Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Stretched" - a poem

I just re-found this poem that I wrote back in 2003. It was written about my adjustments of life cross-culturally and 'stretching' into God's calling for me to live in Germany. But in various areas of my life, this experience is repeated over and over, as I grow... and the Father "grows" me. Maybe it will encourage you in your life, loves & relationships, job, new project, challenges in health, ministry, etc.?

Stretched- like a rubber band, that snaps back (ouch!) and pops me when I pull too hard… or like a new, leather baseball glove,
needing pounding and polish to ready it for the first game.

Stretched- like a balloon, that children and adults alike can only enjoy at a birthday party or county fair after it’s been blown up with hot, stinky breath and uncomfortably expanded to fullness for the first time.

Lord, you stretch, expand and fill me. You fill me with courage, to enter a "land" (and all the variations thereof) I did not know, as Abraham once did-

You stretch me with testing and temptations as Daniel and his friends experienced in exile away from their families- and through it found a toughened faith to believe You, to drink grape juice, and even to step into a furnace. Only there did they encounter the Living Jesus (or an angel) who walked with them in the cool flames- no telling what they talked about!

You expand me- you expand the hours in my day, so that I accomplish more than I had dreamed of-
You expand my ears and mouth- to enter a Deutsch world with quick understanding and humility to make mistakes.
You expand my heart, to feel and love and care as never before, making new friends cross-culturally.

You expand my "gotta-have-it-my-way" preferences and needs- for sleep, my own space, own schedule, Momma’s cookin’ and air conditioning- so that what would have ticked me off months ago or in the States is now seen as normal, OK, or "es geht."

You expand my love for You, as I identify in a brand new way with Jesus’ leap onto Planet Earth and into our lives (sometimes in my leap to Jena I ask You, God, when I’ll finally feel like I’ve truly "landed.")

Thank you for the stretching, so that I can fit into and "fluid" into Your plans and purposes for my life and for the World.

I am blessed by the filling of Your Holy Spirit and recall with Your grace: "Das alles kann ich durch Christus, der mir Kraft und Stärke gibt." (Philippians 4:13)
-- August 2003 --
P.S. the photo above has absolutely nothing to do with this poem-- how random is that?! It's just fun-- of Anja, myself & Dad, who came to visit for 3 days last October. We went with a few students to A&W Rootbeer in Berlin, before Dad headed out to Zurich. Or maybe this IS an example of not wanting to be 'stretched' --but of enjoying the comforts of my 'home culture' in the form of a rarity here-- a rootbeer float! Yummy! :-)

I'm Not... but I Am

Been thinking about opposites lately... my gifts and what i am NOT gifted in. Hmmm. Not only realizing that God has given me some strengths, for which I'm thankful. But He continues to give grace to do what I'm gifted in and sometimes what isn't my preference. This means I need sometimes just plain determination. So here goes (a short list, hopefully)...

1) I'm not good with paper organization (example: my desk), but I'm not bad with the details of task organization-- seeing what needs get to done before the big event.
2) I'm not that attractive, but I smile easily & am tall like a model! :-)
3) I am not Martha Stewart in decorating, but I am "Martha" (my name means "lady") and I have some fun touches in my apartment that show I have a measured feel for taste & decorating.
4) I cannot cook gourmet. But I can make snacks & muffins, pasta salad & Italian pull-apart bread (with help from students & staff) to put on a party for 30... or for 80!
5) I do not light up a room, but I have sparkle. Oh yes-- my vocal expressions are "musical" (well, that's what my DAD says!).
6) I really don't like to work out (until I get started), but I do go to the gym at least twice a week.
7) I detest shopping alone (or taking a walk, or watching a video for that matter, or about a dozen things that I normally DO do --alone)-- but I do it, because I am single & that is God's plan for me today. And being an extrovert I have learned to reach out & invite others to do things with me.
8) I don't have a family of my own, but I'm very loyal to my family in Tampa and call my folks often.
9) My mouth can get me into trouble & sometimes I truly have "sensitivity- poverty" ... but given the right conversation I can cry with you. God has done this, and it also helped to have a mentally handicapped brother, Paul.
10) I have a hard time keeping up long-distance. I'm more of a "with- you-now" type of person. And I've moved to different cities-- a LOT (go figure!). I'm very NOW oriented. But I manage to write regular updates to a larger group. And thanks to my dear friends who ARE good at keeping in touch, I write sporadic but personal emails to friends across the globe.
11) I may not be the best at small talk, but I really know how to get to the point in honesty (and being in Germany now 7 years, I'm more and more that way). And I can usually pick up when it's the right time to carve out a moment to talk about my faith.
12) I don't have the best feel for money & budgeting, but I stay out of debt & like to use low lighting with several candles in the evenings (if that isn't a great way to cut your power bill!).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cloudy, Cold but Colorful Weekend

