Friday, November 30, 2012

He's On His Way to Set Things Right!

As Christmas approaches, our minds go a thousand directions -- decorating, shopping, baking, parties and programs, Christmas cards (do people still do those?), favorite movies and carols, plans for Christmas day. These concerns are added to an already stunning array of things to think about -- keeping up our homes (our furnace isn't working this morning, brrr), keeping our kids fed and clothed, health, family finances, relationships, balancing schedules, kids struggling at school, how to pay for fill in the blank with whatever you're dealing with right now (let's hope it's not a new furnace), healthcare costs, violence in our neighborhoods and cities, poverty and hunger around the world, wars and natural disasters -- to name just a few of the things that occupy our minds.

On Christmas day we celebrate the Incarnation, when God became man and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, The Message). But that didn't just happen one day, without warning. The world was in a dreadful mess and had been for centuries. Throughout scripture we read that God promised a remedy for the world's woes and we even see Christ foretold as early as Genesis 3 when God spoke to Adam, Eve and the serpent after the Fall. 

The season of Advent calls us to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. Into a desperate world of hurt and need, Jesus came. And today, into our desperate world, we welcome him. We are reminded of the words from 1 Chronicles 16:33b (The Message), he's on his way to set things right!

But first, Advent. Preparation.

I asked my musician friend Jerry Piger if he would suggest some Advent music I might consider using this season. Of the 25 titles he sent me, I knew only three! So I researched them and have chosen five or six wonderful songs of Advent, songs that prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, to feature on the Sundays of Advent and on Christmas day. Most may be unfamiliar to you, as they were to me, but I found wonderful arrangements that will minister to you as you listen. 

For today, I want to share O Come, O Come Emmanuel, a more familiar hymn. As you listen, allow the words to soak deeply into your heart. Whatever is on your mind these days, be assured, he's on his way to set things right! Rejoice!

If you'd like an Advent reading guide, you might be interested in this one that features a different hymn for each of the 28 days of Advent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dancing Slippers

Here is something that I had never given much thought to. It's a very nice piece about ballet shoes -- to get you into the mood for watching The Nutcracker this Christmas season.

New York City Ballet "Pointe Shoes" from Galen Summer on Vimeo.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday Drive

It was a beautiful weekend -- bright blue skies with dramatic clouds and patches of fog hanging over the hills -- and it called us out for a drive. We remembered Skylark's Hidden Cafe in Fairhaven, so we headed north for lunch after church yesterday.

It's a charming eatery, with one street entrance and the other, the hidden one, off a little plaza. The walls are covered with family pictures from the early 1900s, as if you are having lunch at your grandma's house. Our large, lovely salads (with tasty homemade dressings) filled us up as we watched the comings and goings on the plaza.

Here's what we saw as we drove to and from Fairhaven. Not bad for the end of November!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Recent Facebook Sitings and Black Friday Options

I have some pretty cool Facebook friends. Here's a sampling of things they have posted recently.

(posted by two different friends)

So much to be thankful for. Lord God, thank you for the gift of your Son and the sacrifice that was made on the cross so that each and everyone of us can have an intimate friend in You. YOU are the ultimate FRIEND. You will NEVER "unfriend" me, no matter what! You will never "unfriend" my children or anyone who puts their trust in you. I thank you for that. Help me to be the friend to others that You are to me.  (Lisa B)

We have reviewed  the original story of how the pilgrims gave thanks for surviving their first year in the New World. I was impressed that most of the children survived. I believe it was due to the sacrifice of the rest of the group. Today I am thankful for all the sacrifices that parents/grandparents/caregivers make for the kids. Every day I see that sacrificial love, and am blessed by it. The kids will survive and grow strong by this kind of love. Keep it up and don't grow weary in doing good...there will be a reward. (Lisa R)

I am so thankful for so many things that it's hard to write about. So I'll just talk about the pie, because it was the most awesome pumpkin pie I've ever had. Why? Because my daughters and I chose seeds that grew pumpkins that make great pie, planted the pumpkin seeds, fertilized the plants with coffee grounds and oyster shells, watered the plants, gathered and cured the pumpkins, scooped the goop, saved the seeds, cooked it, pureed it, added spices, put it in a shell, and baked the pie. From seed to pie, this is something for which I am profoundly thankful: that I have a relationship with my daughters that includes teaching them how to grow and forage great food and medicine, and to care for the land. Thank you, God, for this life. (Julie C)

* * * * * * * * * * 

And now for something different:

This is Black Friday, the days retailers are expecting the stores to be overrun by hordes of shoppers, kicking off the Christmas shopping season. We aren't going out today, even for the half-price socks at Fred Meyer. We'll be talking to our sons about choosing a project that we, as a family, can give that will impact others.

