Thursday, December 29, 2005

Warm Up

I was at a physical therapist again today for my back, & she reminded me (and taught me) about how VERY vital it is to do a warm-up of your muscles & stretch those ligaments, before working out. Good for my legs, but also great for my lower back. I hadn't been emphasizing that nearly as much as I should have, all the stretching. Here's an additional thought that I had this week while at Bally's Gym in Tampa. Mom was doing her water aerobics & I was on the elliptical trainer.

The warm-up -- it's about preparation (& a necessary one) for the REAL job of lifting weights & running. In my case, it's supposed to be at least 10 minutes on a bike or similar and probably another 10 doing stretching! But how much of our lives do we live in the "warm-up" mode? The girl saving things in a "hope chest" for her wedding one day, or looking at "Bride" magazine prematurely. College-- the whole thing, in many ways, is about "warming up" for & getting training for a future career. A young person doing hours of volunteer work, to gather good references --for a resume, or to enter a good college or med school, etc.

Maybe it takes the form of working in a firm, as a stepping stone to a promotion or to a better title--to what you really wanna do later. For instance, "Well, it's just working 80 hours a week for a year or 2, but then I'll finally be able to: spend daily time with God; or devote more time to my spouse; take a vacation; or do ministry in the church; get in shape... (you fill in the blank...). That's when your "real life" will finally start-- right?! For sure, these aren't bad-- these "preparation exercises." And we do want to prepare for the future, get trained (despite the fact that it's a "crunch" season), save money for a rainy day, and learn new things under mentors. But I want to be careful not to miss the present, all that God has in the NOW for me! I must avoid succumbing to a temptation to NOT live for NOW, by thinking that "well, it's not about the present, it's about the future." Could it be that the roots of this future-thinking comes from a dissatisfaction with life? Or not letting my satisfaction be found in Jesus, and thus, the luster of an "out-there" vision lures my thoughts and hopes too far from the now?

Jesus said, "Your Father in heaven knows you need all these things [food, clothes]...
give first place to his Kingdom and to what he requires...
so do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own." (Matthew 6:32-34)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What's Home!?

What does "home" mean? For starters, home is always the place that I'm flying TO-- ever since I was in college in Texas, that helped me feel good about leaving somewhere (and landing somewhere else!). I have 2 homes now, you know-- Germany & Florida! (and pieces of my heart in former "homes," too).

Home is also the place where people treat you special. I'm amazed at how kind folks are, asking about how long I'm home, "how's Germany?" & showering me with love, maybe a card or gift, and most of all-- interest (not money-- interest, as in attention-- isn't that really a most valuable gift?). Last night I had the privilege of singing "Silent Night" (Stille Nacht) in both English and German at my brother's church, Crosspointe, & seeing some friends. And today Pastor Eddy honored me by asking if I'd be willing to say a greeting from up front, at my home church Tampa Baptist, and that on Christmas Day?! THANKS to all you fun and precious family and friends (on both sides of the "Big Pond") who are dear to me, and who make me feel "like a million bucks!"

For instance, with my long-time friend Lillian (above right), I can be so real-- and she's a great listener! Monica (above left) and I can just pick up where we left off, and, in a pinch, I can ask for a long-distance favor. The Swilleys have their Sunday School department sign a card for me about every 2 weeks and send them to me in Germany-- wow!

Heather, my sister-in-law, made me a thoughtful & SUPER creative album with their wedding pictures (I'd missed the wedding in April because of surgery). Bruce and Dad are encouragers-- they're wearing the new Deutsche Fussball Bund (Germany Soccer Organization) caps I gave them, in preparation for the World Cup next year!

Each year on December 25th we visit a gathering of several group homes of the Human Development Center (for mentally handicapped adults). Today one of the guys was anxious for me to play "Uno" with him, but we'd barely started the game when the call came to eat. Mom cooks extra Christmas dinner to share with them. Dad leads in "saying grace."

Here I am today with my family, which includes "Aunt Dot"-- she served 15 years in Japan with the IMB as God's servant there. She and our family have been friends for years & it wouldn't be Christmas Dinner without her-- and her famous cranberry salad! It's been a great weekend....

