Sunday, March 27, 2011

Praying for Japan

I read this article on the Gospel Coalition blog about what we as believers can be praying for as Japan works to rebuild after the devastating tsunami.

Update from Japan: How You Can Pray

With the rest of the world I have been watching footage of the devastation in Japan with my hands over my mouth. Videos and pictures have shown us the awful destruction and only make us wonder at how many lives are lost or now impoverished in ways beyond our ability to comprehend. Maybe you felt the same, but my prayers have only been groanings, hoping the Holy Spirit can give content to the needs I haven’t been able to articulate for Japan.

Two days ago, my wife rushed into my office and asked, “Do you think Keiko is alright?” Keiko Takahashi is a Japanese woman who was in our small group at church before she left less than a year ago to go work with Michael Oh at Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan. After some investigation by email and Facebook, we found out she was fine, but working tirelessly, as you can imagine. I emailed Keiko to see if she could provide information on how the disaster is affecting Christians, local churches, and missionaries. Basically, I just wanted some information to help inform our prayers.

God’s Faithful Presence
Keiko’s response was thick with an awareness that God is present in Japan and that his providence, however mysterious, is good. But there are efforts, dark and spiritual, sowing the seeds of disorder, confusion, and anxiety. “When this kind of massive confusion occurs, some malice spirits spread dark malicious rumors,” she writes. “Evil demagogues on the Internet stir up the dark human desire, normally hidden at the bed of the original sin.”

Thankfully, the majority of Japanese people seem to be trusting the official reports from the authorities about the nuclear plants, aftershocks, and power outages. In fact, Keiko remarks the Japanese people have submitted to the authorities with orderliness and patience. She writes:

Even in the total power outage, nobody robs shops or rapes or anything, except for those who are normally committing such crimes. . . . There are no riots where we have to line up for several hours in the train station waiting to get into a packed-full train cart. They answer to the interviewer, “Compared to those who died or survived the tsunami, this long line is nothing. We want to help them by saving our electricity consumption for them.”

Let’s be thankful to God for this unusual order during a time of such devastation. There seems to be a common grace from God to the Japanese people that, as Keiko puts it, “They know that the power of love overcomes their sense of inconvenience to the extent of suffering.” But she reminds us, “Christianity must show far beyond.” Our love and kindness, Keiko writes, must be rooted in our faith in the atoning cross of Jesus, so that our acts of mercy will give honor to the “God who created and gives unceasing mercies and comforts.”

A Far Greater Struggle
In a nation with such a small Christian minority, the pressure Keiko endures from unbelieving family members is common to Christian workers in Japan. She explains:

My unbelieving family say in “love” that I should leave Japan for the United States because I have some contacts there. They assume that our goal for life is to physically preserve ourselves. But we know that our true goal is to die to the idol of self-preservation, and to be raised into God’s preservation, which is destined to victory.

She explains that what her family “cannot understand or accept is the fact that I see and taste the happiness that is given through the atoning cross of Christ. I came to Japan to die to all my self-dignity to live for Christ who loves to rescue his enemies, who alone can make me filled with all that I could hope for and far more.”

Kieko and her co-workers hear stories of “those who were swallowed by fast, dirty waters, yet never lost hope in the deadly struggle to survive for their loved ones.” But she knows that there is a far greater struggle, an eternal one, that compels her to stay in Japan. She explains:

Yet as we pray with missionaries from John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church, we vividly see that even those spectacular survivors still do not know anything about the far more dreadful struggle they must deal with at the end of their lives here on earth, which will be final.

Pray for Christians, who, like Keiko describes it, “shine by showing our full confidence in Christ.”

Devastated ‘Rengo’ Christians
Portions of Keiko’s email were especially heart breaking. One in particular was her report of the “Rengo” Christians. She writes:

Among those killed [were the] many churches planted by the missionaries sent by the same denomination as John Piper’s denomination, called “Rengo” in Japanese. Their church planting efforts have been predominantly focused on these east coast areas that were just swept all away!!!

According to Keiko, biblical Christianity thrived in these eastern regions that were devastated by the tsunami waves. She writes, “People in this area have been traditionally known for poverty and enduring patience due to the severe weather. [They were] well prepared for the God of all mercies and comforts (2 Cor 1).” They were “precious believers” in a country that is less than 0.2 percent Christian.

