Saturday, December 30, 2006

Gone to the Dogs

You know, I guess I'm fascinated by having more TV channels than i can even SETTLE on and just choose ONE show to watch. Dad's TV clicker shows over 800 channels (although many have nothing on them, or are for special paid viewing, which we don't use). I find myself doing what they actually say MEN are good at-- frequent channel surfing! Ok, so I have a new "addiction!" For the last couple of weeks, I've watched this one show, about two or more editions of it, about every day. Ahhhh! It's called "The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic channel.

It shows this professional named Cesar Millan in LA who goes to people's homes & helps to, in his words, "rehabilitate dogs & train people." I love the way he understands dog/ animal psychology, and also helps people work through their hang-ups at the same time. Concepts such as "dogs are not humans-- they don't hold grudges or remember the past." Hmmm. And such as "the pack leader" concept... that dogs need to understand that the owner leads the pack, & then they feel more relaxed, & don't live out the fears or defense mechanisms that lead some dogs to aggression. "Relaxed"-- Cesar calls this the "calm & submissive state." I know, some of his stuff sounds New Age to me. And I'm not sure how to apply all this to human psychology or spirituality. But it's just plain interesting!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Parade of Nations

When thousands of churches have a missions conference each year, as shown here during the Parade of Nations, it teaches us all a great concept: God is big. The world is small. And in events like this, we get to bring things even closer together. I had a great opportunity this fall to speak to several groups about our campus ministry. But a highlight was being in the church where I grew up, Tampa Baptist. These siblings couldn't have been more excited to learn about Germany! And I got to address a great group of people who met for dinner in their home one evening.

I'm sure you're wondering if I dress in this "Trachten" dress regularly (got in Austria years ago -- thanks, Mom!). NO!! The Germans in my region would think I'm weird if I did this. However, particularly in Bavaria, Germans wear this dress for special occasions (the men would be in Lederhosen pants and vest). As I grew up, it was actually traditional for our family to wear outfits from other nations, every once in awhile, which my dad brought back to us (my dad has been to 100 countries); I enjoyed making a grand entrance in an unusual outift (does that surprise you?!). Particularly these clothes came in handy for such an annual event at our church. (Mom's dress is from Ghana)

Praying friends... Ed who lived in several African nations including South Africa is here with Dad... & at our "Christmas for Christ" banquet (when our church gave over $38,000 dollars to missions!!) Ruth & Kathy from Tampa, who have been great friends for years.

I was so challenged by a marvelous couple from Lakeland, who served in East Asia for a couple of years, teaching English. They went there AFTER retirement, learning the language & sharing God's love. They even had a huge rat show up in their classroom! Drexel cannot walk very well without a cane, because of having had polio as a child. Then how do you navigate the miles of walking needed when living overseas? He logged thousands of miles in his city in Asia, going on his electric scooter/ wheelchair! :-) That takes guts! Their only regret? "That we didn't go to Asia sooner."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I was in tearing up in the car last weekend, listening to a bagpipe - sounding song on the radio about Christ coming to earth. "Savior's Day" is sung by Sheila Walsh (written by Chris Eaton). I've now downloaded it (thanks to Jeff & Deanna's great gift certificate with I-Tunes!!).

It say's we're WAITING for this Day! I know, we hear it preached every Christmas, but it hit me afresh. What if, in the strategic days of a Roman- ruled world, & years of Rabbinic ritualism, God had not come as a baby? The society was waiting for something different. The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, a deliverer. The oppressed were dying for peace of mind. The potential of generations being saved or lost hung in the balance. And what must the "Powers that be" in the heavenly realm (I mean the demonic one!) have been worried about, to have killed thousands of babies (through Herod's decree) in an attempt to thwart this happening!

The Saviour came. Outstanding!

