Was poured out through His Son
          Into the brokenness of our world.
In the coming of that Life 
     We know His Love.

For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son.  John 3:16a

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mourn With Those Who Mourn

I tucked my seven-year-old daughter into bed about an hour ago. I prayed with her and sang our traditional bedtime song. Then I aimed the floor fan into the lower bunk so she could sleep comfortably in the tropical night.
I just went back into her room to check on her. She lay there in her Minnie Mouse t-shirt and white shorts. Her dark hair fanned out on the Strawberry Shortcake pillowcase, and her arm was flung up over her head. She lay there sound asleep, totally unaware that I sat beside her on the edge of her bed.
As I sat there in the tropical humidity watching my precious child sleep, in my mind I traveled halfway around the world to chilly Connecticut where a couple hours ago, families woke up for the third morning to empty beds. No little boy hair sticking up with bed head. No tousled little girl curls on Strawberry Shortcake pillowcases.
I am sure it will be a long time before the sharp agonizing pain of the tragic loss becomes a dull ache. For now, ordinary things will bring the tragedy crashing in anew. An empty chair at the breakfast table. A favorite toy that little hands will never play with. A child’s toothbrush that will never be used. Christmas presents already purchased for a child who will never open them. Christmas stockings carefully packed away since last year will be brought out in another week and will bring a fresh wave of grief.
Maybe in some of those homes, a mother sorts dirty laundry. She finds a small t-shirt that her precious child will never wear again. She holds that shirt up to her face, and breathes in the smell that belongs uniquely to her little one. She sinks to the laundry room floor and weeps at the enormity of her loss.
Perhaps a father stands in the garage staring at a sled hanging up on the wall. He remembers the rosy cheeks and the laughter of his child as he pulled the sled up the hill with its precious cargo in tow not so very long ago. No matter how many other children he may have, that one face will be missing this winter. And the pain crashes in anew.
There is no way I can possibly comprehend the pain and loss these families have experienced. Even so, as I write this, my eyes are blurred by tears. From halfway around the world, I join with millions of others in grieving the loss of these little ones and the educators who died alongside them. I ache for those whose lives are forever altered by this tragedy. I cry for the surviving children who saw things that no child should ever have to see.
As we grieve with the families and friends of the shooting victims in Newtown, we may wish we could do something for them. Certainly, we can pray for them, and we should. But we probably can’t provide a shoulder for them to cry on when they need it.
Perhaps, we can take that desire to offer comfort, and reach out to someone nearby who is facing the first Christmas without someone they love. Their losses may or may not be as fresh as the tragic deaths of the victims in Connecticut, but to them, the loss is every bit as real, every bit as deep, every bit as painful.
We can weep with those who weep. We can mourn with those who mourn. We can walk with them, beside them, offering the love of Jesus who wept with his own friends when they experienced a great loss. We don’t need to provide answers. We can simply be there, quietly present with those who are going through dark valleys of their own.

Mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15b
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