Monday, February 28, 2011

My brain in 3... uh, 4 nations

Just got back from a trip to Sevilla. What a privilegio, to have the posibilidad in more than one country gelebt zu haben! Perhaps it kommt with the terrority, having lived in 4 nacionen, mi mente está sometimes totalmente confused mit Sprachen and finding the apropos word. Ich start to say a palabra, and se me ocurre the word in uno de my other languages. (at the right is my host family while I visited recently: Paloma the mom, Paco the son, and Inma, my student friend... along with Johnny & Abraham).

Travel (das Reisen… viajar)… will do that to me! At times (a veces… manchmal…), I hesitate, porque estoy speaking in one language, such as Deutsch, but the palabra español will come to my brain primeramente. I train myself, having a button on my portatil so that I can change my keyboard Sprache by clicking on a pequeño Flage of that nation.

In general, my vida (life, Leben) is sort of like that in este momento. I am loving working with Connexxion in dos countries—España y Deutschland. Plus I disfruto von great feedback und Unterstutzung to be supervised and coached by an American organization. My corazón (Herz, heart) is torn. When people ask me, wie es oft passiert, which nación yo amo better or where I prefer to live, ich kann nicht completamente say.

I do not want zu sound overly stereo-typisch, but part of me is very American—growing up with football games, conservative roots, a “can-do” actitud, and eating out. Another side of me will never get Vancouver out of my system—die Multi- culti adventure of different culturas together. Ein andere Teil von mir ist German – the ability to say what I think de verdad, to appreciate a sense of Zeit, agenda and planning. An enjoyment of simple Dinge in der Natur and hiking. And an appreciation for logic. Yet another Seite of me is español—a pride in one’s roots y familia, enjoying being complimented (“Hola, guapa!” which is a typical greeting so etwa wie “Hi there, Beautiful!”). I love being treated como una dama (lady). Loudly expressive Gozo (joy … Freude!...), y el desire (Wunsch… deseo…) to chill” y not be on a tight schedule (I am certain to be tarde, so por qué sweat it!?). I can’t choose. I’m sort of all of the above! Soy un poco de todo lo de arriba. Ich bin ein bisschen von allem, was da oben steht.

Paul the Apostle is my héroe, und he actually nos anima (encourages us … herausfordert…) to lay down our personal “rights” and adjust to the cultures & convictions of the people around us. He must have had diferentes lados (sides) of his preferencias y personality, too, as I feel que I do. It's a fun way to leben!

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible… I have become all things to all men.” (1. Corintios 9:19, 22)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I'll never forget a quote from a wise pastor, Bob Brandon, in Ft. Worth, Texas. He once told me:
"Enjoy your obscurity."

It was while I was probably bemoaning the fact that I was living in Vancouver, BC (which, by the way, I loved!!---). But I was feeling "out of the loop," isolated from other campus ministries with a similar DNA. And friends. Plus didn't know what conferences were going on. What were the latest trends? And feeling single. What else was my motivation for NOT being so obscure? Partly loneliness. And pride. Also, wanting to know that what I was doing really mattered & "counted."

I have recalled this statement many times-- when I felt that I was missing out. Nobody even knew where I was-- living in Germany, later. Back then Bob had explained: "When Hope Church was new, we had all the time needed to develop programs and concepts. And simply spend time with people. But after other leaders found out about our (innovative) church, they've wanted to visit and bring in groups to learn. We spend valuable time hosting them."

Recently I felt strangely drawn to sit for a whole day in my PJ's (whew!), and evaluated where my stress levels were coming from. I typed up a table reflecting the past 18 months. The table showed this fact: I'd had unusual events, special guests, and/or travel days for 38% up to more than 40% of the days. Not good. I'm losing my obscurity, as we grow as an organization. The tug of attention is divided in various locations. And instead of doing what I feel I do well, which is partly "backstage," I'm pushed out there onto center stage.

The Apostle Paul was also in the background for quite some time. Even when the word got out about his new-found faith-- he was personally away from the limelight for about 3 years (Galatians 1).

"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days… Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me.”

