Monday, December 31, 2018

But Worth It!

I started to just comment on my post entitled "Not So Easy," but decided this is worth a post all of its own.  I mentioned how my bags' zippers were cut off, and I really wasn't looking forward to contacting the airlines.  Well, as if the Lord hadn't been gracious enough already, He outdid Himself.  

In case you've never filed a claim, they ask for a lot of obscure info that I just happened to have all available.  When I called, the two ladies I spoke with basically warned me that they don't cover zippers, which sometimes hit the conveyer belt and break off.  Not looking good, but I would do my part.  As I was on the phone with the second lady, who'd already told me to expect at least a week delay because of the holidays, she surprised me when she told me that she would actually take on my case herself and to email her my photos rather than having to return all the way to the airport.  By the time we were off the phone, she had issued a check in the mail for me, which I received last week!  

Then I was visiting my sister for Christmas and saw that luggage was 60% off at Belk.  I was lured by the tiny French flag on a brand called Delsey, which I'd never heard of before.  A French lady happened to be there and gave a good review.  I would wait till back in Charleston where I had a Belk  gift card and store credit.   Saturday I ventured to Belk and after an hour of pros and cons (unfortunately there was no luggage with all my criteria, and I didn't end up with Delsey), I did find one with my one non-negotiable: the feature that slides the zippers into some grooves to protect them from destruction.  Originally $340, I paid nothing when you factor in the discounts, the gift card, store credit, and reimbursement I got.  Isn't that amazing?  Worth over 5 times my other bag!  Hope the quality is reflective of the price. :).  And thank you, Lord, for this blessing! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Time To Pick Up The Pace?

The past week has been transitioning back to US life.  While I'm used to coming and going, one of the biggest differences is the pace here.  I think it's a combination of the American lifestyle that likes activity, but also the fact that Charleston is the place in the world where I know the most people and have many close relationships.  It's sometimes a shock to my system and really challenges the  lifestyle I normally try to cultivate that incorporates stillness and rest in a very demanding world.

Perhaps the stomach bug stayed around a bit longer because of the lack of rest my body needed; perhaps it was a call to slow down.  Either way, it wasn't the funnest of weeks, though quite productive and full of evidence that God is my help.

I'll spare you the details of my many projects, but I'll write just a bit about one.  We had a deadline of registering our nations for the large Congress coming up in August, which you'll be hearing more and more about.  That may sound easy, but it involves lots of work and much communication.  I spent several hours last Monday writing our national director in Egypt and working on registering several of their team members.  One reason it took so long is because well, I'm not very savvy when it comes to Egyptian addresses; so I kept having to ask, "Is such and such a street or a town?"  "What's the zip code for Alexandria?  And Cairo?"  "I need so-and-so's email address."  

I was starting to feel annoying around 5:30 PM which would be 10:30 PM their time and apologized for yet another message and so late!  He thanked me and asked how I was still awake (11:30 PM in Zurich), that this was normal for Egypt, but for "my country," it was unbelievable.  That made me laugh, and I had to confess that I was jet-lagged from flying back the night before, but I was now on US time again.  As devoted as I want to be, in Zurich, I would've been asleep and definitely off my computer.

These children have been trained by our team in Egypt to share
the Gospel with their friends and family.

I was also incredibly thankful for technology and Internet which I rely on a lot for the work that I do. Just from this registration process, I now know about a few other workers in MENA that I am so looking forward to meeting in August.  They have a great influence in this part of the world in sharing the Good News that Jesus came to bring hope and life to Egypt (and other Arab nations)!  Thank you for your prayers for our team in this part of the world.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Not So Easy...


Among my many visits last week, I picked up a stomach bug, which hit me Thursday night, the eve of our day trip to France.  The Lord was very gracious as I never got sick, but by the time I woke yesterday (Sunday) morning, the nausea was much worse, not better.  Not exactly how I wanted to start my day of international traveling.  I must say I am incredibly grateful to have so many praying friends, which I believe is what got me through the trip, which was not so easy—-that and the Lord's mighty hand of love, which is so evident when we have eyes to see.

For example, as I was doing some last-minute things, I spotted a couple of wristbands that help with motion sickness/nausea that I had just happened to leave out.  I've never worn them, but today would be the day!  Thank you, Lord!

Fastforward to the airport: As I pass through immigration, the lady asks if I have a resident permit.  No.  My last trip was in September?  No, October, to Albania.  This is when she tells me I have overstayed my visit and starts flashing my passport in the air to show me that there are no stamps to/from Albania in October.  Oh no…it wouldn't surprise me if Albania didn't stamp, but how I wish I had checked when I was there and could do something about it!  

Me: Okay, so what do I need to do?
Lady: Pay a fine.  
Me: May I see my passport?  (I was going to find those stamps!) 
Lady: No.  You have to wait for my colleague to come.  