We learned about Sawyer Water Filters as we were browsing this Christmas Gift Giving catalog put out by International Child Care Ministries of the Free Methodist Church. Besides child sponsorship and the Busoma Project, they have various programs that are made possible through gifts of caring people. Check it out! I believe it's just what you're looking for!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sing to God, Everyone and Everything!

From The Message, here is 1 Chronicles 16:23-33. After David became king over Israel he had the Ark of the Covenant returned to Jerusalem. This passage is part of David's psalm of thanks on that occasion. It is fitting for our celebration of Thanksgiving and ends with a promise that we'll think more about during the Advent season: "He's on his way to set things right!"

Sing to God, everyone and everything!
Get out his salvation news every day!
Publish his glory among the godless nations,
his wonders to all races and religions.
And why? Because God is great -- well worth praising!
No god or goddess comes close in honor.
All the popular gods are stuff and nonsense,
but God made the cosmos!
Splendor and majesty flow out of him,
strength and joy fill his place.

Shout Bravo! to God, families of the peoples,
in awe of the Glory of the Strength: Bravo!
Shout Bravo! to his famous Name,
lift high an offering and enter his presence!
Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness!

God is serious business, take him seriously;
he's put the earth in place and it's not moving.
So let Heaven rejoice, let Earth be jubilant,
and pass the word among the nations, "God reigns!"
Let Ocean, all teeming with life, bellow,
let Field and all its creatures shake the rafters;
Then the trees in the forest will add their applause
to all who are pleased and present before God
-- he's on his way to set things right!

Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H Peterson

Monday, November 19, 2012

Picture Yourself at Yummy Noodles

The first thing I notice when I walk into Yummy Noodles and Grill in Stanwood is -- well, I can't quite decide. Is it the yellow formica top booths and tables with red and yellow chairs in the brightly lit restaurant, reminding me of my childhood? Or maybe it's the warmth from the fragrance of Asian foods wafting from behind the counter. Perhaps it's the people who sit at the tables now, chatting over their meal. Yes, I notice all of these. But what really draws me in are the hundreds of snapshots spread across most of the wall space of the shop and are even displayed on the windows and ceiling.

Running out of wall space!
They've got pictures on the ceiling too.

They have been snapping pictures of customers since the shop opened about 6 years ago.

I study the walls and find folks smiling back at me from the pictures at my table. Everyone looks happy. And who wouldn't be at a place that serves delicious food -- everything is homemade, down to the soups and sauces -- and staff that thinks of their customers as family?

Steven and Jenny

Jenny Dang's large Vietnamese family came to the US 30 years ago and settled in Seattle. Her sister Alexis found this building for lease and knew it would be the perfect place to open a noodle shop, far from the city's busyness and great number of Asian restaurants. She operated the shop herself until she had a brain aneurism a could of years ago. So Jenny stepped in to help out. She not only manages the restaurant, she also cooks and creates the sauces that live up to the shop's name, Yummy.

I asked her if the commute from Seattle is a problem. No, she doesn't mind the commute, she said. She likes the local people of Stanwood/Camano. They make the trip worth the drive.

Last week when we were there Tom got a lesson in how to eat one of their dishes -- grilled chicken vermicilli. Steven, who works the counter and serves the meals, brought Tom's order, a red square plate with noodles and grilled chicken on one side and a lovely green salad on the other. After he'd eaten, Steven stopped by to chat with him.

He was pleased that Tom had enjoyed his meal -- it means a lot to him to have people like the food. What did Tom think of the homemade fish sauce? He liked it a lot, Tom told him, and he used it on his salad.

Oh, but that isn't salad, Steven said. It is intended to be merged with the noodles and chicken and mixed all together, with the fish sauce added in to suit one's taste. I just serve it that, Steven said, because it seems to be what Americans prefer.

Steven told Tom about a trip he made to Vietnam several years ago. As he sat at a restaurant table he noticed a large number of children hovering nearby. The children's eyes were trained on the plates of the customers; if there was any food left on a plate when a customer got up to leave, the kids would swoop in and grab it. "That really broke my heart," he said, "so I invited them all in and bought them a meal, which was very inexpensive in Vietnam."

Are you on the wall at Yummy Noodles? Tom and I are. It took a couple of visits to find ourselves, but there we are, on the wall under the counter, in the second row from the bottom, smiling along with the rest of the crowd. Just a part of the family!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Yes You Can -- The Busoma Project

Malnutrition is a serious problem in the nation of Burundi. For this country that has seen tremendous devastation through years of civil conflict, food shortages are often a problem.