This is a great example to me. Even when the churches heard about Paul's radical change, the result was: God got the applause!
  1. Build deep. Take care of the depth of your ministry; & God will take care of the breadth. Make the foundation pillars strong, so God can construct a skyscraper (if He chooses).
  2. Spend time with Jesus-- taking in, before you have to give out a lot. Later your Quiet Time will have more competition & the nights may be shorter with lack of sleep.
  3. Learn humility in the backwoods.
  4. Enjoy doing what you do best, before people bombard your Inbox, & come wanting to do interviews. Or travel to your site to take pictures! Really -- why you are where you are-- that's the fun stuff! Relish the time.
  5. What you do in the early days, could make or break the future of where you'd like to be. People whom you meet or influence in the first months of a new location/ ministry, are likely key shapers of the organization later!
What has obscurity taught you, in the backstage?

WOW Week 2011, part 2

It was great to hang out again with Christoph, whom I'd known when i first moved to Braunschweig. Here are more shots of our super fun & full WOW week in January, with the exchange campus group from Union University!At bowling night, on Friday-- it looks smokey because they had "disco bowling" effects with a lasar show.
a baking afternoon with chocolate chip cookes, in Rita & Anna's place -- with Holly (USA), Anna, me, Janina, Rita & Janina B.! Notice how many of us are wearing scarves, even in the apartment!
one of 3 pasta parties-- this one at Raphael's apartment (more students were in the kitchen!)
Caro went with Anja and Julie to all THREE pasta events across town-- yummy! She and I are part of an English Talk on Wednesdays in the student cafeteria .....
Peter was a new friend whom we met, and it turned out, that he and Aaron lived in the same dorm-- Aaron was our January intern!

What have you found to be some fun ways to connect your friends & new acquaintances?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

slowing down, saying 'no', & other out -of-reach items˜

You know how you probably do have more flour or plastic zip-lock bags or whatever in your kitchen, but it's on a higher shelf that is out of easy reach? You're going to have to get a chair or step- stool ("hocker" = German word) to check it out. Sometimes I feel like slowing down is like that. It's there-- it's available-- this "thing" of learning to "walk" at a do-able pace, enjoying life more, or saying "no." But it's not gonna be at my fingertips. I will have to REACH for it! Especially to the extent that my life &/or work are led or acted on by other forces or leaders.

But sometimes that force" is ME, or within ME. Perhaps based on a "type A" personality? Or influenced by my family? That force may come from: MY expectations, the perceived "demands" of others, MY view of God, my inability to do things part-way (as in 85%, for example, versus 120%!).

The reality of being single is also crazy as it relates to TIME- use-- at least I reflect on this & feel that way! ALL the emails & correspondence & mailing birthday gifts (& remembering birthdays), & finding a new cell phone service, & dusting the living room, & washing my winter coat that got smokey after we had our group in a new pub last week, & vacuuming out the car, & reading a fun book or inspirational book, & picking out what will be served for supper (& shopping ahead of time), & driving to the park so I can take a walk and have a break, & remembering that I have to run to the ATM (do I have enough cash in that account?- better check on-line)-- it's all for me to do, figure out, delegate or postpone! That can be truly mind- boggling at times.

Now that's just everyday life-- behind the scenes, household stuff. Not to mention ALL the work/ ministry--it's also mine to do or delegate (meetings, people, planning, vision-ing, groups, oops-- do i have cookies to serve with the coffee?, more meetings, coffee times, studying for the group, mentoring, emails, Friday lunch in the Mensa, reading up, going to a party, filling out forms, traveling, cleaning the apartment for guests -- and then after the guests)... whew! And just imagine-- much of that, I LOVE-- I even picked my "job"!

OK-- so I'm complaining, but gotta throw in one more thing-- all the trash- taking-out means ME (in Germany that involves recycling). Today I went to throw out paper, plastic, & clear glass- in 3 separate containers down the street.

Here are a few "tips" for slowing down, from a struggler (not an expert, for sure!) :-) ...

Today it was:

1) OUT of TOUCH: no emails (Saturday is my day off!)

2) OUT of PLACE: get OUT of my apartment (because i "work" here, too) for a walk in the park with my iPod, despite the cold & drizzle-- but also still moments to hear the wind in the trees

3) "SLOW" PLACE: to Phil's cafe in a trendy neighborhood, w/ Diana Krall playing on their speakers -- drinking coffee while getting time w/ God.