Trying to remain calm, I start searching for emails with my tickets to Albania.  Her colleague arrives and whips out her badge that says "Police."  I have to follow her.  As she types things into her computer, I decide to find pictures from Albania; and would you believe that I had taken pictures of my boarding passes both to and from Tirana and never deleted them?  Praise God!  I've never done that, but will plan to do it from now on!  She calls her boss who agrees to let me go without the 350CHF fine, but lets me know it's my responsibility to make sure they stamp my passport with a legible stamp in the future.  She confesses that Italy (Rome was my transiting country in/out of Schengen) is infamous for not stamping or at least not legibly).  I can only imagine the future conversations I'll have with the Italians and Albanians…ðŸĪŠ

So much for my plan to get a banana at the airport.  (I couldn't stomach the food I had at home).  By the time I made it to the gate, it was 10:44, one minute before boarding.  Thankfully I had all 3 seats to myself and was able to lie down most of the 9-hour flight to Philadelphia, which was just what my body needed, especially since I'd have a 6-hour layover before the flight to Charleston.

When I landed in Philly, I was pretty weak, having nibbled on only crackers and pretzels all day.  How would I manage my bags?  But there was a man with a cart just sitting there!  Perfect timing because the machine with the self-serve carts (which charged a fee) was broken.  He got my bags and took them all the way to re-check.  Don't worry, I tipped well, full of thanks for this man!
    
The fact that I made it home so easily was again an act of God as the southeast has had winter storms causing delays and closings of all sorts.  My flight was on time, and while there was a good bit of turbulence, we had an otherwise easy flight.  

I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.  Psalm 26: 6-7

Sometimes it takes storms and sickness and false accusations to see and appreciate God's hand of love in our lives.  Now, time to practice what I preach and keep this same attitude as I file a claim with the airlines for my zippers which appear to have been cut and now make it extremely difficult to open and close my bag.  Not so easy...😎



Last Couple of Weeks in Switzerland for 2018

The last couple of weeks have been quite full.  As soon as I returned from France, we had a family from our new Albanian team in town.  I always write this, but how wonderful it is to get to physically be with our team!  It was just a joy to get to know them better.  It was also a privilege to help them get around Zurich, attend church together Sunday, and babysit so they could attend a meeting with Helmut Monday morning. 

With our Albanian friends and colleagues in Zurich
 

Then back to several meetings, cleaning/packing, and lots of goodbyes.  I have to say that my last week in Switzerland was my most social one yet.  It's been helpful to be here longer (3 months rather than the 2 5-week periods last fall and spring) to meet more people and connect with those I've met before on a deeper level.  I'm really grateful for all those the Lord has blessed me with here in the Zurich area.
At one of Zurich's 3 Christmas markets with Gabriela, who I met in 2016.
It's amazing that we communicate as her first language is Romanian, but we manage by mixing all of our languages, ha!

  Finally, I even got to go back to France!  A few from the Swiss team wanted to take me to a couple of Christmas markets in Alsace before I left for the States.  I'm so spoiled!

Colmar, France at Christmas time (well, Advent)!







Sunday, November 25, 2018

France!

I left France 12 years ago next month.  Within the 7 years before that, I'd lived in Nice, Paris, and Rixheim (Alsace) after having toured all around during a summer study abroad in 2000.  Other than a couple of quick visits during my years in Germany and chaperoning a very tourist-y trip in 2015, I hadn't been back on French soil…until a couple of weeks ago.

Chateau at La Porte Ouverte

It's a really long story with a lot of twists, detours, and a misunderstanding; but I arrived in a small town in Burgundy called Lux at the Porte Ouverte (P.O. for short, translated Open Door) late on a Saturday evening after a train, 7.5 hour-bus ride, another train, and shuttle.  After a good night's sleep, I attended the church service on site, shared a meal with some girls, took a nice walk to the Saone River, and celebrated Veteran's Day that evening with a group from P.O.  


Veteran's Day (Armistice) is widely celebrated in France


So strange yet so good to be back in this country that I love so very much.  I can't explain it, but the love I have for France is surely from the Lord.  It's certainly not the weather (though I was spoiled the first couple of days) or the atmosphere which is so heavy and dark or even the mentality which can seem fatalistic to an American (though the believers shine as they have a more hopeful outlook).  Even the food was hard for me to get used to the first time I lived here, though now I'm fully converted and agree that the French have the best cuisine in the world. :)

Each day was a gift, and I was so blessed by those I was able to get to know and spend time with throughout the week.  I was even able to hear a Canadian evangelist who visited Wednesday night.  Before I left Friday to head for Alsace (north-east France), I felt like I was only beginning to understand the vision and purpose of this Christian center that hosts retreats and missionaries but hopes to be a place of discipleship training in the future.  To give a little plug, they really need help maintaining the property and restoring the chateaux.  I offered to publicize their needs in my newsletters, so stay tuned in case you want to be a part of this venture!

