Thursday, January 04, 2018

Halfway Down

I took this photo last July for the Beauty in Every Day Life 30 Day Challenge…

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I think it was for Day 19 “Every day object.” 

I love stairways!

And we had been working to clear these stairways on the Nakagawa River where we walk (every day, twice a day) when the weather is clement.

I love to sit on this stairway on a clear day watching the water run sparkling by, or perhaps sit there in the the dark with my husband beside me listening to the night sounds…

Ever since I was a child I have sat on stairs… and thought. Perhaps that’s the charm of A. A. Milne’s poem.

halfway

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I'm not at the bottom, 
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

- A. A. Milne

In the poem halfway up and halfway down is a good place – a thinking place. But in my life right now… I feel a little…  stuck. Not at the bottom, not at the top… thinking and thinking and not really getting free.

And so in the end, although I have thought up countless texts for that photo, I never wrote up any of them.

I never finished the 30 Day Challenge.

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A few days ago I wrote “So much water under the bridge since this photo was taken a little over a year and a half ago... and that water floated us out of darkness into a very good place. I thank God for His great deliverance. "Bless the Lord, oh my soul, bless His holy name - and forget not all His benefits!" Psalm 103”

And it is absolutely true!

And yet, and yet…  what I wrote to a friend a few weeks ago is also true. “… most of the time I feel safe and useful and alive again. But I still have moments when I wonder if I will ever recover from those 2 years of limbo and …” 

Last summer was hard. Really hard. We had to vacation (3 weeks!) with many of the people implicated by that “and” . I’m afraid it almost put me back at the imprecatory psalm stage!

Fortunately, autumn and my commencement to Hirosaki University Graduate School in October – as a fulltime student this time around – seemed to restore my equilibrium and on the whole I have been pretty happy.

But things have come up during the Christmas vacation that brought back memories of that awful feeling of being the caged dog…

This is not a good feeling. It is also not my present reality! But sometimes its hard to escape the shadows.

When we were casting about for this year’s motto I was drawn to Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

But in the end we chose these words from Fra Giovanni’s “Take Joy” written Christmas Eve, 1513. Perhaps it was those words “The gloom of the world is but a shadow.”

2018

And to see, we have only to look.

I beseech you to look!

So this year we will go on looking for the joy “within our reach.”

And yes, we will TAKE JOY!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Keona–from Generation to Generation

*Your phone rang while you were in class.*

I was more than a little surprised by the news, *Keona was born!*

She was definitely early! But she’s a healthy young lady. When I phoned both Mom and Keona had just finished their lunch.

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Here are the details from Daughter #1

Born at 39weeks2days. 3572grams. 

Name:Keona (kee-OH-nah)

Meaning:Gracious gift of God

Kanji:希代奈(きよな)

Bible passage:Psalm 100 (especially verse 5)Our hope is in God, whose faithfulness continues through all generations. We will pass on this hope, generation to generation.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Shining Faces

Two nights ago we prayed a prayer we often pray. Really often – often enough I may have posted it before somewhere. But it bears repeating.

Heavenly Father,

The Japanese poet Basho wrote:

A world of grief and pain
Flowers Bloom
Even then.

But its more than that.Verse 4 of #34B in the Psalter says:

Encircling those who fear the LORD
His angel camps, and rescues them.
O taste and see the LORD is good;
How blessed are those who trust in Him.

Sometimes we have felt rather like the Israelites in the Exodus with nothing but a cloud between them and the Egyptians. But even in those times there is still the sweet taste of Your goodness.

We taste Your goodness in sunsets and sunrises, lakes and rivers, the fragrance and color of the flowers everywhere - all revealing to us Your invisible qualities:  Your eternal power and divine nature.

We taste Your goodness as we sing the thought provoking old hymns and, of course, the Psalms. And as we search our Bibles, meditating and praying through the promises we realize that you are very, very good to us.

We hope someday many people will say when they look at us:

How radiant those who looked to Him!
Their faces free from shame shall be.
The LORD heard when this poor man cried,
And from all trouble set him free.      - 34B verse 3

We want to be radiant! We want to feel Your face shining on us!

In the name of Jesus we pray,

Amen

Then yesterday this photo came up in my Facebook memories. I’m smiling – almost shining. And yet that was the very time when we felt there was only a cloud between us and “the Egyptians.”

I have never been so frightened in my life, and for so long. I hope never, ever to be that frightened again!

And yet even then God’s face did shine on us!

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Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend...

Proverbs 27:10

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jonathan–God’s Gift

When I was young many of the men in our little country church began their prayers with these beautiful words from Psalm 103,  “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

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On Good Friday Daughter # 3’s third son 岡田友矢(Tomoya Okada – also known as Jonathan) made his entrance into the world 4 weeks early and wrinkled up like a little old man but a very healthy weight. He was able to leave the hospital with his mother a few days later.

