Monday, December 22, 2014

JOY -- what are the myths we believe about it?

It's been awhile friends. Like over a year since my last blog! (oops). Lots has happened... so I thought I'd start with a Christmas article on JOY I wrote for the 2014 Advent Devotionals, for my friends at North Run Baptist Church in Virginia.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." - Psalm 16:11

Let's look at a few myths about where joy comes from and let God refresh us today in His presence.

Joy is a Possession.
Especially at this time of year, we concentrate a whole bunch on gifts. Will I give the right ones? What type of wrapping paper and ribbon should I use? We anticipate that special present we'll receive from a loved one. I recall one Christmas when I was a young teenager (or a kid? Hopefully just a kid!). I cried after all the gifts were given, because I did not the gift I thought my parents had been hinting at. No, joy is definitely not found in a possession. Even the elation we experience in getting a big gift eventually wears off. What about if we wean ourselves away from the "getting -addiction" right now and give away even more, particularly to missions and getting the Gospel to other nations?

Joy is a Position.
It's crazy how much we might say, "It's not important if I get this and such a title..." However, if I get passed over for a promotion and someone else gets a particular role at work, I get mad. Or I sulk when a position at my volunteer organization or at my church, that I've been vying for, is given to another person. I let others know somehow that it was rightfully mine. This is not the source of joy God offers.

Joy is a Place.
You'd think that living in Europe, perhaps I'd get joy from the enchanting cobblestone streets, or a 300- year old splashing fountain or the view of a breathtaking harbour. Yes-- beauty does speak to a place in my soul; it's how I'm somehow wired. But joy is not found in a place. Negative attitudes are not determined by our environment. You can be ungrateful, or angry or have a pity- party anywhere. In northern Germany, it's cold and rainy. The Germans in the West are different than the Germans in the East, where I used to live. Thankfully, Jesus never changes so I carry joy within me, when I have Him.

Ok, let's get away from the myths. What does Psalm 16 say? God provides us joy -- fullness of joy -- in His Presence. 

Actually, joy IS a Person. The Person of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Prayer: If I can't rejoice in anything else today, let me rejoice in you, Lord. 
Your presence and your face are what I seek. 
Thank you for constant in a world of changing possessions, positions and places. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." - Philippians 4:4

Thursday, September 12, 2013

photography workshop

My friend Stan posted some outstanding photos on Facebook, which made me ask the obvious, "Oh, did you shoot these?" The answer was 'yes' from this engineering student. (really?!) A hobby I didn't know he had. 

I've long thought it would be fun to learn more about photography, so I asked him to lead a 2- part workshop. 

 We went together with some students to several places in the city on one Friday afternoon this summer... and then had a nice evening at my place weeks later, to showcase them on the video projector and get feedback from others. These are some of the photos of mine that came out of it (edited) which I shared with the group that evening.

 Here is Marie and Danielle, who are both from France. I just happened to run into them. Marie recently moved back to her country but was active in our group for many months.

Hope you liked them! Can you guess which one of the photos shows my photography instructor?

Romantic Roads & Rhein River

What people expect from Europe is quaint villages, people in folklore costumes, sipping coffee in a cafe, and picturesque buildings, etc. 

Well, Rotenburg ob der Tauber does not disappoint. It's a tiny city on the "Romantic Road" with walls dating back to the Middle Ages!

A trip to the touristy areas of Germany is not complete without a visit to a castle or two... my, my! This is Burg Eltz below, when my Dad came to visit this summer.

We got to ride on a boat and see how the "locks" function along the Mosel River Valley...

 Then it was back to work... scouting out some campuses in the Rhein area, for future launches of Connexxion ... such as in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn.

 Dad and I visited the famous and huge "Dom" (cathedral) in Cologne.
Dad and I had the joy of meeting with some church planters in the Bonn, and Dusseldorf area.

This is Erwin S. from Kirche fuer Bonn, along with our Connexxion staffer, Anja Geilert, who will be moving to the Rhein River region this Fall, to begin a new group in Bonn! We're sitting on the Rhein at a cafe listening to live music and talking about ideas to share Christ in this former capital of Germany.

Monday, August 12, 2013

living above the circumstances

Ever wished for new glasses? Maybe the right type of sunglasses to block out the lightening bolt "glare" - of hard stuff in life?

I've been talking with a friend through a maze of uncertainty in her life, and people treating her badly, and her emotions and wondering how to take the next step... it's not been easy. I truly feel with her.

My response? I've run the gamut ...of sitting by her, being close to hear her heart. To getting practical and offering to make phone calls to some friends who could intervene better than I (sometimes a man has a special ability to solve problems, that a woman just doesn't have!). I mean, we can talk until we're blue, and bring the tissues... but sometimes you gotta just move into the situation with real hands and feet and DO something. Another part of my mercy has been in sharing with her truths and seeing if she can see God in this whole thing. Three big truths, anyway, have helped ME, at least-- not sure how much she's gotten out of all of it... But I have tried to keep these present ( in the right doses ) in our conversations.

