On the Potter's Wheel

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Imagine that you’ve surrendered your life to God and are giving Him your best. Then all your dreams are ripped away, you're stranded in a foreign country with no purpose, and you're struggling to understand why God seems to delight in toying with your shattered heart. A true story of God's sustaining grace and victory, On the Potter’s Wheel will touch and challenge you if you yearn to go deeper in your faith and intimacy with God.

On the Potter's Wheel is a stimulating and inspiring read. Valerie challenges us to reflect differently on time. It is not simply a commodity to be managed and maximized, but rather a moment-to-moment opportunity to hang out with our Jesus. Meanwhile, we wait with delight-filled anticipation, as the beloved children that we are, for what he has planned for us.

-Dr. Marion Goertz,
Director of the Family Life Centre,
Tyndale University College and Seminary

We often think of love as tender, romantic, sentimental. Yet love is one of the qualities that is foundational to the character of God—and to our understanding of the fatherhood of God. As Valerie shares with a humble and intimate honesty, He demonstrates His love in ways that often confound and confuse us, trouble and torment us, as well as surprise and satisfy us. Even when we are being tempered in a forge of affliction and isolation, He shows us the simple truth that His ways and thoughts are higher and greater than ours. That His love and faithfulness is inscrutable, and that overarching all of this, He is perfectly worthy. Yes, He is worth it all…

-Pastor Emmanuel Palisoc,
Scarborough Community Alliance Church

Chapter Excerpt 1

Running the Race

     Yesterday in church, the pastor spoke on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which talks about the need to “run in such a way as to get the prize” (NIV), and to make our bodies our slaves so we won’t be disqualified. I couldn’t help thinking that though we often focus on discipline and training when looking at this passage, there’s another element we often miss: mindset.
     A friend of mine used to babysit and play tennis with a now-famed European tennis star. Something she once said remains imprinted on my mind: “Really, when you’re looking at the top five people in a sport, any of them could win the match. It often comes down to athletes’ arrogance and how much they believe they will win. Eduardo Ricardo is a really arrogant guy. He always has been. That’s why he’s so good.”
     How does that arrogance translate into our own experience, when we as Christians are told to be humble? Perhaps the solution lies in the mentality with which we approach our lives. Perhaps the key is to daily claim the victory Jesus has already won on our behalf. How many times have we allowed ourselves to get sucked into defeatist attitudes? How many times do we use ‘perseverance’ and ‘faithfulness’ as terms to insulate ourselves from the reality that we are not living in victory or joy—that we are not living the abundant life Jesus has graciously given us as an inheritance?
     The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that living in victory is itself a spiritual discipline.      When disheartened, we might be tempted to read these things and respond, “That’s all well and good, but what if in my life there are no apparent victories? What if everything around me is crumbling?”
     That, I think, is when true discipline and faith come in. Some of the most joyful, triumphant Japanese missionaries I have ever met shared this verse with us last year:

          “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

     What if that’s the key?
     In those times when sweet triumph is lost in the dissonance of defeat, when our hearts are pummelled and broken, when we grope blindly for hope—that is when, through Jesus’ strength, we can choose to claim victory by faith. The sweet incense of our offering of faith curls its perfume up to the throne of grace; He inhales deeply, and smiles.

Chapter Excerpt 2

According to Plan?

     Christmas Eve finally arrived. We’d been sick for the week beforehand, but managed to recover a few days prior to it. I spent that time cooking. Many traditional Christmas foods and desserts weren’t readily available in Okinawa, so I made virtually everything from scratch.
     On the morning of the party we got a call from Higa sensei.
     “Peter, can you play violin for one of our church members? We will be going to see him this evening, before carol singing.”
     “Carol singing starts at 7:00 p.m.?” Peter queried.
     “Yes. Can you play?”
     “Yes, I think so.”
     The call ended.
     I wigged out. “Our party was supposed to finish at 7:00 p.m., and now you’re going to be leaving before it’s even over!”
     “Don’t worry,” Peter said calmly. Too calmly. “Okinawans have a way of working everything out. Timing won’t be a prob—”
     “Now I’ll have to hold down the fort all by myself because you can’t say no!”
     I had organized this great event, but now it was in ruins, like all of my other plans of late. I’d planned to be a lifetime missionary with our former organization, then I’d been injured and undergone a long recovery, they’d cut us loose, and now the party plans were in shambles too. What was the point of even making plans?
     Eventually I calmed down, resigned to the coming disaster. God was going to do whatever He was going to do. Though I didn’t see much point in making plans, I knew it was futile to fight Him anymore.
     Four o’clock rolled around, and the doorbell rang for the first time. I invited our guests in, had them sign our guestbook, and gave them apple cider. Most people started arriving at 5:00 p.m. (an hour late), at which point I served dinner. We had a main course of chicken, ham, rice pilaf, honey carrots, cranberry sauce, bread, stuffing, gravy, and potluck contributions; after which we played a game with ¥100 gifts, equivalent to presents from the dollar store.
     Everyone took a randomly-assigned number and then either chose a gift from the central pile or stole someone else’s. We’d been worried the Japanese would be too polite to steal, but after we went first there was quite a lot of exchanging between moms for some hand soap. At the end, the kids pulled chicken wishbones for a few leftover gifts.
     Then we had dessert: chocolate truffles, candy canes, shortbread, maple cookies, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and sugar cookies with an icing-and-sprinkles decorating station. At this point, Higa sensei arrived. He and Tsuneko sensei were able to meet the new people, enjoy dessert, and join in the group photo.
     After this, some of our guests made their exit. The rest went with Higa Sensei to sing at the church member’s house. It was some distance away—requiring a car ride—so I stayed at home. Peter later told me that the fellow was rather old and infirm, and not able to get to church, but was a new Christian. Greatly encouraged that they would go to him, he gave Peter two scarves as Christmas presents.
     A few minutes after everyone left, Patrick showed up. He’d just finished work. I gave him dinner and dessert, though not in that order. We chatted a bit and then he left, choosing not to go carolling.
     When everyone else returned from the church member’s house, we walked to some local stores and sang Christmas carols outside. It was 18°C, but our friends were all cold. After the first place, Higa sensei was ready to stop but everyone else wanted to go on. So, we sang another two songs down the street outside of a convenience store.
     Peter was playing violin, so he saw more than I did; I was concentrating on my song sheet and just trying to get the Japanese words right. The classroom by the convenience store opened up its windows and people poked their heads out to hear; several in cars rolled down their windows; some passersby stopped to listen, while others cast glances over their shoulders as they strolled on; and one man riding a bike started to veer into traffic before stopping to have a cigarette and enjoy the music.
     After Higa sensei and Tsuneko sensei left, the younger generation came back to our place to warm up. We served hot cocoa and homemade apple cider, and watched the cartoon version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Peter explained to Daniel what rhymes are.
     It was a school night, so our friends and their families left for home. Peter and I cleaned up everything in less than an hour. Then we hit the sack: souls full, and hearts grateful.
     At one point in the night, I woke up.
     “Wasn’t that a good night?” God said.
     “Yes, Lord.”
     “Your plans don’t work out because they’re too small. I want to bless you, Valerie. I have better plans.”
     I bowed my head.
     “Trust Me, Valerie.”
     I repented. “Yes, Lord, I will.”

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© Valerie Limmer