Anita Pearce spoke Wednesday night

Then off to Rixheim where I lived for 3 months in 2006.  The weekend was quite busy reuniting with friends, sightseeing, and a series of workshops at the local church.  I was so encouraged by this event where the church promoted different missions agencies, showcased various Christian artists, and invited a French missionary to Cambodia to speak Saturday night and Sunday morning.  His messages were so powerful and moving that people continued to reference them throughout the week.  Praise God!

Evangelical Church of Rixheim who hosed the workshops and event


This artist painted this as a worship song was playing in the background.


Timothee Paton, the guest speaker, was being interviewed before his first talk.

The next week went by quickly.  I was able to attend a prayer meeting at this church and also meet with a group of pastors who are involved in evangelism.  We exchanged contact info and will keep in touch.  Stay tuned for more info about them as well in my upcoming newsletters.  

Two of the three "French" pastors are Brazilian.  This gives you an idea of the need for
workers and pastors in France, which was something they shared.

Please, please pray for France and the French-speaking countries of Europe.  Within the last couple of weeks, we (European office of EE) received a request from Belgium as well.  There definitely seems to be interest, but our greatest need is to translate the materials and also find workers.  

Now back in Zurich in time to meet some of our Albanian team who's in town this weekend. :)





Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Delira and Excira

This is Irish slang for "delighted and excited."  Cards on the table, this was not my attitude for the first few hours this morning.  In fact, I was even feeling a bit down in the dumps.  Weather app indicating no chance of a visit from the sun today, I bundled up for a quick walk after lunch just to get out.  As I climbed one of the few cloud-covered hills nearby, I marveled at the joy that a different perspective brings; overlooking the fields with a view of a nearby town and the airport in the distance.  Perhaps it was foreshadowing as I returned for the online meeting after lunch.  

My boss and I "met" with our worker (withholding name) in Ireland.  Every time I get to meet one of our people whether by phone, Skype, or especially in person, I light up inside.  These are my heroes.  This man has given up everything to plant a church and run the EE ministry in Ireland.  He and his family are stepping out in faith to have their financial and all their needs met.  They have met many challenges so far, but I really admire their courage and attitudes that this is part of the deal.

He was sharing how Northern Ireland has been called the "South Korea of Europe" with churches on every corner; though the Republic of Ireland is drastically different.  While it may sound encouraging, at least for the North, the danger is the consumer mindset that can creep in with so many options to choose from.  It takes me back to my Bible Study this morning on the importance of the purity of the Gospel.

Anyway, it was touching to hear my boss sharing with our Irish brother how he feels a responsibility, not only as the VP of Europe, but also because the Gospel came to Switzerland from Ireland.  Not only is there a sense of gratitude and debt for this, but as Ireland is doing well, Switzerland is doing well in a sense.

As we ended the call, I was no longer down.  It's like our conversation was the "walk up the hill" my soul needed to give me a broader perspective it was missing.  Getting to listen to the progress and successes as well as the challenges and seeming setbacks.     Hearing about the ministry and our colleague's family.  Getting to brainstorm ways to help him and this growing ministry.  Each lifted me back up.  I think you could even say I'm delira and excira about it :).  And would you believe that the sun even came out for the rest of the day? 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Back in Albania


It was so wonderful to be back in Albania as well as with the other EE leaders.  The time crawled by in some ways, flew by in others.  I don't want to repeat what I'll share in my next newsletter, but here are some impressions after my second trip now to Albania, with a third one in the works.

Tirana Skyline

As I wrote in my post in April, the country is a fascinating blend of cultures—Greek, Arabic, Balkan.  Last time what impressed me was the mix of mosques and churches.  On the one hand, the people are mostly secular or nominal in whatever religion they identify themselves with; on the other, there seems to be an openness based on conversations from our outreaches.

I learned a bit more this time when I got to meet our new board, which in and of itself is a huge praise!  We weren't even sure we'd have a full-time worker last April, and now we have the beginning stages of a team, wow!  To give some background, the Communist regime fell in 1989 during the nation's revolution, making today's believers there first-generation believers.  And also opening doors to a very large harvest field.

While Christianity is accepted, the church is small.  We were able to visit an evangelical church which meets in a small room Saturday evening.  They'd like to be trained in EE.  I imagine that most evangelical churches meet in similar locations as there are no church buildings I saw other than the large Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, which bring in many tourists and host events.  The new mosque is just as welcome as these churches, though bigger than both.

Greek Orthodox Church



New Mosque Being Built
It will be exciting to see what will happen by the time we return next summer.  Please be praying for the new EE team in its beginning stages as they are trained and train others and especially as they share the Good News with their fellow Albanians, which is their and our heart's desires.