In 1990, with a desire to provide good nutrition to the people of Burundi, Frank Ogden, a missionary doctor at Kibuye Hospital, created a porridge that continues to give life to thousands of Burundians. The cereal's name, Busoma. is an acronym for BUrundi Soy, sOrghum, and MAize. Busoma is loaded with nutrients especially needed by children after weaning. Yet Busoma is used by children and adults alike to prevent starvation and malnutrition. (taken from Free Methodist World Missions Hotline)

One of my goals in going to Burundi this past July was to visit the factory where the Busoma is made. Frank Ogden (now retired) and his wife Carol are friends of ours and I was interested to see the Busoma being made and the feeding program and nutrition class that is held at Kibuye. As it turned out, our team spent several days at Kibuye, staying in the guest house, attending the local church, and visiting the hospital and the Busoma plant.

Each month six tons of Busoma are produced there, with most of it being distributed to Free Methodist churches around the country. The soy, sorghum and maize are purchased from growers inside Burundi, cleaned  and dried in the sun, then each grain is roasted separately. It is then mixed with a paddle in a re-purposed Maytag washer that has had the spinner removed, and finally it is milled. Next it is bagged into half-kilo packages, enough for eight servings. This happens every day, Monday through Friday.

But making and distributing the Busoma is not enough to overcome malnutrition. The hospital has instituted a nutrition and feeding clinic as well. When children are brought to the hospital for their check-ups, they are weighed. If their weight falls below the appropriate level for their age, they are enrolled in the feeding program, a weeks long class that meets either on Monday or Friday. The mother and children come on the given day for their check-up and, while the cooked Busoma cools down enough to eat, a nurse gives a teaching on nutrition. Lunch is then served and each person who has been fed is given a half-kilo bag of Busoma to take home, good for eight more meals.

The scale at the Busoma plant serves two purposes. It is used to weigh Busoma grains and it is also used as a public scale, making a small side income for the project.

There are many people involved in the production of Busoma. As the superintendent of the mission station, Fidele Niyongabo also oversees the Busoma project. (His wife Helene is the assistat administrator of Kibuye Hospital.) There are also many locals employed by the project, including those in the factory and the nurses that operate the feeding program. To each of them, to those with the vision  required to begin and maintain this project, and to those who help fund it through ICCM, let me say, "Thank you." And to those who want to do something that will help other people and find it to be more than you can do alone I say, "Yes you can! With the help of God and the people He provides, yes, you can!"

Click here if you would like more information about the Busoma project or any other outreach of International Child Care Ministries through the Free Methodist Church.

Below is a photo tour of the BUSOMA project. The Ogdens graciously shared their stories and these pictures with us when we visited them at their home recently.

Dr Frank Ogden chatting with a friend

Kibuye Hospital's sign read, in Kirundi, reads"We work with the God
who heals and who gives life." This sign, for the Busoma factory, says
"Good food for the entire family."

Unloading the grains from a recent delivery

Sorting and cleaning the grains 

Notice the wood beyond the men. It will be used to roast the grain.

Carrying the grain to the drying area

Laying out the grain to dry in the sun

Each grain is dried separately

The grains are also roasted separately

Pouring the grains into the re-purposed Maytag washer

Hand mixing the grains

The mixed grains go into the mill

Bagging up the milled grains

Measuring out .5 kilo bags of Busoma

Mixing the Busoma with water before it cooks 

Waiting for the cereal to cook (boil for 8 minutes)

Preparing to dish up the Busoma

These mothers and children have had their nutrition teaching
and are now ready a nice cup of Busoma

Time to eat!

Weighing a neighbor's grain

Dr Frank and Rev Carol Ogden with church leaders

Fidele and Helene Niyongabo

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man

It was the spring of 1984 and I was on a bus in Chicago, heading to the airport. For reasons I cannot recall, I was sharing with my seat mate everything I'd ever heard about the growing house church movement in China. She seemed a bit doubtful, but I assured her that the church in China was making great strides and many were being added by the day.

True indeed, but at what cost? Blasting information from the loudspeaker of my voice, I had no real idea what I was talking about.

But as I recently read The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, I got a graphic glimpse into why the church in China has grown.

Liu Zhenying (called Brother Yun by his Christian friends) was born in the southern part of China's Henan Province in 1958. His family were subsistence farmers, dependent upon the land and at the mercy of the forces of nature. Their life was difficult. When he was 16 Yun's father became very ill and God called his prodigal mother, who had known the Lord as a child but had not followed him for years, back to himself and used her as an instrument to bring healing to the Yun's father. It was this event that also led to Yun's conversion.

