Saturday, December 18, 2010

christmas stress simplifier

We have a tradition-- sometime around the Christmas Season we soak up the atmosphere at the Wilderness Lodge at Disney. Sometimes it's warm enough that Northerners are outside swimming in the pool/ lagoon.
My niece now has a german teddy bear!
Heather & Bruce discovered a special bakery on the Food Channel -- Babycakes! Its showcase store is in NYC, but they also have a kiosk in Orlando at the Disney Marketplace. They have yummy desserts that are gluten free, (also vegan, aka without eggs), which made everyone happy.
I love the Wilderness Lodge-- it's fireplace is as majestic as the tree. Think: Grand Canyon or another mountain- situated national parks' lodge.
So the waiter asked my dad: "Can I get you a little more tea?"
Christmas smiles! :-) No matter when you schedule it, I'm never fully ready for the gift exchange until the last minute.

I've discovered a "Christmas- stress- simplifier": do the family gift-giving a week early-- (yes, for those of us who know that Santa does not bring the gifts). We celebrated early for other reasons, but here's a side effect: now that we've done our gift exchange, we can concentrate on other important things... such as visiting a good friend in the hospital, attending the funeral of a neighbor's mom, writing Christmas cards, catching up with friends, getting ready for my aunt's visit, & prep-ing for a big Christmas Eve service (at the new "re-birth" of a church here in Tampa that my family is involved in)!

What is your new or tried- &- true Christmas- stress- simplifier??

life with attitude

The 7 heart attitudes are a fabulous "base," the bottom line of how I try to live out life, & in ministry. I refer to them all the time and 3 churches that I've been involved in use them. What an amazing help they are in relationships, (especially if we both have agreed on them!). I learned them first through Hope Church & Harold Bullock in Texas. He has a new book outlining these attitudes, called "Life with Attitude"!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Party

Playing a kids' game, where you have to wear a winter scarf, gloves and knit cap-- while others roll the die-- and try to break into a bar of chocolate and then eat a bite, one at a time, until the next person has a turn...
with Dodo, and Jacky- Dodo (her nickname) had made special Cookie Monster muffins!
the kitchen is the best place to hang out at a party... Anja is the Christmas "hostess with the mostest" (in green)
hanging out with Markus and Lars...


The universities of Germany are known for showing an old movie every Christmas, to sold-out audiences of students. This was my first year to go, invited by our friend Christian, who graciously wanted to be sure that I learn more of German culture (I told him upon re-entering Germany, that there were many things I'd like to grow in knowledge of about this culture and the language).
The movie is about several men having a drink around a bowl of glowing punch (you light up a sugar cone above a bowl of hot wine). They make a bet that one of them can not survive going undercover to high school (he has been reared in a wealthy family where he had only private tutors).
The name of the movie is the word for this special punch: "Fire tongs bowl". After the movie we celebrated with sparklers outside in the snow... here is our friend Thanh!
Celebrating with friends Hannah, Sabrina, Anja, (me) and Birthe.
There were 2 showings that evening on campus, with probably 500-600 attending each one.
Elli, Hannah and Anja (we serve on staff of Connexxion together).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner (a week later...)

A week after Thanksgiving, we celebrated!! Yes, the real last Thursday in November was a day before our big retreat weekend, so we postponed a good thing... and it was YUMMY! This was how my balcony looked that day (guess where I put the steaming pot of cooked cranberries-- so they could cool?!)
My new friend Nikola brought two friends, Henning and Thorsten! I like meeting new people!
What really makes things fun is when friends come to help ahead of time... such as Jonny, and Christian.
Jonny carved the turkey!! It was 17 pounds (or 7.8 kilos) I didn't really have a roaster THAT large, so a lasagna/ cake pan did the trick fine.

More Fall Weekend...

It was the coolest thing-- right after the Fall Connexxion weekend, Anja presented me with a hand-made Advents' Calendar she had worked on -- little envelopes on a string--inside is a verse for each day & a packet of tea! (cozy!... and meaningful! Danke, Anja!)
Winter wonderland...
Does this look cold? Snowy?...
Enchanting? It was all of the above... here are amazing friends & Connexxion staffers Birthe, Anja & Vera!
It was also work... here is our breakfast with the team-- ( Thomas K. on left). We sometimes stay there after the students leave, so we can "retreat" ourselves, plan, catch up, share vision, pray, and be refreshed by fellowship, and do even MORE planning. (out of order-- this event was JUST after the following photos)
Saying "good-byes" is always hard after a weekend-- Daniel, in the middle, had driven all the way from Munich (maybe 6 hours!). He has a cool story of how God met him, years ago, when he was driving home from just such a weekend.
Lydia and I have been friends since Jena days... she now lives in Braunschweig and is Anja's roomie.
It was cool to catch up with my buddy Burdy, who used to study in Jena and is now a counselor.