Here are a few weekend "Kodak moments"-- Janine, from New York state, was a graduate student in chemistry at the Univ. of Tennessee when God put it on her heart to take out 1 year to serve overseas. She's working in Chemnitz, with a team of people starting a church. She told her life story to our college group's Thursday worship, & then stayed to visit until Saturday. She & I took a walk Friday afternoon to the "Landgrafen" hill & up where Napoleon won a famous battle. It's only about a 20-25 minute walk up the huge hill from my apartment & you get a fabulous view of Jena. (Wanna learn more about my city of Jena? Click here!)

Sorry, the photos are dark. Imagine that in parts of northern Europe we get MONTHS of this-- at times combined with precipitation & sometimes just plain overcast! (taken at 3:15 in the afternoon; at 9 a.m. it can be the same!).

Later it was back to my place for coffee time with Lukas. He studies physics & co-leads a Bible study on Tuesdays in a Cafe, Grünowski, with our ministry.

That evening, (after a day of 9 hours on the sofa, of breakfasts & coffees!), Janine, Deanna & I went to eat at an Indian restaurant on the Market Square. By the Taj Mahal's entrance, we wondered if "you have to be this tall to ride this ride" - ha! Deanna wow-ed us with stories about a 3-week trip she had made to India & the Himalayas!

This Saturday morning was a delightful treat of a "breakfast for 2" in Stilbruch Cafe with my good friend, Susanne. She and I attend the same church and she's a judge. After a luxury breakfast of fresh rolls, ham, cheese, a hard-boiled egg, fruit & a Latte coffee -- it was time for grocery shopping (to get MORE food!) & my work-out at the gym (for now obvious reasons).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Swiss Raclette

This week went like most weeks ... the major "save-the-world" events with our group -- for instance, there were 35 of us yesterday evening on campus for our monthly "extra cross" worship! Not only the big stuff makes up my usual week, but also the "everyday" yet vital conversations-- the hours on the couch (no, me SITTING on the couch -- not psychiatric treatment). Drinking coffee & talking for hours & hours with students! I love it! (... Hey, you might wanna click on: "I love coffee" under "Previous Posts" for why my blog has its coffee- oriented title).

On Sunday I ate Raklette in my dining room with Stefan, Lukas (they both lead discussion groups in our ministry), Denise, Conny D. (she hosts our Wednesday discussion group which I lead), & Burdy (left to rt.). Raclette is a Swiss tradition. You have a little electric grill plate on the table & cook raw meat on it. Underneath the hot coils are little teflon pans for each individual. One creates his own tiny pan of whatever he'd like to heat under the burner, usually melting cheese over things such as: potatoes, mushrooms, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, etc.

