Happy New Year from Indonesia!
Much of the world celebrates the Year of the Rabbit which according to the Lunar calendar invites calm, peace, gentleness, and mercy.
As we join the celebration along with our SE Asia friends, I am reminded that God is in all things and works through all things (Colossians 1). Indeed, even Lunar New Year tells of the glory of God (Psalm 19). Jesus calms the storm and gives peace. He is gentle and humble in heart because his burden is easy and load is light. Jesus gives mercy because He is a walking - talking - breathing person of mercy.
With the Lunar New Year here, all things “cute culture” (Google it) are helping us celebrate - which means Hello Kitty is our new best friend.
During our layover in Taipei, we met Lin (name changed). We talked about K-Pop and T-Swift. She was born in Taipei, moved to Vancouver BC as a kid, and returned to Taipei when she got married. She has been here ever since. Gloria and her exchanged contact information and they plan to reconnect with Lin and her family when they’re back in Taipei, next weekend.
We had a few moments of unsettled chaos before peace and calm was restored after Matt lost some documentation in Jakarta and Pete almost left his passport at the gate. Can we say traveling mercy?
Our friends Jeff and Rachel met us in Semarang and introduced us to their good friend and cousin, Patik. They’ve known Patik for many years and is our go-to transportation driver while here in Indonesia.
I (Tim) sat in the “prayer seat”. I admit, after being awake for over 40 hours, I prayed with my eyes shut most of the 90 minutes we were on the road to Salatiga, outside of Semerang. (I apologize to anyone who received texts and emails while I was sleep deprived),
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by Kezia, Nadia, Challenge, and Edis.
We look forward to hanging out over the next few days with them and a variety of other young people and staff here where we are calling “home” while visiting employees, shops, and immersing ourselves in the culture and life here. We are always looking for opportunities to grow friendship, learning, and business.
Today, we will explore Salatiga and travel into the mountains to spend time and have dinner with some of Jeff and Rachel’s friends at their shop.
If you want to join us in a similar experience, walk next door to meet that neighbor you’ve been wanting to say hi to for a while; pick up your phone and call or text someone you've been needing to for months; or smile at the person in line at the store this weekend.
Calm. Peace. Gentleness. Mercy. You can pray that these things would be evident in all we think, say, and do… more like Jesus, less like everything else.
Since we have received these great gifts, may we share them with others.
Until next time, aku cinta kalian semua.
“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” is a bluesy spiritual first sung by slaves on the plantation and then later while fighting the Civil War.
Take a listen.
The message continues to echo today.
Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples, records Jesus saying the same message in Matthew 25.
There is a wedding. As the bride walks in, ten bridesmaids are waiting for the groom with torches lit. They don’t know when he’s arriving, but they know it’s soon.
Five bridesmaids brought extra oil for their lamps, not knowing how long they might be waiting. But, unfortunately, five of them didn’t get any excess oil.
So, the bridesmaids without oil asked the ones with oil if they could use some of theirs. The answer is that there is not enough to go around.
Midnight comes, and the groom arrives. The bridesmaids without oil are out trying to find some. The bridesmaids who had the extra oil meet the groom, and the wedding goes on.
When the bridesmaids without extra oil arrived back at the wedding, the ceremony had begun, and they could not participate in the marriage.
An interesting story.
Here’s the point: Be and stay ready because Jesus is coming soon.
Keep your hearts trimmed and burning… for Christmas… and His final Christmas.
This is Jesus’ Christmas wish for us.
Keep your heart ready like you have this advent season because Jesus has promised to come again, not only at Christmas but again very soon (Revelation 22:7).
I just had my in-laws in town.
Just like we prepare our home for guests, advent is all about preparing our heart for Jesus’ arrival.
When it comes to preparing my home for guests or my heart for Jesus, I have found that as I get older, different things matter.
Here are three things that just don’t matter as much to me now as they once did (and one that will always matter to me).
Maybe you can relate…
1. A Super Clean House
I used to really value my house being cleaner than a hospital room. I would stay up until 3am stressing out whether or not it was “clean enough”. I make sure things are clean (Beth makes sure of it). However, I don’t stay up as late or stress out about it.
Maybe it’s because we have kids and the moment they come home from school, the floor is covered with dirt anyway. Or, maybe I’m just tired and want to go to bed at night. It’s probably a little bit of both.
My point is, I am getting okay with messiness.
It reminds me that Jesus is OK with the messiness of my heart. In fact, it’s because my heart is messy that Jesus was born. It’s more important to be honest with my own mess and to welcome Jesus’ love and grace-filled presence right where I am.
It is what it is - whether it’s my house or my heart. Guests are coming… Jesus is coming… and this is who I am - and I’m loved either way.