She asks, without doubting God’s goodness or perfect wisdom, “Why does God do this?” Along with rebuilding churches and ministering to mourning communities, Christians in Japan will be faced with similar questions. Pray for wisdom and clarity.

How Can American Christians Help?
Keiko is clear that it’s not yet the time for material and human resource help. There is simply too much “traffic confusion and congestion due to the scheduled power outage in downtown Tokyo and because of the shattered roads in the areas hit.” But there are “460, 000 survivors who lost everything in a few minutes, including their loved ones, and are impoverished in every possible sense.” So as we wait and pray, let’s pray that when the time comes to help, the means will be ready and effective.

The deep need in Japan from American Christians is prayer. Keiko writes, “Please pray and encourage us to fight a good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith until the Lord makes us home with him.” She is keenly aware that there will be temptations on every side in this fight for faithfulness. She reminds us, “I cannot choose to die to my flesh at all by myself, but only by the Spirit and by the power of his divine grace and his perfect righteousness. That is why prayer counts so much.”

The challenge for Christian workers is the significant biblical illiteracy in Japan. “Most Japanese people,” Keiko explains, “have never heard of the true meaning of God’s grace given through the cross of his Son.” So especially now, when some are offering false hope or claiming apocalyptical doom, many “cannot tell the Spirit from the spirits of evil cults, which are out to be the wolves in sheep skins. So we should not just send Bibles and tracts to the survivors at refugee shelters.”

The temptation, then, is for Christian to labor in their own strength. But let’s pray that they believe and act on what Keiko articulates so clearly:

We sow and water but God is the one who actually brings them to growth, not to death. . . . We shine by showing them our full confidence in Christ, not on our character or our wisdom or even our faith, etc., but in our conviction that there is no sin that he cannot atone for his own pleasure. We must reflect such miraculous generosity of God solely by the living Spirit.

That is why our and your prayer counts so significantly. It makes so much theological sense to pray and express our dependency on him who sanctifies us and saves the lost beyond our imagination.

Pray for the suffering and the mourning. Pray for local church communities to be faithful lights of the gospel. Pray that the hope of God’s grace in Christ will rest upon many hearts in Japan over the coming months.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Normal sleep a 'privilege' for night workers

I came across this article on CNN's website. Although my job has been a blessing and at times a HUGE challenge I will not miss the hours. Not one bit!!

With biology beckoning their bodies to sleep during the night, shift workers say staying awake is always a struggle.

(CNN) -- Gregory Jones begins his day when his family and the rest of the world winds down and gets ready for bed.

The New Jersey truck driver reports to work at 8 p.m. He loads, stacks and transports vegetables and fruits until 4 a.m.

"I don't get eight hours," Jones said about his workday sleeping habits. "Sleep for me is a privilege. It's a blessing if I can get it."

Night workers like Jones are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. With biology beckoning their bodies to sleep during the night, shift workers say they struggle to stay awake no matter how many years they've done it.

When sleep prevails, there can be major consequences for others as well.

On Wednesday, two airplanes landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport shortly after midnight without an air traffic controller.

The controller, a 20-year veteran who was suspended, told investigators that he had fallen asleep, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. "He had been working his fourth consecutive overnight shift (10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.)" according to a statement from the agency.
"Human fatigue issues are one of the areas being investigated," said the board's statement.

While it's terrible that the employee fell asleep, it's not fair to solely blame the worker, said Jeanne Geiger-Brown, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing who researches shift work and sleep.

About 16 percent of the workforce participate in a type of shift work.

"We have to look at the way work is organized so people on the night shift are safe and effective on the job," she said. "The knee-jerk reaction of blaming the person who falls asleep is not really looking at the big picture."

Accidents tend to happen late in the night or in the early morning -- as it did with the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

It's unnatural for humans to be nocturnal -- no matter how much coffee is consumed.

"All shift workers get sleepy," said Geiger-Brown. "20% of workers doze off during night shift. People aren't machines."

Working the night shift can strain the social life and family time. Adjusting between weekends and work days can also wreak havoc on their sleep schedules.