Raklette is full of options. Each person can bring to the dinner what he/she likes best. People liken it to fondue, because you eat slowly and share food, "preparing it," so to speak, at the table. That lends itself to savoring both the conversation and the meal. It also doesn't cost much. You don't offend anyone if you don't try something, because each person designs his own palette of broiled goodies! Raklette is sort of like our (Post-Modern) culture (by the way, I'm not commenting, I'm just observing):
  • we like options - that lends toward creativity in some cases
  • what do you like & how long do you want to stay with that preference? people don't like to be "pushed into a corner" and may shy away from commitment
  • people appreciate the fact that not everyone is cut from the same mold -- we're quite expecting of and tolerant about that
  • we value community and time to get to know others on a real basis -- savor the moment!
  • ok... if you're a college student, it's nice to find cheap ways to cut the budget
  • we want a smorgasbord of morals & philosophies (& music, etc.) - they may or may not 'sinc' with one another logically (take for instance when I mixed pineapple chunks with potatoes & mushrooms! :-)
  • we don't have to share; I can have my own space (even if it's in front of the computer- with a screen made for 1-- or listening to my MP3 player)
  • designing one's own 'palette' of religion or relationship ethics is prized highly

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

2 Kinds of Muffins

Today my colleagues' children, Georgia (age 3) and Jeffrey (age 5) came over to play at "Aunt Martha's" place in the afternoon. Since it was sleeting outside & just shy of freezing (HELLO! I'm from Florida!), we invented some indoor fun!

I let them take silly photos; we watched Veggie Tales. And created "Muffins" in the sink from Fun Foam (blue, soapy stuff that squirts out of a can-- cool!).

And then made REAL muffins-- chocolate chip/ oatmeal-- yummy! That's a lovely part about having teammates here, the sharing of both BIG dreams and small wonders. :-) Well, it's Wednesday night so I'm off to my Bible discussion group that meets at Conny's. We're doing a series on "relationships."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Grace... is enough

Thank the Lord for ipods and ishuffles! So instead of catching the back-to-back "Best of Depeche Mode" hits (ugh!) on the video screens at my Injoy Fitness Center today, I was able to hear great songs like this one about grace. To inspire my spirit! Also to distract me & help keep the rhythm (very important when you might slow down) as I sweated on the machines!

Great is your faithfulness, O God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters, into mercy
and nothing can keep us apart.
So remember Your people,
remember Your children,
remember Your promise, O God!
Your grace is enough,
Your grace is enough,
yeah - your grace is enough- for me!
Great is your love and justice, God
you use the weak to lead the strong.
You lead us in the song of your salvation
and all your people sing along.
So remember your people... etc.
...Your grace is enough -- for me!
(gotta love the a capella part! -- then with lone drum in background)
...Heaven reaching down to us,
your grace is enough --for me! I'm covered in your love... (by Matt Mahan; sung by Chris Tomlin at Passion)
P.S. You get a "hug" by email if you can figure out what the soup restaurant is called. These photos are sometimes random ... and also purposeful... of just a couple of moments (of the big pile of many!!) this year when I've experienced amazing, peaceful, abundant, deep, hilarious, wild GRACE! He's enough!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Viva Espana!

Being a brand new blogger, I've got this urge to go back & share some "Footage" (well, photos) of some events from past months. In September we were still having our college "summer break." I was able to take a fabulous missions trip with 6 others from Connexxion, our campus ministry, to Badajoz, Spain. We were on the border of Portugal for a week, ministering to students at the Extremadura campus, living in the dorms. And then spent the weekend in Madrid (photo of us on the Plaza Mayor, right; cafeteria below at univ.).

Stats (read 'em & weep):
-- there are 7500 cities in Spain with a population of over 10,000 persons
-- 7,000 of these cities have NO evangelical witness (as in NONE!)
-- the average church size is 50-70 members
-- overall population = 40 million people
-- no. of baptists == 7,000 people (total-- that's it, folks)

We did lots of bridge-building to meet students-- "paving the ground" with prayer walking (see Petra, Denise from Brazil, & Anja).

We met students on campus by asking for directions & introducing ourselves. We ate lunch with them, sat in outdoor Cafes drinking coffee & eating "tapas" (small side dishes, including smoked ham that's really raw pink!), played soccer & Fussball (did you know that word is German? Lukas is playing below with 2 Spaniards). David (middle; intern) and I are at a huge outdoor festival/ party with 3 students (and about 900 other students behind this photo!).

