Note From the Winner of the September Giveaway

Tomorrow, the children and I will pick the winner for the October Giveaway. I can’t wait to see who will win October’s Bento Box Giveaway… maybe it will be you!!

With over 60 excellent suggestions in the comments (check ’em out and add some more!) on how to include children in the kitchen PLUS the extra entries, the drawing is turning into a big paper clippy-mess production!

(No worries, it’s totally worth it and I’ll do it again in the next few days once I finish procuring the items for November’s giveaway!)

In the mean time, I’d like to share with you a note I received from September’s giveaway winner. It made my day, and I thought you might enjoy it, too.

Much love,
SJA

PS: Stay tuned — to be posted soon — working on editing videos on “How to fix shoji” (Japanese sliding paper doors) as well as a footage of the rice harvest on our farm!

September's Prize

The package did arrive and the kids had a ball looking at everything inside. I so wish I had thought to grab the camcorder to get their reactions on tape. You wouldn’t believe the oohs and aahs and squeals that were going on! The kids loved seeing the different types of money and though the explanation for the one with the hole in the center. The little dress is absolutely adorable! And I can tell we’re going to have a ton of fun trying all the different shapes. Guess what we’re going to be doing on some of the looooong winter days we’re going to be getting soon?!

Thank you again for being so sweet to send all the things to us. The kidlets are now even more excited about learning about Japan. And the one who was set on learning German as her foreign language? Yeah, she’s changed her mind and now wants to do Japanese!

Hope you and yours have a wonderful day, and a great weekend! (I hope to make it back to your site soon and catch up on some of the older posts and the anything new you’ve put up lately.) Till we have a chance to chat again, take care. And give all those young’uns of yours a gianormous ‘HI!’ and a hug from over here in the states.

Casserole Sex

There were no less than 2,000 tab-A-into-slot-B bits of advice, tips and tricks being advertised on the covers of the women’s magazines at the entrance of my grocery store checkout lane this evening. I counted. There were enough bedroom pointers for a different one each night for almost five and a half years.

I find it funny that in each monthly issue, the same magazine finds 100 or so more of the “best” tips. It’s endless, and it sells.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve been married for almost 10 years now, and I have z e r o complaints in this department. Sex is awesome, it should be frequent, and it’s a very integral element to a healthy marriage.

bath

My gripe with the onslaught of shallow women’s magazines is this: Sex is presented is as the be-all-end-all shortcut to happiness. Yet the inundation of the act makes it as ordinary as a dinner menu. Hmm… what will we eat tonight? In fact, I bet that if the word “sex” was replaced with “casserole,” readers would never notice.

Let me just say, from a great deal of experience, that it is easier to have sex than a meaningful relationship with someone. Sex can be a substitute for real intimacy and oneness, rather than an extension of it.

Since most who read these types of magazines for advice don’t understand true intimacy, they will never have satisfying sex. Like a person who lacks cooking skills, they know there is something missing, but they don’t know what it is. It’s easy for them to think that if they just try new things every night for five and a half years, that one of them must be the winning combination to bliss. This mystery makes it very easy for magazines to appeal to the unsatisfied crowd – the same crowd who buys a cart’s worth of prepackaged foods each week.

Casseroles – with endless ingredient combinations of canned condensed soups, frozen veggies, ground meat, mushy noodles, par-boiled rice – are easier to make than the perfect steak (I like mine medium-rare with blue cheese crumbles or a fresh herby churrasco sauce, thankyouverymuch). However, they are not as satisfying.

If you have a deeply-in-love, committed, trusting relationship with someone, the rush of sex is infinitely more penetrating because it’s a mind + body + soul experience. If you’re not satisfied in your relationship, it’s probably not the fault of your sexual abilities as much as it is with the relationship itself. Delicious relationships are not built upon 15-minutes-to-the-table shortcuts.