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Just out of the hospital

Tomo means friend(s) and ya means arrow(s).His parents took the name from the story of David and Jonathan and the arrows in 1 Samuel chapter 20.

The story often brings to my mind those verses in Proverbs, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, Behold, we did not know this, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11,12)

It would have been so much easier for Jonathan to say “I didn’t know.” But Jonathan was willing to jeopardize his own future to do right by his friend.

A friend like that is a real gift from God – and that, by the way, is what Jonathan means:  God’s gift.

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Daughter # 3 with Jonathan last Wednesday

Last Tuesday Psalm 102 was in two of our Bible readings and I thought again of those verses in Proverbs 24:10-12.... God works BUT good men must not be passive!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The heart of the home

When Daughter # 3 went into the hospital last Thanksgiving her family moved back in with us for awhile.

I think that was God’s medicine for my sore heart. With two small boys always demanding attention I didn’t have time to indulge the sudden tears that still rise sometimes.

I’m afraid I resorted to screens though… 

Although we also enjoyed Jacquie Lawson’s virtual Advent Calendar – a friend’s gift to me – between Thanksgiving and Christmas the boys and I watched an astonishing number of Hallmark Christmas films.  

On the whole these movies were not memorable. And I finally decided I must be watching them for their themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Still, occasionally there was a line or two really worth remembering. I wish I’d had a pen ready the night we watched the one with that insightful line about how the kitchen table should be the heart of the home.

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It is the heart of our home.

And I’m grateful for all the candlelit suppers we shared with the Okada family during the holiday season.

They’re back in their own home now. But the boys still join us every Saturday night. And we still light candles in the evening and sing in the morning.

Here we come Thy name to praise

Let us feel Thy presence near

May Thy glory meet our eyes

While we in Thy house appear

Here afford us Lord a taste

Of our everlasting feast….

- Safely Through Another Week

Friday, December 02, 2016

Fire and Water

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This morning we sang again.

I always feel a bit chary of singing in a corner somewhere when there’s company and we’ve had company for several weeks now.

Well, not precisely company. Our two grandsons, our son-in-law and his company – a very helpful Frenchman.

But this afternoon my husband and I had a couple of hours alone and so we sang a few Psalms before we read together.

I love verse three of 66C:

Bless God, O peoples, sound His praise;

He who appoints our soul to live,

And keeps our feet from slipping.

As silver, God, You tested us,

Delivered us into a net,

Oppressed us with a burden.

Men rode o’er us;

We have gone through fire and water

By Your doing.

Yet you brought us out to freedom.

Its the title song on the first album I ever purchased from Crown and Covenant,“Through Fire and Water: Songs of Deliverance.”

So theoretically I could have learned it off the album. But that’s never worked for me – I have to see the notes!

Which is why from the moment I started thinking about Topic # 18 “Tools or Appliances” from the Beauty in EVERYday 30 Day Challenge that I’ve been (slowly!) working through, I immediately thought of the Psalms for Worship app on my tablet.

We have learned so many really beautiful songs using this tool – songs that have strengthened and enriched our lives.

Songs that brought to life the Psalms that helped us through the fire and water.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Hand in God’s Hand

Did you ever wonder how Barak and Samson made that great roll of faithfuls in Hebrews 11? I mean, shouldn’t it be Deborah instead of Barak? And Samson?! Now that’s just…. unbelievable!

Or how about the Apostle Paul’s glowing words about Abraham

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, Rom 4:19-20)

What does Paul mean “He did not weaken in faith” and “No unbelief made him waver”?

What about Hagar?!

The truth is, men never live up to their ideals – and God is GRACIOUS. Men are not always so gracious!

And yet, sometimes they are…. 

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How grateful I am for this group of local pastors - and how it warmed my heart to see them reach out their hands (literally) to my husband hoping to,

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart,

"Be strong; fear not!”


Isaiah 35:3-4

It is still hard to shed the anxiety (and sometimes terror) that has gripped us for so long.

We have to believe that God rules - and overrules.

Joseph told his brothers in Gen 50v20,   “God turned into good what you meant for evil.”  And the truth is we will never shed our anxious hearts until we believe this to be true in our lives – always true.

Often we don’t really know that those who have hurt us “meant it for evil”...   It is difficult to know the hearts of men and women.

But when we question motives, when things seem wrong, Joseph’s words ought to remind us that God allows even things that seem totally bad to us and (whether we understand and agree with the motive or not)  He can always use these “bad things” to bring about His good purposes.

But I need to be reminded:

…Therefore lift your drooping hands

and strengthen your weak knees,

and make straight paths for your feet,

so that what is lame may not be put out of joint

but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:12-13

And we feel our hands in God’s hands as friends and colleagues reach out their hands (real and figurative) to us in love.