P.S. Above is the little plastic tree at my parents' home, surrounded with pretty, lit-up houses given to Mom over the years, in a Snow Village collection (for the record, she said a couple of years ago, "That's enough." So no more forthcoming.) But the first one she got was an Apothecary (Apotheke) which reminds us of the red brick building she still owns, where her dad had his own pharmacy in downtown Hartford, Ky.

Here she is at our home church's candlelight service on Christmas Eve (Heilige Abend). The finale-- everyone stood up & circled around the entire inside of the church with their lit candles & sang (traditionally) "Silent Night."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

developing the human in all of us

Do you see a gorgeous, happy lady? That's my mom, giving a Thanksgiving Day hug to one of the "Kids," as she calls them, from HDC. Most of you know that my brother Paul passed away while in his 20's, from a brain hemorrhage (schwere Blutung im Gehirn).

Paul was mentally handicapped. Thankfully, he died quite fulfilled, partly because he loved having something to do each day, going to work & making money, at a nursery out in the country. Paul lived in a group home for 10 months, then returned home to my folks, but continued working for the center. He helped in growing herbs which were then sold to Publix Supermarkets. The work environment was/ is run by HDC, the Human Development Center. My dad has served on their board for years. Here he and Mom are standing by the caring CEO, Jim Bell, who has a heart to help disabled adults find employment, gain independence & learn life skills.

I'm bragging on Cecil, who used to be one of Paul's roommates and just won an award tonight at the HDC Christmas Party. Yea!!!We ate delicious Cuban food at a city landmark, Centro Asturiano, which (on a side note...) has a restaurant downstairs (the old bar is 40 feet of pure onyx) plus a classic theater w/ stage upstairs, where I'd won an award, too, "Sobresaliente" ("outstanding"), in a city-wide high schoolers' Spanish competition reciting 1 Corinthians 13. My city has a LONG Cuban & Spanish- American history with much pride!

A big holiday tradition we have is bringing food to the 4th of July picnic, Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners. Shaking hands. Giving hugs. And dad says the blessing over the meals. The twins by me on Thanksgiving Day, Jorge and Luis, are so friendly. Mom thinks one of them looks like Adam Sandler. (what do u think?) Below, after our visit to the group home, Bruce & Heather welcomed us to a scrumptous Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Florida Christmas time

Well, the temps are in the 60's and 70's & it's December! (auf dem Metrisch-System, im Moment ist es 18 grad!) Someone gave us Ponderosa lemons from their yard (that's what Dad is holding!) --huge! -- & we have grapefruit in ours.

Our house is lit up, & our kind neighbors helped my dad a couple of weeks ago. I helped to wrap the tree outside (& decorated the inside artificial tree last weekend). Nope, couldn't convince the folks to let me pick out a REAL tree! Speaking of which, I passed several Christmas tree farms in north Florida (in the "Panhandle"-- named that because of the shape of our state), while traveling to a church in Gretna to speak.

What-- African tribal folks? No-- They were re- enacting the wise men, along with their entourage (Deutsch: Gefolge), coming to worship the boy Jesus. We attended a great Christmas production at a local church where many friends attend, Idlewild Baptist.

The lobby (left) is from a church in Lakeland, FL about 45 minutes from Tampa (where 2 of our Connexxion interns come). Talk about a lovely place to drink coffee between worship services! Just a glance at Florida, Christmas & church life around here...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Fotos in Oklahoma

Some varied other shots of my recent visit to Oklahoma... where SURPRISE!!-- the snow storm rolled in faster than they could remove this sign, where once green grass grew and pesticides ran wild...

And I was invited to eat pizza for Tuesday lunch with a group of awesome guys! Brandon organized it, & there I am in the middle of David (our 2005 semester intern), Beck, Christoph (from Deutschland! yea!), Brandon & Tony (who visited us in Germany this year). These men all have a world vision which challenges me to pieces!

We're not making this photo too big, but here I am with "the bear" who growled at me (in love), Josiah, my host for the week. And me in my "alien" costume! SCARY! (Ok... niece & nephew-- Georgia and Jeffrey can make this photo bigger and know I'm hugging them, too!)