The Waters of Waiting

Note:  This is a old post written between Dec. 21, 2016 and I'm guessing March or April, 2017.  Not sure why I didn't post at the time, but some days as I walk the paths in the fields here, I remember that I'm not waiting anymore!  


Along a Path in the Nearby Fields


I'm thankful that God's Word is alive and speaks to us freshly in our current circumstances.  At the same time, it's ancient and unchangeable; and sometimes we need the truths that God has taught us in former circumstances to comfort us in our current ones.

For me, the life of Noah is such an example.  Back in October of 2005, I was reading in Genesis, specifically the life of Noah (funny how we remember details like that, huh?).  I really engaged in this familiar childhood story as I endured the endless waiting period that he had to be cooped up in the Ark with his family and all those animals!  And it wasn't for 40 days--which God had given him a heads up on how long it would rain, but if you follow the passage, it started raining when he was 600 and they didn't leave the ark till the 27th day of the second month of Noah's 601st year.  That's a lot of time that isn't recorded, but I can only imagine the squirmish, "let me out of here" emotions that Noah went through.  

I love how Noah acted by sending out the raven and doves.  On the one hand, it was smart; and it gave him some insight that the waters were indeed receding; but it doesn't lessen the wait time.  And even though Scripture clues us in that even in the silence God hasn't forgotten Noah and sent a wind, it doesn't say that God let Noah know any of this!  I can almost feel his agitation as he takes the roof off of the ark in anticipation and readiness to move; yet he waits on God's voice to give him the green light before he takes action.  

I love it so much.  Have you ever been in a waiting period like this?  Where you figuratively sent out some ravens and doves--maybe in the form of prayers or questions--to help you abate your own waters of waiting?  Where you see signs of "almost" and seem just on the brink that the wait is over, and you can finally take the "next step" out onto the dry land?  That's where I am.  

I've had so many people ask questions about my whereabouts and if I have a plane ticket yet.  I'm sorry that I have no news to share with you at this time about my "next step," but consider me at the stage where the roof is off of the Ark, so to speak.  And like Noah when he finally did get back onto land, I expect and plan that my response will be to (again figuratively) build an altar to the Lord.  In that time and space, I can remember that Jesus is my perfect sacrifice who has brought me through the trials and testing.  

"The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.  He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them His way.  The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep His covenant and obey His demands."  Psalm 25:8-10

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Any Prayer Requests?

I'm so thankful for the Bible Study I've joined for a myriad of reasons.  The Word of God nourishes and cleanses us, so I'm feeling spiritually fed and clean...well, sort of (keep reading).  Another benefit is that our group shares prayer requests, and we pray for one another.  I'm so blessed so have so many who pray, but it's nice to have people locally who we can share things with.

My first prayer request with this group was for continued healing for my arm as well as grace or help with the insurance--who I had a very negative and trying experience last spring after the ER, I'l add.  I felt a little silly mentioning it, but I was starting to feel annoyed and weary from the past two weeks of zero progress despite my very detailed, frequent emails.  Now I'm so thankful to have asked for prayer because the Lord knew I would need much grace and help with this process.

Normally I wouldn't open emails from the insurance company on a Sunday, but since I'm leaving the country tomorrow, I decided to.  To my chagrin, their questions were like starting from scratch; so I decided to make a quick phone call.  All I needed was the claim form after all.

But the two reps transferred to a third who had no claim number at all for me and no record at all despite my slew of emails and phone calls.   Did I want to create a new claim?  Well, no, but it seemed there was no other choice.  And here's the first bit of grace evident: I realized that my policy ends today; so if I had waited till tomorrow or later, I'm not sure I could've made the claim (perhaps since the incident was prior, but not sure).

I'll spare you the entire 42-minute conversation, but it was painful.  I did my best to be patient and polite, but thought I would lose it a couple of times after having to repeat simple details three times and repeatedly correct really simple facts.  And it wasn't because of a bad connection or that she couldn't understand me; her questions seemed like she wasn't listening.  The clincher was at the initial close of the conversation when she said I should receive the form by mail within 5-7 business days.  I very politely asked , "Did you say you're sending this in the mail?"  (I must interject that last time everything was by email; she knew I'm not returning to the US till December; and she had never asked for my address here).  When she answered affirmatively, I asked "to my US address?"  "Would you rather me send it to where you are currently?" she asked.  Incredulous and exhausted at how difficult and unhelpful the process has been--and I haven't even submitted the form!--I was able to muster a simple "yes."  

There was more, but suffice it to say that, even though I kept a calm, respectful voice, I was a bit worked up when I hung up.  On the one hand, I was thankful for the hopeful progress and could see God's hand, including help to be gracious and polite to her; but I was left with those yucky feelings of anger and frustration all wanting to mount rather than subside.  So I began to pray and started to forgive when a recent conversation with my mom came to mind at just the right time.