2. My Perfect Plan
If you’re “Type A”, you and I can high-five. We enjoy our schedules and planning for what is to come. I used to have “a perfect plan” for when people visit.
As much as I love schedules, I have found that they don’t matter to me as much as they used to. I’m getting better with knowing just enough.
God is on his schedule. Jesus’ birth is on God’s time, not mine. I can plan and schedule all I want - but God’s time is the perfect time whether my schedule agrees or not.
And sometimes knowing just enough is the best way to live. And to be honest, the older I get, the less I’m finding that I know. So, there’s that, too.
3. Being in Control of the Situation
All of us struggle to some degree adapting to situations and environments that are out of our control.
When guests visit us, we just know that something is going to happen that is going to lead us to pivot plans and what we want to do. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes I don’t know what to do.
For example, my father in-law broke his hip last Thanksgiving. Our weekend of watching football, playing, and exploring the area was spent in doctors offices, hospital rooms, and being available for whatever needed to happen.
Chaos happens. And when chaos happens, we are not in control of the situation.
I used to think through every scenario in order to be prepared and in control of whatever might happen. I’ve learned that while preparing is important, you can never think through every scenario and you will never be fully prepared when chaos happens.
So, I’ve had to learn to give up control. It’s not that I don’t plan anymore… I do. I have surrendered my need to control being available to respond to the moment.
And, I’m learning that this is the Jesus way, too. When Jesus enters the chaos of this world, people surrender to his moments. Or, Carrie Underwood puts it best, we pray, “Jesus take the wheel”.
While all these things seem to be fading as I get older, one thing will always matter to me - being together.
And that’s the point of Advent (and Christmas).
Emmanuel. God with us.
Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on what is changing in real time.
In countless ways, the past two years have been difficult, thanks to COVID. A lot has changed - including human attitudes.
Six years ago, my friend Marilyn taught me to have an “attitude of gratitude”. Even though she had a terrible time physically moving around because of her severe arthritis, she was grateful for everything and everybody around her. That was her heart. It’s how she lived. It was beautiful.
This past week, I spent several hours working at a local coffee shop. Person and after person came through. There were a few smiles. But more often than not, baristas were met with scowls, grunts, and even some words that would make Richard Sherman blush. I saw two baristas leave in tears, a manager lose it, and at least three customers storm out.
Maybe it was just a bad day. . . and everybody is normalizing new levels of stress, anxiety, and tension.
But as we move into the holiday season, I would expect joy and cheer coupled with selfless thoughts, thankful hearts, and grateful words.
So much for moving into a season of selflessness, thankfulness, and gratefulness.
I did go and encourage their staff and offered to buy them a mid-afternoon treat.
STU is a deadly combination.
Selfishness. Thanklessness. Ungratefulness. STU.
STU is like cancer. It starts small. It spreads quickly. It kills everything in its way when it becomes out of control.
The scary part is that it hides in places people cannot see (like our heart) until it’s too late.
So what do you do if you notice you or people you know and love are suffering from some STU?
Let me share three ways you can be good news to the STU-infected.
I get it. We’re all busy. But, perhaps, that’s part of the problem.
Busy-ness contributes to stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety builds up and without friends, it just bottles up. Sure, we all have our coping mechanisms, but self-care and self-coping is not enough.
STU’s need to not be “on”. To sit and not be the professional, the parent, the worker, the responsible one. With all of the demands of life today, we need to just be who we are (and who God created us to be) - human beings.
I’m not saying add something new to your weekly schedule (unless you’re not already gathering for worship somewhere).
I am saying to reframe what is happening when we worship.
God chooses to meet us in our STU moments.
Through Jesus, God forgives us with simple words; washes us in the water of baptism; feeds us with bread and wine in communion; melts our STU-infected hearts with His Word, and then says, “you can be selfless, thankful, and grateful like you have just experienced me being that to you.
“Go and do likewise.”
God does this to us everytime we gather together.
We will take this truth further when we gather for worship on Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday, November 23 at 7pm).
All of worship is for those who know STU all too well.
There is always help for those with STU.
In fact, Jesus himself says that he didn’t come for the healthy, but for those with STU of the heart, mind, and soul.
STU is not who you are, it is what you choose to do.
If you struggle with STU or know somebody who does, here are some simple truths to remind yourself about who you are, today.
I can have a selfless, thankful, and grateful heart and attitude because…
And may who you really are shape what you will do.
And What Happens? Our Hearts and World Changes
Think about how much stress can be lifted off of your shoulders by reframing just “being”, focusing on worship, and being defined by Jesus, not STU.
All of this can change our hearts.
It can also make selflessness, thankfulness, and gratefulness contagious in coffee shops and everywhere we live, work, learn, and play.
And that would be a great change for everybody.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.