Shannon was our main host (the couple whom she works with had a family emergency so were in the US) -- she's from the US & living a 2nd year there helping our colleagues. She has simply taken time off from college & wanted to invest her life in something that would be eternal!

Verses God showed in my quiet times... Philippians 1:12 - "I want you to understand, brothers, that my experiences have turned out for rather than against the advance of the Gospel."

"...hope not to be put to shame at all, but that with perfect boldness... the honor of Christ may be enhanced in my body, either through living or through dying" (verse 20 -- UGH!)

My experiences? Living or dying? No biggie. The end result, the goal, is the same-- HE gets honored. It doesn't really matter, WHEN this is God's WILL for me-- if I'm in jail like Paul was or walking free... if I'm in Germany, the US or the Kongo... if I'm sick (or dying) or healthy... if I'm single or married, if I'm an introvert or extrovert, etc. I can't say I like that-- this "either through..." part. But whatever God does to me and shapes through me, it's about making HIM known all over the globe. And I get to be one page, of one chapter, of a book -- that's not about ME!

May you, Jesus, receive magnification -- egal was mir passiert ist (no matter what happens to me), oder eben weil was mir geschehen ist ( or even because something has happened to me). Paul did continue to stick around. To live, for awhile

anyway. Why? Because it made him feel good? Or he could go on the circuit to many churches & tell stories of how he got released from a possible death sentence? Or to have a cozy villa, a fun car or exciting vacations? Actually, he lived on, because it would help the believers go further in faith and have "gozo de la fe" (enjoyment in their faith; Phil. 1:25). Is that a goal that will drive my life in 10, 20, 30 years?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Heroes at Life Impact

It was such a blast being at the Life Impact Conference for 700 collegians the 1st week of January. Sort of like the icing on the cake to a great holiday time in Tampa. To learn, be blessed, be challenged, network, have coffees and meal times with many new & old friends from OU (and beyond) was a major breath of fresh air. Jim Peterson is a speaker & author (the “Insider” which I’m reading now in German and “Evangelism for Our Generation”) and calls tons of seekers his friends. He’s been my hero for years. Only heaven knows how his books have impacted my life and ministry! I got to meet him in person!

I delighted to see some of my heroes in the faith, in general, and also heroes in ministry (church planting & in campus ministry from various states & overseas). See fun friends Jen and John Kelsey ("Kels") right with son Josiah, from OU. I guess we all need that—time with heroes who inspire us, who’ve led a blameless life for years and walked with Jesus consistently. Who have the “big picture.” And also to spend time with those who are running the race, boldly-- maybe newer at this race, or a few strides behind (?), but still taking big, exciting steps!

Here are new friends Lauren Cottle (who has a b-day today! Congratz!) and Stefanie Hash, who are boldly sharing their faith in the dorms and/or hosting a Bible study.

Aren't these gals just great? Rita (from OU) & Natasha (Kansas State) came over to Germany for 5 weeks, with FOCUS, the summer of 2004. We had a fun dinner on Thursday night (thanks for the idea, David!) as a "reunion" for those who've been in Germany or are thinking about going in the future. This spring Natasha will be serving several months in Africa! You go, girl!

Here are Alex, Susanne and Anja. Alex is too cool and thinks deeply about life! Susanne was also a blessing with the FOCUS team & loves God totally. Anja, my teammate on staff & great friend, and I got to re-connect as she's just moved to Ft. Worth to study at seminary there. (I miss ya!)

Ok... photo a bit dark (and sorry, Jenny, but it cut you off) -- more super cool friends who love God-- Jenny, Amy & Dan (engaged to be married!), David (our fall intern on staff) and Beck.

I couldn't get all my heroes in here... but last, but not least, are Bev Brandon (from Hope Church, in Ft. Worth), Marilyn Fine (writer of discipleship materials), & amazing Sandra Barnett (she can challenge the 'socks' off of me!). Ok guys... let's keep runnin' the race, keep each other accountable, take the BIG risks and be HEROES for one another!