No trip to Norman would have been complete without seeing Sandra and Max Barnett! They invited Maria and me to lunch (Mexican - which we both loved!). They are pretty much legends around the campus ministry circles-- multiple ministries have been started by their alums or former staffers. And many churches & campus groups inspired by their heart for discipleship-- literally around the globe! He and my dad first met in Ft. Worth many years ago and have been life-long friends.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

a visit to the cousins

It had been a few years since I'd had the joy of visiting my cousins Susan and her family & Mark and his family up in the DC area. When a company function brought me up the east coast, I had the chance to drive a couple more hours after the meetings to hang out with my kin- folk & get in on their family routine, pre- Thanksgiving.

I got to get in on daily life -- see the new home which Susan's family is building, and watch the kids ice skate and do tai-kwon -do moves. And was overwhelmed, amazed, etc. by a HUGE sporting goods store in the mall where we stopped on our way to eat Mexican dinner at Chevy's. Mainly I just wanted to catch up and hug their necks. THANKS, cuzins, for a lovely visit!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Maria at OU

Maria from our Connexxion group in Jena is spending several months in Norman, OK as an intern with the large Baptist Student Union group. It was my JOY to see her this past week, so I thought I'd include photos of some experiences we got to share together! See us at the Albertsons Grocery store last Saturday (Lebensmittel Geschäft), so we could get some food for the weekend.... wow, the city is CRAZY in love with their OU football team, so you find souvenirs everywhere.

I spent the first night in her apt. where she lives with 4 friendly roommates. Below are all of them, plus a few others (first row, left to right): Tie, Anissa, Kate, Paige, me. (top) Maria, Yasmin, and Sarah.

She has adjusted SO well and I heard compliments in a BIG way by all those who know her. She's really found her "place" in the scene there! Ich weiss, dass die Gruppe in Jena und ihre Familie in Gefell vermissen sie sehr... und ich habe versucht, ihr von uns allen eine große Umarmung aus Deutschland zu bringen! Sie hat wirklich im Glauben viel Zeit und alles geopfert und "the Big Pond" gekreuzt, um da zu lernen und zu dienen. Ich finde das toll!

The next day we went to 3 worship services at 3 churches. The first one was Journey Church, a non-denominational church which bought and moved into a former store. Her roommate attends here. They had this cafe called "Connection Cafe" -- hmmmm... almost like our group in Jena! (see lobby area)

We saw Dan and Amy H. at the BSU building, where Dan showed his cool cruiser bike which he built!

Late Monday night we met with her girls Bible study group from Couch Dormitory (Wohnheim) and the Walker Dorm together in a Dorm lounge area, where my friend Lauren C. talked about how God views missions and they also asked me some questions. (In 2005 Lauren visited her brother David, who was our intern last fall, and we spent Thanksgiving together.) A few of the leaders & some special gals who hung around are in this photo, including Andrea U. by me, whose parents are my good friends, pastoring Seabreeze Church in Calif.

With warm weather, we decided to have a Germany soccer T-shirt day! That evening, Tuesday, the senior girls (in letztem Jahr des Studiums) meet with Jen K., their mentor, for dinner. Maria and I made Bratwurst (in the pan-- good job, Maria!) and my famous pasta salad with feta cheese and served the group. Here are (front) Tygre, Meghan, Heather and me; (top) Maria, Jen and Jenny.

Every Wed. night Maria attends 2 groups at the Kelseys home for discipleship. Afterwards, there are always students who help out and vacuum, clean, etc. This week 3 gals including Maria set up and decorated their Christmas tree.

At the end of my week there (Thurs. and Fri.) the classes on campus were cancelled because a really big snow storm blew through! Before I headed to the airport, I drove by to say good-bye to Maria & got to see her snowman by her apartment- duplex. (Hope the Connexxion group also has some fun snow this weekend at their retreat!)