As a new Christian, Yun longed for a Bible. Through a pastor's wisdom and Yun praying for 100 days for a Bible, God gave him a vision of how he would receive his Bible. It happened just as he'd seen it in the vision. Throughout the book -- reading about God's provision of a Bible and his call on Yun's life; the the years of intense suffering endured by Yun, his family, and fellow believers; the missionary vision that propels the Chinese house church today -- I found myself holding my breath. I read of God's intervention in the lives of believers. They endured unspeakable horrors with unswerving faith. Brother Yun was labeled an enemy of the country and of the Party and lived on the run from the police. He was desperately mistreated and at one point so physically broken that his wife did not recognize him. Four times Brother Yun was imprisoned; four times God preserved him, even in the face of unbelievable torture.

With his first imprisonment he entered into what he called "a great fiery trial."
I decided to lean upon God's Word and fast and pray in order to face the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. I needed tho follow Jesus' example when he fasted in the desert to overcome the devil's temptations.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" Romans 8:35.
On my first day in Nanyang prison I concluded that God wanted me to fast and pray for the advance of the gospel, that thousands of souls would experience salvation, and that the house churches throughout China would be victorious (p. 97). 
The fast lasted for 74 days, during which he took no food or water and didn't speak when questioned by the prison staff. This is, of course, impossible by human reckoning. But God sustained him, even though during the fast he continued to suffer at the hands of the guards and his cellmates. "During the long fast, my days were full of struggle, miracles, dreams, visions, and revelation from the Lord. I experienced his strength every day. Although I had no Bible, I meditated on his Word constantly from the Scriptures I had memorized" (p. 125).

The fast, which began on January 25,  ended on April 7, 1984. While I blithely poured out my thimble-full of knowledge about the growing house church movement in China to a stranger on a bus, the lives of my brothers and sisters there were in grave danger. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. This is what I have come to know through the reading of The Heavenly Man.

In 1949 there were 700,000 Christians in China. By today's estimates there are 50-100 million who follow Christ. The church has a passion for evangelism and actively shares the gospel with others both inside and outside China. The Back to Jerusalem movement, which began in the 1920s in China, equips and supports people to go as missionaries not to Jerusalem, but to the countries between China and Jerusalem where Christ is not known. It is just one more indication of how serious our brothers and sisters in China are about knowing Jesus Christ and making him known, even if it means suffering and death. See the video.

We, as Christians in the West, need to hear the stories of people like Brother Yun and others who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. After all, isn't that what all followers of Jesus are called to do?

I challenge you to read The Heavenly Man. It is a book that will open your eyes to God's work in our world and open your ears to what God would say to you about following him.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wendy's Story

Wendy Sanders and Bella

Wendy Sanders' headaches began when she was twelve, lightning bolt headaches that upended her life. She couldn't stay focused at school and could only manage half a day of classes. Stress at school and all the medications and treatments she endured left her exhausted.

One day Wendy's teacher asked the students to create a maze. It required concentration, and she liked the challenge. She began spending her lunch periods in the classroom, drawing mazes.

Too many people live with pain. How do you cope when it's with you every day, all day long? Wendy discovered that while she concentrated on the mazes she was able to find some relief from the pain. In time she was creating not just mazes, but entire scenes, all made up of mazes. Using a black pen, she would outline a scene and use brightly colored felt tip pens to fill in the drawings. She now has notebooks full of mazes that she's done over the years.

Here are some examples of Wendy's work. Although the detail is difficult to discern in the drawings, it stands out clearly in the close-up of the lighthouse and red building. All of Wendy's mazes are made in this style.

It took two years for doctors to determine that the cause of the "terrible, awful, no good, very bad, annoying pain," as Wendy calls it, was the two rounds of radiation she'd had for cancer when she was six and ten. Cancer in a child is bad enough; but to have the cure create a whole new problem is even worse. Yet through the intimacy Wendy has experienced with that nasty invader, pain, she has invested herself in creating beauty. It's her attention to detail that make her mazes -- and the exquisite cross-stitch pieces that she currently makes -- so lovely. Perhaps it's also the reason she enjoys the elaborate doll houses that her father has made for her.

Wendy's headaches haven't disappeared, but they are bearable now. She says she has good days and bad days, but more good than bad. Along the way she's learned to manage the pain, and she's learned compassion for others who suffer. Her days are full of creating beauty and sharing it with loved ones.

The pain that nearly devastated her led her to discover gifts in herself which have helped her cope and have touched the lives of others as well.

Current cross-stitch project 

Completed cross-stitch project

Inside one of Wendy's miniature houses

At the corn maze with Wendy