She had shared how, at a recent women's retreat, the speaker (Bishop Lawrence) had spoken on forgiveness and how he distinguished between forgiveness and forbearance. How we must forgive when people sin against us, but we must exercise forbearance when people don't necessarily sin but rub us the wrong way or are really challenging.   And I knew in that moment, that this was a call for forbearance.  I didn't need to forgive this lady.  I needed to ask God's forgiveness for my own lack of love (which calls for patience, kindness...and bearing all things) in this extremely trying situation.  

It was so freeing to me (and humbling).  And to think that the prayer of other women have been heard and used on so many levels through this experience makes me thankful and reminds me to not take such a valuable offer for granted. On that note, if you're wondering how to pray for me, I would cherish prayer as I work with the insurance company.  Thank you!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Leadership Development Training

Sorry for the delay in writing. I have many excuses, most of them very good. ;) Backing up, three weeks ago I was getting ready to board a couple of planes to get to Fiji. I was happy to have a travel companion this time, a young Swiss gal who is attending the Leadership Development Training. 



With Tabea 



Kennedy Training Center

I went for a couple of weeks to help support the team there. Originally we had planned to have a small group from Europe, but it ended up just being Tabea.  Of course the Lord knew this in advance and I believe orchestrated that I be there. It was so wonderful being back in this place that feels like a second or at least a home away from home for me.  It’s not just the place itself, or only the people, but the setting where people from all over the world come together to be equipped to advance the Gospel. 

13 participants from India, Mongolia, USA, several Pacific islands,
Australia, Malaysia, and Switzerland


Some of my Fijian friends: Emma who serves us and Rusila who also serves 
and wears many hats as the new national coordinator of Fiji.


I wore many hats there, while still holding online meetings and correspondence for Europe & MENA.  Here are some examples:

~Helped Tabea catch up on some personality testing she had missed the week before 

~Helped clean, organize the office, and count inventory of the materials in Fiji

It took all day, but what a sense of accomplishment to get 
through the entire container!  Anne (VP of Oceania) was able to 
send some very much needed materials to some of the neighboring islands.


~Helped Tabea & others practice the Hope 4 Kids presentation, which she helped teach this week!


Going through the H4K presentation...in English!  
Tabea did a great job!...


...and then taught some of it this week!  Wow!



~Helped the participants work on their Master Plans

~Went on an OJT (on the job training, aka outreaches to share the Gospel)

~Was a listening ear & prayed with some of the girls (my favorite)

As I sat in on the talks and instruction the group received, I had a different lens than I did two years ago when I attended as a participant but hadn’t yet begun the work.  Some of the leaders really challenged us, and I took the challenge to bring my questions to the Lord too.  It was also helpful to remember the ways that God has spoken and called me up to this point, which is one of the exercises the participants had to reflect on and articulate.

Another aspect I consider a treasure is the community living. Okay, it can have its down sides for light sleepers or if you want privacy; but we can learn from and enjoy each other in such settings that we don't on our own.  

My final take-away was unfortunately an injured arm.  (Which is one of my valid reasons for not writing sooner as it’s slowed me down a bit!).  I was playing volleyball with the islanders.  I don’t regret playing; though I predict it will be my first and last time in my 4 years here.  


With Serai, who I met four years ago during the internship.  Wearing a makeshift 
sling that one of the participants with an engineering background rigged up using Tabea's scarf.


Please be praying for this group who will soon go back to their home ministry settings.  May they take back what they need for the tasks ahead.  



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Language Learning Woes at the Playground

It's 4:00.  I will have a phone meeting at 5:00 and want to make sure I get outside since I've been inside the whole day other than hanging my laundry up to dry (very European thing to do).  It's not just that I like to get daily exercise and fresh air, but I hear that the nice weather will change tomorrow; which makes the pleasant thought more of a priority.  So, I hop up and head out to the fields.

The slide is what first caught my eye :)


As I'm on my way, admiring the new playground that's been installed since I left in April, I see a young girl of about 8 or 9 approaching.  I can tell she's going to speak to me, so I slow down.  Then she asks me a question that I'm sure I should be able to understand.  She's a child after all; but all I can muster is "Bitte?"  (Excuse me, as in "could you repeat that, please?"). So, she repeats the question which really doesn't give me any more clues.  I'm pretty sure she's asking if I'm the new so-and-so at the school or somewhere.  Perhaps it would be more humble or honest to tell her I don't understand, but implicit to living in foreign places comes a high tolerance for ambiguity.   

Picking up that it's a yes/no question, I give her a warm smile and say "Nein" (no).  (After all, I'm not the new anyone that she would know of).  Then she proceeds to explain why she's asking me the question.  Since I'm not quite ready to give away that she can speak better (German) than the lady she presumably thinks to be a teacher, I simply smile and slightly nod my head to the side; it's my way to nonverbally communicate that I really am listening and care what she has to say even though I'm not using words to answer her.