Snowy Fall Weekend

We had 30 attend our Fall Retreat weekend with Connexxion-- this time from 3 cities!! (Hamburg being our newest Connexxion start!)
Our guest speaker was a well-known pastor & author, Klaus Schoenberg.
It was a blessed time to explore the topic of "spirituality" and see how God can meet us in fresh ways. Here are some of our Braunschweig students... (Christiane, Lydia, Steffi, Nikola & Elli; the guys behind them are Olli & Simon)
One our final evening we had a fun "murder mystery" complete with pirates (for instance, Christiane & Anja)

... and a princess on a ship! (Birthe was the captured princess! She played the part WELL!)

Wanna see more things we've done this fall with Connexxion? Check out this blog....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last year's advent thoughts

Last year, 2009, I was asked to write something about "HOPE" for an Advent Calendar that special friends at North Run Church in Virginia were publishing ... since I am writing a small devotional for this year's addition, I re- read what I'd written last year... My. How life evolves and changes and disappoints and challenges us by the tough stuff. It was my absolute nightmare, worst Christmas ever!

On the other hand, how wonderfully does God hold our hands in the hard times, and encourage us with the promise of "eternal life" -- those words are more than just words to me-- "eternal life"-- they are life! And the certain, sure hope of seeing Mom again...

Here is what I wrote... sharing it with you, even though it's not Advent yet. Jesus Christ comes-- today--everyday. He is here & touches our lives!

Advent Devotional- HOPE

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

- Hebrews 11:1 -

Jesus was like any infant-- tiny, sleeping a lot, crying for milk! Frankly, he didn’t look much like the Savior. That barn appeared to be anything BUT a King’s birthplace. But Mary and Joseph were visited by angels before they married, giving them an eternal perspective on this not-to-be-repeated birth. They received hope that God had everything under control. And faith grabbed onto the hope fueled by His promises.

Faith and hope work together. Faith is stepping onto a plane, knowing that a hundred different technical factors have to work, for 200 persons to be able to fly. Hope, then, is like the view from the cockpit—watching for landing lights while circling at your destination, even through the fog. But you don’t see them, yet!

Let’s notice two more verses.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

- Romans 15:13

… but we also rejoice in our sufferings,

because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…”

- Romans 5:3-5 -

These verses from Romans contain powerful truths. First, God is the source of hope. It’s a description of His nature. Secondly, I have to trust Him. If my hope is founded on my family, finances, former successes or even my faults, it can be shaken. Thirdly, hope is like a gushing riverbed, overflowing onto the banks beside it!

I wish hope grew through quickly answered prayers. In happy times. But it’s birthed by pain. Waiting. Hoping that this job interview (we certainly got practice from the previous 14 interviews!), will land us a new position. The wish that our rebellious child will one day make us proud. In my case, faith was letting a cardiac surgeon operate on my mom in August. And hope is what’s hanging on, after months of perservering in prayer in ICU, reading God’s promises, waiting for Mom to come home. If we’d seen healing the first month, our character would not have grown as much. Our quantity of “hope” would stay smaller. And those around Mom would not have experienced the riverbed, creeping, gushing, pouring over the banks.


Father, in situations where I don’t have all the answers, may I trust You. Where I persevere and wait for You to show up powerfully, let me not give up hope. May this hope, in turn, cause others to see Jesus, especially during this Advent season (see 1 Peter 3:15). In Jesus’ name.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

When it rains, it pours

When you think that the load of life or stress or schedule -- or whatever-- is about ALL you can take-- it rains!! Literally. Like, in your apartment! First -- above is a party photo from Friday, with Vincent (who served on the Connexxion staff for 1 year plus), along with new friends Vincent (in cap), Constantin, Alex, and Dominique, a neighbor.
It was Saturday night (well, Sunday morning, about 12:30 a.m.!). We had just had our 2 & 1/2 day big Connexxion ZOOM conference (about 60 attenders, from 9 nations-- that is big for us, with dozens of detailed, quality logistics involved!). We had cleaned up the church.