Humans are wired to sleep at night by their circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle that brings about physical, mental and behavioral changes in the body. The circadian rhythm affects sleep cycles, hormone releases, body temperature and various processes.

"If you're trying to alter your natural body rhythm, we don't adjust perfectly to that," said Dr. Nancy Collop, director of Emory Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

Even when night shift workers try to sleep eight hours during the day to be ready for work, they don't get enough sleep, she said.

When Jones, the nighttime trucker based in South Amboy, New Jersey, has a stretch of eight hours in the daytime to sleep, his body won't allow him.

"I will wake up after four hours," he said. "I'm wide awake. I can't go back to sleep. That has to do with the sun is out and the birds are singing."

There are exceptions, of course. Some people thrive during the dark and are natural night owls, but for most people, staying awake through the night is "trying to do something their bodies don't want to do," said Collop, the president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Our circadian rhythm wants us to sleep at night," she said.

After 10 years on the night shift, Jones said the pay difference between the daytime shift is worth the sacrifice. But many night shift workers pay a price in their health.

Night shift workers are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, endocrine disorders, diabetes and various types of cancers.

Jones has tried to avoid those risks by exercising two hours a day.

"I've seen guys who seem to have deteriorated," he said about co-workers. "I see the toll it has taken on them. They've gotten heavier, have different aches and pains. I've learned to deal with it and just not to count the hours."

Sleep deprivation could be also be a major factor in obesity. A study from Columbia University found that people ate up to 329 more calories a day when they were sleep deprived.

After Derrick Hayes, a juvenile corrections officer switched to the overnight shift last year, he gained 20 pounds.

"You're not even mindful that you're not eating healthy," he said, adding that he started relying on vending machines. "You're just grabbing stuff because you want to eat at night. You get caught up in the lifestyle -- you're just sleeping, you work, you sleep, work, sleep and you're not exercising and eating right."

Hayes has lost most of that extra weight and is trying to eat a more balanced diet with fruit and water.

What could also contribute to metabolic disorders and obesity is that the body's rhythm may be off kilter to properly break down a hamburger at 3 a.m., said Giles Duffield, a University of Notre Dame biologist.

One of the liver's function is to digest food, absorb nutrients and get rid of toxic substances. The liver may not have sufficient level of enzymes to break food down and store nutrients at that time.

"A lot of enzymes found in the liver are rhythmic," Duffield said. "[The enzymes] are expecting food in the time you'd eat. The liver expects fats and sugars during the daytime not the nighttime."

But one upside of the night shift is that it gives Hayes flexibility in the day to run errands, pay bills and take his kids to doctor's appointments.

"It works for me," Hayes said about his current schedule. "It may not work for everybody. I try to have a positive mindset, keep my mind focused on what I have to do."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

6 Month Pictures

It has taken me longer to post these than I had orignally promised. Well here they are. It is difficult to get a 6 month old to pose for pictures for any length of time and I have a funny feeling it is only going to get harder from here on out once he starts crawling around. My amazing husband took most of these pictures himself without the added help of another set of hands. Not surprisingly, Aiden wasn't the most cooperative subject.

He was easily distracted

He kept babbling...

and hasn't quite gotten the hang of sitting up by himself. Although only one week later he mastered this milestone.

Sometimes he found other things more entertaining than the camera, namely a piece of paper.

But then, other times he was a perfect gentleman. I love my little boy to pieces!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a HUGE answer to prayer

Let me start off by saying that God is faithful in all circumstances; when we suffer loss, when we are in the midst of waiting, and also in the mundane every day grind of life. However today, right now, I want to rejoice in the faithfulness of God displayed in answered prayers. I want to shout from the rooftops that God has heard our prayers!
It has been an excruciatingly long 16 months of waiting but we got the call. A beautiful body of believers in Maysville, KY has felt God's leading to call Jon to be their pastor. How humbling, how thrilling and how absolutely terrifying!! Haha, words can't express our gratitude and joy.

My husband wrote a beautiful post that sums up everything that has brought us to this point in time.