As I walk away, I realize that the children's book I picked up from the box of free books outside of the library yesterday was a good move as I'll clearly need to increase my efforts to incorporate practicing German into my daily routine along with the French.  Then maybe if I run into this social little girl again, I can rise up to her reasonable expectations and actually have a conversation with her!   



Friday, August 24, 2018

From One Adventure to the Next

Clearly by my blog's title, adventure is a part of my life, right?  I wonder  what you think of when you hear that word.  Excitement?  Intrigue?  Exotic places?  Unforgettable experiences?  

With the exception of a three-week period, then a 5-week period--both in the first half of the year--I haven't been in the same location for more than one week at a time this past year!  I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't say that it's not tiring at times; but that's how it's been...and it seems will continue to be as I keep up the pattern, at least over the next month.  

But I'm not complaining.  After all, it's part of the adventure, which if I can give my two cents' worth, is code for unknown, risk, and sometimes (perceived or real) danger.  And did I mention unknown?  Hence I try to focus on the above characteristics, which are equally present.  

For me, it's not that my personality is conducive to so much unsettled, un-planned spontaneity or flexibility.  (I'm a super strong J on the Meyer's Briggs Inventory, ha!).  Yet I find that following the Lord and His plans are worth the discomfort and stretching of my personal temperament; and that I can even yield that to Him...though it seems to be a life-long process.

Sometimes I wonder if this training in transiency has a greater purpose.  Time will tell, but as Christians we are called to live with a temporary mindset while on earth, to not get too comfortable here.  If nothing more, I can see how my not settling in one spot helps me with this.  That and this Swiss weather, which went from very warm to quite cool within a matter of minutes.  ðŸ˜œ




Monday, August 6, 2018

SOS!

I think it's apparent from my last couple of posts that life hasn't been exactly relaxing.  On the contrary, the more desperate I've felt to slow down, the more intense things have seemed to be.  No matter that I said "no."  No matter that I resisted.  Some of my choices invited stress; others simply couldn't avoid it. While I've been hoping and searching for reprieve, just over a week ago, I did get a beacon of hope and even power in the example of Jesus, the One I try to follow.

As part of my goals to exercise my French listening skills, I have found some online resources to watch and listen to.  I had just listened to what seemed like one of the best Easter sermons I've ever heard, on John 11, which so inspired me that I returned to the text the next day.  A couple of things stood out to me: first, Jesus' ability to so closely connect with His Father that He quickly knew what He wanted in a situation and second,  Jesus' self-control to carry out what His God and Father wanted.  

John 11 is when Lazarus, one of Jesus' good friends, had just died.  Not only did Jesus love him; but he loved his sisters Mary and Martha as well.  Remembering that Jesus was fully human and seeing His pain and sorrow later on when he was overwhelmed, troubled, and burst into tears upon his arrival on the scene; I can't imagine how painful and stressful it must've been to not respond to his friends' news or go back with the messenger they'd sent to Him.    

Can anyone else relate to emergency situations that come out of nowhere into a busy schedule and life and demand you to come and save the day?  This is where Jesus is so wise and strong to me.  He didn't react or cave into the pressure of expectations and needs.  He immediately checked in with the Father (or was already so "checked in" that He automatically knew!) because it says in verse 4 that "When Jesus heard this, he said, "Lazarus' sickness won't make him die, but it will serve to bring glory to God...".  

While that is admirable enough, the greater strength to me is that in order to do things God's way, He waited two whole days when the ones that He loved needed Him and were counting on Him.  As far as they were concerned, He completely let them down as a friend and as their Lord.  He simply wasn't there for them in their time of need.  

Of course, we know the, as He put it, glorious outcome.  After sharing in the mourning and suffering with His friends, Jesus did save the day after all.  Since His Father wanted to show His power to defeat death, His plan in this case was to have Jesus raise Lazarus back to life, which He did.

What if Jesus had caved into the emotional and relational stress and bee-lined it to Bethany?  Supposedly He would've healed Lazarus before he died, which would've spared everyone pain and sorrow; but it wouldn't have brought the same level of glory to God or to Jesus; and according to the passage, the disciples wouldn't have had the opportunity to believe in Jesus in the same way that this act would require.

Since encountering this very needed, yet challenging lesson, I've been more aware of my own response in times of crisis or just responding to others' needs.  Unlike Jesus, I quickly go into stress or solution mode.  While I may not be as in tune as Jesus was with discerning the Father's heart and mind on-the-spot; I am trying to yield my natural tendencies and exchange them for prayer and self-control.  I expect this to take some time; but I'm so thankful to have a God who came and modeled how to live in a way that would bring Him glory.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Good Call

When my boss encouraged me last week to relax and rest more in July since I had such a heavy travel schedule with weeks of "overtime" in the spring and more ahead this fall, I thought "If only I could!"  Ironically, I signed up for a class to take this summer since I knew Europeans vacation now and expected to have a lighter workload.  I've regretted it at times, realizing that I could really use a vacation.  I used part of my vacation days for the trip to Israel, and as absolutely amazing as that trip was, it was not at all restful.  On the contrary, it was quite strenuous.  So, all I know to do is to take opportunities to slow the pace by taking walks on the beach and making sure I spend quality time with the Lord which does refresh me when I can slow down enough to rest in His presence.