1) I tell her what I SEE-- while listening. Hiding my ideas or insights doesn't help anything. I tell her what mistake may have added to the present situation (so she doesn't get blown away by something similar another time). I tell her what I observe in the attitudes or character of others that's not so "nice"-- and that God will re-pay them (but we don't have to). I encourage her to take the harder path -- but maybe a wiser one-- versus just trying to get out of the pain.

I've heard of people who have seen beyond the obvious story to hidden blindspots, but they thought the person was in a "bad way" anyway, so didn't want to make it worse by sharing this. What?! Truth may hurt-- but it always, if followed, will make things "better." And I usually only withhold truth from a person when I feel they're too stubborn to listen, OR when I don't really give a care. True love: shares real facts and passes on wise insights.

2) I tell her whom I KNOW -- I believe that God has a bigger purpose in it all. He's in charge. He's not surprised or scared. I can assure her that God loves her more than anything (and say this several times!). He is her Father and He'll protect her. Let's not use fancy words like "sovereignty," unless we can explain it, gently, in really basic terms, to someone holding a wet Kleenex.

3) I tell her where she's "LIVING" -- I encourage my friend to live ABOVE the circumstances. She is with Christ-- seated with Him next to God the Father, so to speak... above the dirt and daily misunderstandings of this world. No matter what happens, it will be short-lived. So why does my attitude and why do my stomach juices have to be bouncily dependent on each new "news" of battles seemingly lost or enemies trying to steal my joy? The view from a Heavenly perspective really gives me fresh energy to wait. God will intervene, as we pray. And I tell her that I'm praying for BIG things, because we have a fantastically big God (well, see Number #2!). :-)

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:1-2 -


This semester has been really one to celebrate-- YEA! But maybe the excitement of all I've done is one "excuse" why-- frankly-- I'm way behind in keeping up with things here on the blog ... but at least I've managed today to give a glimpse of a few fine days in Prague-- hanging out with my dad and wandering the streets there ...
In college I read "Metamorphosis" and it really grabbed me... like in-- disturbed me! Oh my... but I'm sure Kafka was a brilliant sort of thinker/ author.
We overlapped in this city with some friends of dear friends, and got to have dinner with them. They were visiting from a Nordic country!
Here's my papa-- it's never boring to travel with him!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

USC Christian Challenge and key churches

 Our time during the vision trip in Los Angeles and Orange County was precious, enjoying having my Germany & Spain friends connect and learn from my California friends! Abraham and Anja shared their personal stories at Seabreeze Church in Huntington Beach.
 They invited us to set up a table in order to connect with those after church.

 John here with Joe, talking with Kris (far right). Kris was greatly influenced to go overseas 3 plus years ago, by his Bible study leader, Joe!
 Henning is with Barry and Krystyn. Barry has encouraged us with 2 visits here in Braunschweig, while traveling with his company, Futures Fins.
 Seabreeze hosted a barbecue.... where several of us spoke later indoors to a large group.
 On Tuesday we spent time with staff of 2 key churches in the Hope Network, Orange Crest and Church in the Valley
 Pastor and church planter Randy Lanthripe sharing with us...
 Tommy Trojan-- on the USC campus, where I used to serve on staff!!

We wanted to serve those who were giving to us... for instance, stuffing 3,000 easter eggs at the CIV office on Friday...
 A quick glimpse of the huge amount of lawn work our team did, including cleaning house too. Our team cleared out and put tarp over this area at the Walkers' home
 Barbecue with the USC Challenge group - here with Katy (on staff), Monique, one of our hosts, and Melinda (good friends; she and her husband founded the group 25 years ago).

 Abraham here with some great guys from USC
 Our chance to talk about our Connexxion groups in Europe, with the USC gang ...
Kayanna and Robert (formerly student at USC) made a 2- hour trip down to say 'hi' and catch up with us!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Break at the Lake:" university discipleship conference

Connexxion had the great privilege to hang out with some modern- day heroes of the faith and about 100 university students during our spring break time in California.
 Here we are at Hume Lake for an amazing conference with other collegiates.
 Nikola and Anja soaking up the sun beside the lake.
 Here I am with Mary and Brett Yohn, from the Christian Challenge ministry at the Univ. of Nebraska, where they've served for 40 faithful years!
 We loved an afternoon excursion to see the giant sequoia trees. Two of these young ladies will be coming to serve for 4 weeks this summer in Jena, with our Connexxion team.
 This is a real granddaddy of a tree-- the General Grant Tree!! Wow-- we were amazed at God's beautiful nature display!
 Neil Walker, director of the USC Christian Challenge group for 25 years and one of my mentors, sharing his life and wise teaching with Kris and Henning....
The meals were great, and we spent several meal times interviewing a different speaker or staff person.