Some friends drove to my apartment to help unload 2 carloads of conference folders, pens, books, tablecloths, orange juice and cases of water bottles, etc. We were exhausted. But the electricity in my apartment went out twice. The source? Water was dripping from my kitchen ceiling, around a lamp, and when I turned it on-- poof!!-- the power shut down! It ended up that a neighbor's hose connection from their wall tap to their washing machine had a leak. What horrible timing!
The ironic thing is, earlier that night we'd topped off the conference with a 10-year anniversary celebration and banquet -- where I had given a short word about some things that God had taught me over the 10 years, but especially in starting new groups. About believing God that He wants to "rain" down (I used that word) the Living Water of His Spirit on people and nations ...and campuses. I talked about a true story in the Bible & a prophet of God named Elijah (1 Kings 18:41-46).

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

A prophet named Elijah warned the evil king Ahab to eat quickly, because Elijah had "heard" a heavy rain-- although there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Before that God had promised him, "When you go to see Ahab, I will send rain (after a long drought)."

I thought that was strange. The word "sound" of rain. I mean, when you grow up in Florida on the bay and understand the stormy summers, or have lived in rainy climates like Vancouver or northern Germany-- you know a bit about rain. You see rain-- in the distance when the sky turns gray and cloudy, or there is a sort of sheet hanging against the horizon. You smell rain-- when it gets near you, the air smells sort of wet and sweet. But the SOUND of rain? That only occurs when the showers are about a block away from you. At first, Elijah's servant did not even see a cloud. Finally, after 7 views, there was just 1 baby cloud, about the size of a man's hand. I figured that Elijah must have heard rain, with his "spiritual ears." You know? The whisper of God. There was a promise from God: no rain.

1 Kings 17:1 - "Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.'" There followed a great famine.

Then a new promise, after 3 years, we see in chapter 18 - "After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 'Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.'" Spiritual ears heard the fulfillment of a promise of God. A heart of belief brought on an awakening of the "soul senses" to know that something was just around the corner, simply because the Lord had said so. Elijah did it-- does that have to be so hard? The cool thing about my apartment's kitchen "rain" story: I have been able to meet my neighbors more through this experience (along with 2 policemen & a few fire department personnel!).

Wow-- can i believe God for BIG STUFF? Do I "hear" the fulfillment of His promises? Can I still persevere when I get a "no" 6 times? What has God shown you about listening... about believing?

What is the thing that you "hear" now only with your "soul senses"?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Our 2nd Connexxion Conference (& the 1st one on this "scale") was called ZOOM!
It was a hit, if I do say so myself. So thankful for the many, many volunteers (we've gotta count them huh?) who worked behind the scenes (and on "stage" too!) to make this event truly memorable and, God willing- eternal! Below are special friends from Jena: Melanie, Stefanie, Lydia (now in Braunschweig, since 2007), and below, Maria and Lukas (they're expecting!).
What a joy to be among a mixture of old & new friends-- some whom I'd known since 2000 when we founded Connexxion (actually that was about 18 months before we even had that name, or ANY name!). Over the years there has been a staggering number of friends and Connexxion participants-- others since then-- from Jena, Braunschweig and Sevilla. At ZOOM we also had representatives from about 10 nations.
Below is one of our panel discussion times-- with Thomas K. (staff leader in Jena), Julie B. (on staff 2 years in Jena, now working at Union University in campus ministries), Vera (founding a new Connexxion group in Hamburg); Stefan (working in North Africa); myself; and Vincent (on our staff for over 1 year here in Braunschweig).
I will continue to post more photos-- this was truly a 1) fantastic conference, 2) appreciation time for those who've prayed, lived it out and given over the years... plus 3) a wonderful 10 -year anniversary celebration-- all rolled into one!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happenin' Hamburg

Anja and I had a fun visit in Hamburg recently, to see old friends and meet up with Vera, on staff with Connexxion. What a modern -looking campus!We went out one night with friends who used to live & study in Jena or Braunschweig... and have moved to Hamburg for jobs after graduation.
Does this photo below look like a campus to you --or a park? wow!! It's the TU Harburg (Technical University, in a suburb outside of Hamburg).
Right beside the campus is a Baptist church (Evangelisch- Freikirchliche Gemeinde). They are offering their cafe to host events for university students. For example, this week the university is having a meet & greet event for all the new freshmen (first semester students).
Here is the outside of the church in Harburg.Our first meal was in the student Mensa (cafeteria)-- yummy!
Vera is starting a brand new Connexxion Christian campus group. We're all very excited about this "cutting edge" project!