So, I went to the beach yesterday in an attempt to slow down and step away from all of the various responsibilities weighing on me.  A bit frazzled, I immediately turned my ringer off so that I would not be interrupted as I walked and prayed.  Though I was tired, I walked all the way to the end of the beach and had gotten almost all the way back when I realized that my phone was no longer in my hand.  Panic, frustration at myself, bewilderment as to how could I possibly have dropped it and not realized (because I never set it down), and dread as I considered my options.  All I knew to do was re-trace my steps; so, tired as I was, I set forth.  This time my prayers were about finding my phone.  

As I returned to my starting point empty-handed, I had been rehearsing next steps like wiping the data and having to get a new phone, trying not to give into feelings of defeat.  Circumstances told me it was a lost cause, but my prayer connection wasn't lost; and I sensed that the Lord was instructing me to go and ask the people nearby.  I didn't really want to, but conceded, approaching the ladies in the group.  When I asked if they'd seen my phone, they expressed compassion though they hadn't seen it.  When one lady brightened up with an idea to call it, I soberly confessed that I had turned the ringer off.  She could still call it, though, in case someone had it, she said.  Why not?  And though no one answered, it turned out to be a good call because her phone rang within 10 seconds with the guy who'd found my phone on the line!  He described his location at the very end of the beach, which I drove to this time, full of thanks and amazement.  Apparently he had asked Siri to call my sister who had last texted my phone and let her know that he had it; so she knew where it was even when I didn't.  It was just lying on the sand next to the water!  (I still have no idea how it happened without me knowing).

It was a good lesson to me of being in tune with the Lord.  If I hadn't, I wouldn't have approached random strangers to help me.  It was also a good lesson of the importance of getting help from others.  Though I prayed for probably an hour and searched for my phone in the places I knew that it should be, I wasn't the one who found my phone.  It took being vulnerable and asking for others' help and listening to their advice for me to "find" it.

Something else that is neat about the story is that despite my annoyance and frustration, I wasn't worried about the phone.  In fact, I even felt guilty for not being more concerned about such a valuable possession.  A couple of times, I had to reassure myself that worrying wouldn't help me find my phone, but I just didn't worry.  Come to find out, when my sister who was also at a beach praying (great twins think alike) learned what had happened, she had prayed that I wouldn't worry.  

Today I reached out to some friends for prayer about my situation of feeling overcommitted at a time when I want and even need more rest.  While my circumstances may not necessarily change, I can already notice a change in my perspective.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

No God Like the God of Israel

I returned from Israel Saturday evening and started a summer class Monday for my teacher certificate.  That's on top of my work with EE, so I'm quite busy!  It’s on reading and writing; and some of the articles I’ve read explains how readers bring a variety of ideas, opinions, and prior knowledge about a topic, including their own cultural background, to their reading material.  I already agreed with this, but my trip to Israel has reinforced this in my own life!

View of the Temple Mount through the stained glass window
at the church right at the Mount of Olives

Several people predicted that visiting the Holy Land would change my life and really make the Bible come alive like never before.  I wasn’t quite sure how to imagine that.  After all, I’ve been privileged to visit many amazing places on the earth; and the Bible is not a boring book to me.  But as soon as I began to walk in the very places I’ve read about in the Bible and experience the environment that my Biblical heroes and heroines lived in, I knew what they meant.  More than that, we were blessed to have an incredibly knowledgeable guide who shared details that brought a whole new perspective to my understanding of the Bible.  

For example, at the time of Jesus, Nazareth had only a handful of families there.  Mangers weren’t made of wood, but of stone.  In Matt 16:18, When Jesus told Peter “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," He was talking about a real place called “the gates of hell” where the Greeks worshiped their fertility god Pan.  The white-washed tombs that Jesus used as an example to the Pharisees were real tombs at the Mt. Of Olives visible from the city of Jerusalem.  Pontius Pilate was not a sensitive man we should feel sorry for, but hated the Jews with a passion.  When the soldiers were mocking Jesus before His crucifixion, they were playing a popular Roman game called Game of the Kings.  Of course, there's more, but how's that for some background information?

Grotto of Pan

Caesarea Philippi where Jesus spoke to Peter in Matthew 16
White-washed tombs at Mount of Olives are in the background and
were easily visible from the temple (further in background) when Jesus spoke
to the Pharisees.