Keeping Up With Old Friends While Attending a New Church: Big Ideas and Practical Methods

This is a response to my friend Tara’s recent post on her blog, Considerable Grace. (Click here to read.)
I started to reply in the comments, but I realized it was a post in-and-of-itself :)

The question was,

…a friend of mine is leaving her (beloved) church to join a new one that is significantly closer to her home. No conflicts or theological disagreements, just a great opportunity to save a ton of driving while still remaining in the same denomination, involved in the same outreach and mercy ministries, etc… Her question for me was something to the effect of, “How do I make this move in the most loving and gracious way so as to AVOID causing any conflicts?”…


Big Idea: The Body of Christ is Bigger Than a Single Congregation

I believed this in my heart, but my eyes were opened when I went to Mitaka Evangelical Church in Japan for the first time. We struggled to communicate with words, but I instantly identified with the worshipful hearts of the members there. I learned that the body of Christ is even bigger than language barriers!

From the more academically focused churches, to the simple country church, to the Christian websites, to the evangelists, to English speaking churches to Japanese speaking churches – God’s Truth is being proclaimed to the nations, to people of all walks (and talks!) of life, and we need to rejoice over this!! We all need each other, and we’re all in team ministry with one another.

Applying the Big Idea: Freedom to Stay Involved With Your Former Church

If God’s plan is for you to move to a new church, He will not leave you nor your former congregation hanging. It is possible that your church back home may change in a positive way when you leave – think about it, if you were a church leader, formally or informally, someone else will now fulfill the role. Your former church may grow in new ways because of your move. Your new church may need the very gift/talent/personality set that God has given to you, and it may be an adjustment as you get accustomed to your new home and it gets accustomed to you. Growing pains produce growth. The transition might hurt at first, but God promises He will not leave His work incomplete.

When we catch the big idea here is that God is at work in every place, we can break free from sins like jealousy or coveting. It frees us from doing things like measuring people’s abilities as they fill in the role we left behind, or having the false idea that there is only one way to run a women’s ministry and critically comparing it to the one from your “perfect” former church. It frees us because our hearts are focused on praising God for His vastness. It frees us to appreciate each body of Christ for it’s uniqueness and beauty, and to praise God for the variety in the Church. It frees us to love and maintain friendships with our former church members without fear.

It is important beyond words to commit yourself to your local church. By being a member of our local church, we have the support and a foundation in place so that we can go forth to minister to other believers — in our former church and in the churches around the world! In many ways this commitment is similar to marriage and a family unit. Just like you wouldn’t let your own family go hungry so you can feed someone in need, do not take away your resources or your involvement in your local church to give to former church. That being said, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have time to pray for the needs of friends or to send a quick email of encouragement.


Maintaining Personal Relationships: Hints and Ideas

Just because you leave doesn’t mean that relationships have to die. I live in Japan, and I daily communicate with my loved friends, family and church members back home. It is important to me to do this, and therefore I make it a priority. Think of all the churches the Apostle Paul encouraged just through writing letters – which are still preserved for us to read today, I might add!

Communication can be done through good old-fashioned snail mail, the more recent invention called the telephone (with Vonage, long distance fees are history!), or even via the Internet. In addition to email, the Internet offers Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Skype, and more! By “stay in touch”, I mean showing love, caring for, praying for, etc. Annual family newsletters are great tools, but they cannot be the only communication with someone if you want to maintain a friendship with them.

If you find staying in touch with a number of people to be overwhelming, invest in a good address book program for your computer (because if you’re reading this, you probably have one!) that includes fields for notes, anniversaries, birthdays, how you last contacted them and when, and planned follow-up contact. While it’s romantic to think that you’ll remember all the important dates and to follow up on something, chance are, you’ll forget. The end result of planned contact is the same as spontaneous contact: you let the important people in your life know you care. The same tools for maintaining business contacts can be used to helping maintain personal relationships. This is the very reason caved in and I joined Facebook: to make it easier to maintain relationships with people I care about. I like it because I can keep up with my friends’ status updates, photos, notes, profiles, birthdays and other special events (with reminders!) and more — all in one place.