4) CUT the PACE: Another way to "slow down" (ha!) that I used this week: I already got 2 out-of-town trips this month (one planned by leadership outside of my control, & one planned by me, so....). Therefore, I turned down a "great opportunity" (truly!) for a 3rd one!

5) OUTSOURCE/ accountability: I ran ideas by our "team"/ staff so they could keep me 'sane' on a few decisions, before I over- committed. I generally do this; what a joy to be & have TEAM!

6) SHARED PACE: resist the idea of "I have to get this email out tonight!" If I feel I need to write something, just so I can check it off my list or know it's done, but it's later evening, that does NOT mean I have to send it! So I've begun putting some things in my "draft" box of emails if it's after a certain hour, to send out the next morning. That way I resist the temptation of pulling people into MY schedule, even though some people are "night owls" like me-- :-)

Two of my favorite verses that help me out in having focus & slowing down are:
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 4:10-11
"The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me." - Mark 14:7
Key thoughts here:
It's wrong for me to teach about God when I have no preparation and really nothing that the Lord has put on my heart... I'm just dishing out "blah- blah" because the occasion seems to call for it. In the same way, to SERVE without God's strength is wrong and may not even praise Him (that doesn't mean I won't be tired or even exhausted sometimes when I'm involved in activities for God; however, if I KNOW that my physical or emotional energy level is saying "stop the madness"-- probably more than once!-- it's time for a break). And it's amazing how "energetic" I can feel, even though I might get physically tired, when God has wired me for a task, an event, a people- investment.

There will always be needs around me. Poor people. "Impoverished" attitudes & emotions. Spiritual wasteland. But I'm not called to "be there" for ALL these people & situations. My first calling is to spend time with Jesus-- then He'll let me know what's on the agenda for MY special contribution to the world for that day.

What are your tips for slowing down, delegating better, & saying "no"? How can this lifestyle of a good "pace" be more in REACH?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

WOW Week, 2011... first fotos

It all started with a dream called "WOW" -- "week of welcome"! (Aaron, on the right, was a Connexxion intern for 1 month with us & did a great job!)
(Birthe on the left is on our staff & Karen works at Union U.)
The dream: to make new friends on campus, network with students, share the German culture with students from Union University, and live out our faith in Christ! Our guests lived in student dorms & apartments... and passed out gummy bears on campus & did surveys, too.
We had a fabulous time in January with a group of 11 students &
staff from Union University (Jackson, Tenn.), who poured out their hearts and went non- stop for over a week!
Hope you enjoy these photos to share with you what we did!
We had various creative events, such as a Beach party (yep- in the winter!), a super full Cafe night, bowling, pasta parties in 3 locations, etc. Julie B., on the left, was their team leader. She used to work with Connexxion in Jena for about 2 years.

Should I wear finger nail polish?

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
These words from Paul (Galatians 1:10) are a great reminder to me of living for my Audience of One!

Some of us may feel somewhat independent, as if we don't need others to like us. I remember that while in college I would observe the other girls, figuring out whom to emulate in even tiny things, while at the same time priding myself on being able to not have to "go with the flow." It sounds like a 14- year old, but I would notice who had on finger nail polish, and who didn't-- and, vacillating, wondering which "type" of girl I was (or wanted to become).

I mean, many of us might like to say we live to please only God, or that we are not all wrapped up in getting others to like us. But just wait until someone gives you that "look" when you do something that's off their approval list. Or they start to argue with your decision. Or you begin to feel that pit in your stomach, waiting for a response to your email (it may turn out to be positive, OR it may be negative!... but you're anxious, until you hear back). Ugh! Come right down to it-- I want people to like me. The test comes, when they don't!
The Apostle Paul is not talking here about WHAT decision I make. Or if I am speaking or acting in integrity. Or the steps I'm taking to serve Jesus among my friends, at home, or in the campus ministry. He's going to even a deeper issue under my actions: the why! I still need so much character-shaping from the Lord in this.

How do you handle the pressure of wanting to be liked? How do you deal with tough leadership calls, or prepare for mentoring conversations, when you have to say something the other person is probably going to struggle to be able to receive?