I am reminded once again that not only did God in the form of His Son Jesus come into a context (a place called Israel 2000+ years ago), but He came for a certain people, the Jews.  And what tremendous and sheer grace it is that those who are not Jewish get to be included or as He would call it, be grafted in.  God has been clear in His Word that it was His plan all along to save all mankind from all nations, yet to reveal Himself through His own chosen people, Israel.  What grace was shown us that when they rejected Him, He didn’t reject us (or them)!  He kept to His promise and plan of salvation.  So even though my own personal and cultural background may not relate to 2000-year old relics and ruins; the topography and climate of the Holy Land, nor ancient Roman or Greek society (the more I learned, the more I realized there’s so much more to learn!); our Lord still made a way for His Word to relate to me—and all—through His Spirit that surpasses time and geographical limits.  


I think it’s a good reminder that this side of heaven, we will never know all there is to know about God's Word; and yet the knowledge that our Heavenly Father desires is the personal relationship that the knowledge of His Word can deepen and strengthen, but not replace.  What an amazing God He is!



Hilights from Israel


Well, it would take days and more of a book than a blog post to share about Israel, but it was amazing! To be honest, pictures and stories can’t really do justice to how rich and blessed the trip was; but for the sake of your time and mine, here are my Top 16 Memories listed in the order of when they happened.  My favorite memory was #10.  Otherwise, I can't really weigh or compare.

And this is not even including Caesarea Philippi, Tiberias, Bethlehem, Tel Dan, Capernaum, the Jewish Quarter, the Via Dolorosa, and so much more, which all deserve attention.  Each hour was so special in a "I can't believe I get to be here" kind of a way.

1.  Praying at the Basilica with Laura in Nazareth       
Disclaimer: I'm 95% sure this is the right picture.  ðŸ˜Š

    2.  Steve’s teaching/sharing each day          

    Steve sharing at the Coliseum in Caesarea

    3.  Being encouraged and challenged by Father Tim in Magdala

    Father Tim is leaving Israel after many years and changed his flight
    so that he could give his very last tour with our group.  It was beautiful to see
    his heart to make Jesus known at this ancient site.

    Photo by Rob Hare

    He brought Scripture to life through story-telling (reminds me of our Come & See
     method with EE!) and gave us time to meet with Jesus through prayer.

    Photo by Rob Hare


    4. Worshiping on the Sea of Galilee
    Our boat's name was Galilee Worship. :)


    5.  Visiting the site overlooking where Jesus taught His disciples the Beatitudes


    And reading them there!


    6. Dipping my feet in the Jordan River 


    With Laura.  It may look nasty, but oh-so-refreshing in
    such hot temperatures!  A few minutes later, we verbally renewed
    our baptismal vows as a group.


    7.  Getting to float in the Dead Sea

    With 41% salt, no plants or animals can live in the Dead Sea; but
    it's quite easy to float!  Just don't get it in your lungs, or it's off to the hospital!

    Photo by Rob Hare


    8.  Masada

    It's a long way up to the ancient site of Herod's escape palace: 900 meters or almost 3000 feet!
    He clearly wanted to make it extremely difficult for his enemies to come and get him!

    From "inside" the former palace grounds overlooking the Dead Sea


    9.  Getting to meet and listen to our special guest, Yair Netanyahu!

    Before I left, my dad asked me twice to say "hello" to Benjamin Netanyahu.  I
    didn't get to personally, but I passed on the message through his son!


    10.  Praying over the city of Jerusalem with my roommate each night 


    Jerusalem at night

    How we got this VIP room with a balcony is another story!

    11.  Getting to meet up with SAMS director and associate director in Jerusalem!
    So special to see these two there!  Fresh off the plane and their first night there,
    they still met with me on my last night in Israel!

    12. Time to reflect and pray at the Garden of Gethsemane


    Along a path at the Garden of Gethsemane

    Garden as it overlooks the Temple Mount


    13.  Praying at the Wailing (or Western) Wall


    Women on the right, men on the left

    My Prayers.  They never destroy the thousands of slips of paper prayers because they consider them holy.
    Twice a year, they sweep them and bury them at the Mount of Olives!
    14.  Visiting the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem


    With leader Wayne and friend Laura outside the Embassy

    Photo by Rob Hare

    15. Visiting the Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center)


    Every diplomat who enters Israel must visit the Yad Vashem.   The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations
     is outside with trees planted for those who risked all to save Jewish lives.  Here is the tree planted for
    Corrie Ten Boom and her family.


    16. Sharing communion together in a chapel at the Garden Tomb—well, one of the two possible locations.


    Our group waiting to enter the tomb before taking communion together.  Steve reminded us that communion is not something that we do for God, but that God has done for us.  When we remember His work on the Cross, the word remember actually goes deeper than recalling Jesus' action, but through His act of love and sacrifice, He has actually re-membered us to His Body.  This is what we celebrate at communion.

    Photo by Rob Hare


    Bonus: Got to fly through Paris on the way home!