More Ideas for Staying Involved

  • Listen to sermons from your former pastor. From Japan, I am still listening to and growing from Gregg Strawbridge’s sermons at All Saints Presbyterian.
  • Ask to receive church newsletters in the mail.
  • Subscribe to any email groups related to your church and participate in the discussion.
  • Ask to know what people are studying in Bible studies. Buy a copy of the book and follow along and discuss them on the email group or with individuals.
  • Ask to know about church fund raising and give a special financial gift to your old church. We give to other Christian organizations, why not give to a congregation that has made a difference in your life ?
  • Attend special events, such as service-project days, bridal and baby showers, annual picnics or retreats. Even if you can no longer commute to the church regularly, visit once in a while to encourage and be encouraged by them. They are part of your family, just like the out-of-town relatives you make a priority to visit!
  • Ask to remain on the “prayer chain” so you can pray for the needs of the individual members and the church body as a whole. Remember to follow up with cards or emails, or even by sending flowers, as you may not have the chance to follow up in person.
  • Stay active in the meals ministry or other niche ministry groups. Offer to be a once-a-month backup for meals ministry in a pinch. If the ladies make quilts to welcome new babies in the church, and each lady makes a square, find out the dimensions and contribute a square. There are endless possibilities!
  • Ask for an up-to-date church directory, and asked to be kept in the directory as a “Friend of the Church” :) Missionaries are in the directory, and people can stay in touch with them… so it’s possible that you can be in the directory, too!
  • Communicate with the church body as a whole. Recognize that they miss you as much as you miss them. Encourage them as a congregation, as someone who knows their particular needs first hand. Send updates addressed to the whole church as to how you are doing, and how you are growing. Let them know of your prayer requests — and most importantly, how much you love them.
  • Time is Running Out – Letter from Ron Paul

    Action Items :
    Click here to get contact information for YOUR ELECTED Congressional Representative
    Send an email to YOUR ELECTED Representative @ www.votenobailout.org
    Digg Ron’s Letter to increase its readership

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Dear Friends,

    Whenever a Great Bipartisan Consensus is announced, and a compliant media assures everyone that the wondrous actions of our wise leaders are being taken for our own good, you can know with absolute certainty that disaster is about to strike.

    The events of the past week are no exception.

    The bailout package that is about to be rammed down Congress’ throat is not just economically foolish. It is downright sinister. It makes a mockery of our Constitution, which our leaders should never again bother pretending is still in effect. It promises the American people a never-ending nightmare of ever-greater debt liabilities they will have to shoulder. Two weeks ago, financial analyst Jim Rogers said the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made America more communist than China! “This is welfare for the rich,” he said. “This is socialism for the rich. It’s bailing out the financiers, the banks, the Wall Streeters.”

    That describes the current bailout package to a T. And we’re being told it’s unavoidable.

    The claim that the market caused all this is so staggeringly foolish that only politicians and the media could pretend to believe it. But that has become the conventional wisdom, with the desired result that those responsible for the credit bubble and its predictable consequences – predictable, that is, to those who understand sound, Austrian economics – are being let off the hook. The Federal Reserve System is actually positioning itself as the savior, rather than the culprit, in this mess!

    • The Treasury Secretary is authorized to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets at any one time. That means $700 billion is only the very beginning of what will hit us.

    • Financial institutions are “designated as financial agents of the Government.” This is the New Deal to end all New Deals.

    • Then there’s this: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” Translation: the Secretary can buy up whatever junk debt he wants to, burden the American people with it, and be subject to no one in the process.

    There goes your country.

    Even some so-called free-market economists are calling all this “sadly necessary.” Sad, yes. Necessary? Don’t make me laugh.

    Our one-party system is complicit in yet another crime against the American people. The two major party candidates for president themselves initially indicated their strong support for bailouts of this kind – another example of the big choice we’re supposedly presented with this November: yes or yes. Now, with a backlash brewing, they’re not quite sure what their views are. A sad display, really.

    Although the present bailout package is almost certainly not the end of the political atrocities we’ll witness in connection with the crisis, time is short. Congress may vote as soon as tomorrow. With a Rasmussen poll finding support for the bailout at an anemic seven percent, some members of Congress are afraid to vote for it. Call them! Let them hear from you! Tell them you will never vote for anyone who supports this atrocity.

    The issue boils down to this: do we care about freedom? Do we care about responsibility and accountability? Do we care that our government and media have been bought and paid for? Do we care that average Americans are about to be looted in order to subsidize the fattest of cats on Wall Street and in government? Do we care?

    When the chips are down, will we stand up and fight, even if it means standing up against every stripe of fashionable opinion in politics and the media?

    Times like these have a way of telling us what kind of a people we are, and what kind of country we shall be.

    In liberty,

    Ron Paul