Sunday, January 25, 2009

"You don't have the priority"

The wording on this sign is all over Spain: "Ud. no tiene la prioridad." You find this written by many traffic circles. "You don't have the priority." It means that those cars already in the roundabout have the right of way (not the vehicles entering the circle, like moi!). If I missed that, I could cause a wreck. It seemed to me a metaphor. Another way of saying, life is not about me. The world does not revolve around my happiness. I do NOT have the priority in the Universal Scheme of Things! (ouch!)

I was reminded of that last year, when it became clear that I was to move to Spain. Big decisions to be made, a transition to adjust to, new staff coming in, boxes (well, an entire apartment) to be packed up & stored. Tears of good-bye to be shed, just 16 months after moving there .... But God showed His hand-- that He was not taken by surprise. How do you trust, when you're completely caught off guard? When one phone call changes "the world as you know it?" On the other hand, if you've been walking with the Lord for very long, how can you NOT trust Him?! I realized my growing dispensability in one location, and how a sovereign God made me IN- dispensable, if you will, in another city. And what I'd anticipated would be one person to "replace" my leadership role in Braunschweig (and how thankful I was for that, in this "changing of the guard," a one- to -one trade) has now become 4! Not only Anja in leadership, but 3 other staffers have come alongside her to serve, as well as some key student leaders! Amazing! Would that have taken place, if I'd stayed? I did not have the ultimate "say" in my plans. But God did/ does. How reassuring. When this is my attitude, anticipating design instead of chaos during a big change, I find the "red thread" ("der rote Faden," as we say in German, or the consistency of a strategy and meaning). Yeah, it makes sense. 

That happened again this week. I went to Bally's Gym, to work out on one of those exercise Life Trainer thingys. Sweating, arms pumping, and legs marching ever forward (but getting no where). A fair work-out. And in the locker room I'd tucked away my bathing suit & towel, anticipating the reward of a whirlpool afterward. Ugh-- I strolled into the pool area, only to find that they'd drained the large jacuzzi hot tub, so they could clean it. So much for relaxing warm bubbles for my muscles. 

I promptly, disappointingly, turned around and let the ladies' locker room door close behind me. Then it happened. That sigh & the split second when you think something like, "Does this have a silver lining? Could the world (and God) have a higher purpose? How can I make lemonade out of lemons?" Ok, I'm being metaphorical here -- in plain language, something whispered in my brain, "You COULD go have a SWIM in the pool and really work out some MORE!! And that might loosen up your muscles, too!" It did. Hmm. I mean, I guess it did loosen up my muscles, stretching out some of the tightness. And it did, have a higher purpose. To understand that in life is much more fun. And I may avoid a few accidents.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Germany Retreats, November

It was fun showing the Barnetts around my old "home" of Jena, where Connexxion began. One evening they had separate guy and girl evenings. I just have photos of Sandra with the ladies group. 

On our way to the retreat,
 Vera and I showed them the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, 
where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into the people's vernacular.

The retreat 
was an amazing chance for fellowship between over 35 
from the Braunschweig and Jena student groups, as well as attendance 
by students /former students living elsewhere ... and we had great teaching by the Barnetts there on making an impact through discipleship, as well as seminars led by former students.

Visit to Germany, time with Barnetts

It was special being back in Germany this November, to attend 2 retreats-- 1 for our Connexxion campus groups, and 1 for our staff team afterwards. They shared with leaders at a church & seminary in Bonn and Cologne. 

Then we met with the Connexxion group in Jena, where Thomas & Anja K. lead the ministry, and Vera is also interning on staff. I met first in Bonn, Max and Sandra, who were going to speak for our retreats. They began the well-known Baptist Student Union over 30 years ago at the Univ. of Oklahoma. 

They shared with a leadership group in a church where the president is active, and at the Baptist seminary there.

Friday, January 02, 2009

black and white impressions of my new home

Above I'm standing beside the Rectorado Campus, part of the University of Sevilla, which used to be the old tobacco factory, famed by the opera Carmen.

In the suburb of Triana you can buy tile and ceramic plates.

Churros are a donut type spiral that you eat dipped in thick, hot chocolate. The cathedral is the 3rd largest in all of Europe, and it's main tower, the Giralda, was once the site of a mosque.
Children are all dressed up by their parents, more so than I've seen in the States or Germany.The Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring) is a well-known sight downtown where some of the horse-drawn carriages go by.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Strike that, reverse it.”

I adore that quote in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: 

"So much time, and so little to do.
Strike that, reverse it." 

I often struggle (sometimes "win" & sometimes "lose") when trying to "juggle" (also a favorite word of mine) schedules, my to-do list, my desires, my "shoulds", my need for friends & hobbies, my motivation and love for my job.

From time to time (like... last week!) someone asks me how I deal with a lifestyle & job that is 'professional' and has no set 'work hours.' How do I know when to "call it a day" (we say in German "Feierabend")? When do you take off, when you don't have to punch a clock, so to speak? Or have a manager poke his head in the door to say, "See ya in the morning!" I work from home, in Cafe's, wherever my laptop goes, late nights in the city, over coffee or Diet Cokes. Here are some tips that I can dish out (and hopefully hold to myself...):

1) favorite verse to answer this question: 
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4:10-11)

2) my perspective on this verse: 
Just imagine that a person sharing the Word is preparing a Bible study or a message. The day arrives but he or she comes to the group and says, "You know, God did not really speak to me this week. I don't have anything to say from Him. However, I read an interesting magazine article that I thought I could give some bullet points from. And I have a cute story to tell you about what my kids did on Saturday at a birthday party..." What would we say? I think we'd say: "You should step out of the way and let someone talk who HAS gotten a word from God."

BUT, what do we do when someone comes on Sunday to worship, and says, "Whew, I'm tired and have a cold! You know what, I've worked about 65 hours this week, plus led 2 small groups in the evenings, and now I'm ready to be a greeter this morning for the 11:00 a.m. service." What would we say? There is a strong likelihood we might think, "Man, is he/she ever a dedicated and faithful worker!" According to these verses, running out of physical & emotional strength is similar to trying to teach God's Word, when you have nothing to say.

3) check your levels:
We need to gauge our emotional and spiritual levels -- our "tanks" filled up (or not). Based on the above, one indicator of whether my margins are workable, or whether I'm violating this verse is whether I'm exhausted and un- motivated. Am I dreading meeting with people or avoiding preparing my next event, or am I looking forward to it--  salivating to hang out with those I care about? Am I counting the days toward my day off? One way I can tell when I'm overloaded is by certain signs: e.g., irritability towards others... or my mind wandering while I'm with people, planning what DVD I will watch later that night when I can "take off". (to be continued)