It looks like the month of April is going to bring some huge changes for us so I'm sure I will have a lot to share in the coming weeks. Meanwhile we could definitely use your prayers. Please pray for Jon as he prepares to step in alongside this church. Pray for him as he seeks to lead and love in a manner glorifying to God. Keep me in your prayers since I will have to find a part-time job. Please pray that the Lord leads me to the right place where I can hopefully find a job I enjoy but even more so that I can be put in a place to do ministry. In general we just need prayers as we prepare for this whole transition. It's stressful and crazy but so exciting. Maysville Kentucky, here we come!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

John Pipper's Prayer for Japan

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.


All I can think to say in response to this is, Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tears of the Saints

Leeland is a band that has been around for a while but I just heard this song for the first time a month or two ago. A good friend of mine summed up this whole song in one word, "annointed."

God may our hearts break for those around us.


There are many prodigal sons
On our city streets they run
Searching for shelter
There are homes broken down
People's hopes have fallen to the ground
From failures

This is an emergency!

There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved
We're crying for them come back home
We're crying for them come back home
And all your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

There are schools full of hatred
Even churches have forsaken
Love and mercy
May we see this generation
In it's state of desperation
For Your glory

This is an emergency!

Sinner, reach out your hands!
Children in Christ you stand!
Sinner, reach out your hands!
Children in Christ you stand!

And all Your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Glimpse of Hope

Spring will be here in about TWO weeks and I can hardly contain my excitement so allow me to sum up life in a few short paragraphs.

S- Singin' In the Rain
A few weeks ago I saw this adorable movie for the first time and I completely fell in love. Now, I know that not every one is a fan of musicals but this is a fantastic and funny movie with some of the best dance numbers I've seen in a long time and a great plot. A few weeks after seeing this movie a friend of mine told me about adult dance lessons here that only cost $12 a class...I couldn't help myself. I have felt a bit cooped up lately so at the urging of my amazing husband I enrolled and bought myself a pair of brand spankin' new tap shoes. Watch out Ginger Rogers...hehe. Okay not quite. I don't have the slightest idea what I'm doing but I'm having a grand time making a fool out of myself!

P- Philippians
A few weeks ago Jon and I started memorizing the book of Philippians with a goal of having it down by Easter. It is no coincidence that God led us to begin memorizing this book. Jon and I have struggled for some time as we have waited for about a year and a half for a ministry job. We needed an example of godly joy in the midst of any circumstance and a reminder that our situation is not as bad as it seemed. This task has proven to be a huge undertaking especially since I haven't worked on memorizing scripture in quite a while. I have seen how much time I would rather spend on frivolous things such as tv, or the internet when what I really should be doing is meditating on the word of God. Next week we will finish up chapter 2 and move on to chapter 3. Let's hope I can hang in there!

R- Renewed Hope
About a month ago Jon received a surprising phone call. I won't share any details just yet but I will say that the Lord has in his grace showered us with hope. In only a matter of weeks we will know for sure if this door will remain open, and if that is the case there will be some major changes happening. For now we truly covet your prayers as we seek God's wisdom and guidance. Our desire is to be right where the Lord calls even if that means staying put.

I- Inspiring Stories
At the end of December I finished up the biography of Adoniram Judson called To The Golden Shore. It is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. The heartache and struggles this man went through is humbling to say the least. It is a call to be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the Gospel. For Christmas my husband's brother bought me a book about George Muller that I hope to start soon. I continue to be blessed and challenged in so many ways by the saints that have gone before me. Their stories are such beautiful testimonies of the greatness of our God. I just can't get enough of them.

N- New Life
A ton of our friends are either expecting or just had babies!! In fact in the span of 10 months our community group has added somewhere in the area of 6 kids with one more due in a matter of weeks. God is good!

G- Growing Boy
Aiden is 6 months old today! I can hardly believe it. Sadly though I have done a horrible job at posting pictures and updating this blog with exploits of our rambunctious little boy. Aiden is a very strong willed child who can hardly sit still. He was rolling over when he was only a few months old and hasn't stopped moving since. Aiden loves to explore his environment and everything he touches goes straight into his little mouth. His most recent milestone has been to push himself up when he is on his tummy. I have a funny feeling that soon our little one will be crawling all over the place. Here are a few recent pictures. I hope to post 6 month pictures at the end of the week.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Comfort for God's People

I spent some time reading through Isaiah 40 last night and was so struck by the power and truth of God's living and active word.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

Praying you find strength and joy in the Lord of all creation today.