Friday, December 23, 2005

Winter "Pics"

I thought some of you might like to see a sampling of winter pictures, showing tidbits of what I've been up to the last couple of months in the fall of 2005! Here goes... Our college student fall retreat in November with the theme "A Heart Like Jesus" had a record number of participants.

Special friends Bevan and Rebecca Unrau from my "home church" in Huntington Beach, CA came for a brief visit (on their way to Africa).

Fresh off the plane and despite jetlag, we visited the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, where Martin Luther translated the entire New Testament in just 10 weeks!

The "Dom" (cathedral) in Erfurt, about 1 hour away, is just spectacular as is the Christmas market beneath it on the square-- filled with dozens of booths selling bratwursts, hot wine and cider, tree ornaments, candles, wooden toys, & pottery.

The Christmas party for the Connexxion group packed 45 people into my apartment! Here I am with Mathias (from my English class) and Conny (the hostess of our Bible discussion group on Wednesdays, which I lead).

The Wed. Bible discussion group took some crazy photos at our last group time before Christmas, saying good-bye to Anja and David.

Couldn't leave town without having a Christmas present time with my little 'niece' (Georgia) and 'nephew' (Jeffrey Davis)! Their cool parents Jeff and Deanna and I serve together on our team in Jena. I said "Ho, ho, ho" as I came in!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"Adios" & "Auf Wiedersehen"

So long-- farewell--
auf wiedersehen...
Saying "good-bye" is tough. Especially if you're single and move around a fair bit, like I have (Tampa to Waco... back to Tampa, Ft. Worth, Vancouver, L.A., Tampa, Cloppenburg, and finally Jena). I really like change, to some degree, and enjoy the adventure of new places and faces! Starting up new ministries or brewing up a fresh project is a joy to me. But there's a down side. Someone eventually will make a change, a transition. Either the other folks-- for instance college students, whom we know for sure are gonna move in mass numbers, and with whom I work!! -- or myself. Somebody moves and there is no one person who stays around "for good" who moves with you. It stinks sometimes! And this year has been no exception.

Here's a tribute to those VIP's who have blessed my life in Germany and made an impact on me, whom God has led to new horizons! And whom I miss. Julie Bradfield, my teammate for 2 years, moved back to Tennessee in February (above, 2nd from left), and now works on staff organizing mission trips for hundreds of students at Union University. David C., who arrived in August as an exchange student and volunteered with Connexxion, just returned to finish his international relations degree at Oklahoma Univ. Yes, the crown is a reminder that he's "K├Ânig David" (king) around here.

Last but not least, my friend of 5 years and colleague of 3, Anja Geilert, is moving Jan. 1st to Ft. Worth to study campus ministry & theology at Southwestern Baptist Seminary. I wore my cowgirl boots at her going- away party 2 weeks ago, while she wore a handmade (cardboard) Texas belt buckle! I am truly excited for each of these friends in a new phase of life and wish them the Lord's amazing, super grace for each day!


Yep, I love coffee... decaf, not too weak, flavored (Hazelnut, Mocha or Vanilla, for example), Milchkaffee (like a Latte, but in Germany). At Starbucks in the US and Canada, or Bagels & Beans or Stilbruch in Jena, Germany.

I sometimes joke with people, when they ask what I do for a living, "I get paid to chat with people and drink coffee!" This is also a common response I give when folks ask me what my hobby is! Talking. And drinking coffee. I routinely get to talk about BIG stuff, too -- things that matter and change the world -- purpose in life; relationships; what excites you; motivations; travel & missions; how Jesus makes a huge difference; stuff that just ticks you off; or things that make you cry.

I hope that my coffee dates over the next year continue to engage myself and others in relating more closely to God... and challenging us to press toward the goal of a much higher calling. Loving God first! Then loving all persons; serving many; & training a few to be and make disciples.

P.S. Photos are of Alrik & me at the Christmas Market in Erfurt ... and with my friend Maria at our Connexxion retreat