Thursday, March 31, 2011

doors

The Scriptures speak to ideas about doors. For instance, in Deuteronomy 11:18 ff - "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates..."

I find them fascinating and poetic, and have enjoyed taking photos of gates, entrances & doors while in various locations. Hope you enjoy these, taken in three countries...
Doors. Enter. Exit. Flow of life.
Pathways. Greetings. Entrance. Patterns. Open. Closed.
Guarding. Safety. Protective. Threatening. Hiding.
Barred. Locked. or Inviting. Colorful. Meaning.
Descriptive. Elegant. Framed. Cultural.
Scary. Peek-holes. Foreboding. Shut out. Shut in.
Inviting. Welcoming. Blue.
A statement. Useful. Handles.

Revelation 3 - "These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

Why not take a moment to thank God for an open door (in business, in your family, the open heart of a friend, ministry opportunity, etc.).

Then ask the Father to open a door for you ... of a new vision. A blessing in one area of your life, or a fresh adventure for His work in your world... or possibly to shut one, that would protect you & others...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Back to the roots

Enjoying coffee time with Anja's lovely parents, Renate and Klaus, who are so hospitable & tell such entertaining stories!
Walking the cafe street which I frequented with joy while living in Jena... & where the wonderful Davis family used to live!
Gunter and Anja praying a blessing over Stefan & Antje-- great friends & full of faith. They are also full of adventure-- they're now working with Connexxion! I've known Stefan since about my 2nd week in Jena, & we have super memories! I first met precious Antje when she came to a small group in a pub with her roomie, Vera.
Last weekend I visited my old "home" city in Germany, Jena! What a great place to relive memories and celebrate several things. We had the annual board meeting for our Connexxion non- profit organization. And on Sunday there was a very special send-off worship service for our friend Nicole!
Here is a delicious breakfast at the home of my hosts, Matthias, Ulrike and Reinhard! He serves on our board and is a business professor at the university.
My friend Anja K. & I got to spend some 'girl time' together, with baby Artur! She and her husband are such faithful & creative leaders of the Connexxion ministry in Jena! They've stepped out in faith in so many ways-- I am continually amazed at their humble, yet persistent way of following Jesus!
Maria and Lukas were single college students when we first met, and later we were in the discipleship group together. Now they're married & have a darling (well, she was sad here!) little girl. Both of them have invested hundreds of hours serving in leadership of discipleship groups. And he graciously handles our ministry's finances, while getting his doctorate.
Anja and Nicole used to be roomies... and Nicole served 'bunches' in the past in our Jena group, leading a worship team & generally encouraging gals. She started a new ministry in our church, called "the Door" to reach out to youth in the community. Well, as a trail-blazing catalyst, she couldn't sit still, so handed off The Door to a friend she mentored & is now headed to Montenegro (this week, by CAR!) to serve with OM.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

praying for japan

Tonight we had a very sweet time together as a Connexxion group in my apartment. We're still in the middle of our semester break (in the USA you'd say: "spring break"). But ours is about 6 weeks-- filled with exams, finishing up papers, and doing internships-- but NOT having classes. We took time to cook pasta together... and then prayed for various needs in Japan.
Later some of us baked cookies --

Here is Anja and Jacky (bottom, left) and Janina & Janina (right side). We're going to pass on these cookies as a "thank you" to some of our Connexxion prayer partners!

It made me feel "purposeful" to do a bit of research about organizations within Germany which are doing big things in Japan to help out ... & also those from the USA who are wading into the mess and making a difference! Check out these links for ideas...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vienna at a glance

Vienna is a classy city. The Hofburg Palace is right on this main Ring Boulevard that runs for 4 kilometers.
The sign above was on a church door and says: "Confession & speaking out." It is for those wanting to talk or confess to the priest.

This winter I got a free trip to visit some friends in Vienna & get some ideas for Connexxion. There I briefly (in 1 afternoon) checked out some of the campuses, too. They have 100,000 university students in this prestigious city! The daughter took me to a well- known ice cream & Italian pastry shop.
Here is one of the main campus buildings which even has audio head sets so you can tour it!
Making some delicious dinner out of pastry dough and cabbage!

Connexxion board meeting in Jena

We had a great time together this weekend in Jena, with our Connexxion staff along with our non-profit organization's board members & their spouses. Here is a photo with lots of smiles, after a longer afternoon together. First, we had an informational meeting in the church, inviting lots of friends, where we shared stories from 2010 from all 4 cities where we have groups. Then we enjoyed a VISION time with just this group talking about developing new structures, expanding, increasing our financial base & more "behind the scenes" ideas. Last but not least came the smaller "official" board meeting.

God has given us a great 3 & 1/2 years as a non-profit organization in Germany & we look forward to the next 30 + years & what the Father has in store. Danke an alle, die uns gesegnet haben und so viel Unterst├╝tzung geleistet haben! Thanks to all who have blessed us and contributed so much support!

What 7 months without a microwave instilled in me

Yes, that's right. Since August I've lived without a microwave. That is, until last week (read more below). Through this simple experience, God has instilled some valuable principles in me. The following questions might accompany an exercise in living with a contented heart, as we consciously or unconsciously trust God for our "stuff."

How many creative ways can I save money, in order to invest in God's Kingdom?
I had given away my (not fancy or expensive) microwave to a friend in ministry, when I moved to Spain. And coming back to Germany, it just didn't seem on the top of my shopping list. I mean, whenever I would think of the inconvenience, I recalled those who work with our Connexxion student group & are dependent on 'partners' for their support. Paying 35 or even 100 Euro for a microwave wouldn't be much to invest. Afterall, it would save me valuable time.

But in the scheme of things, I could share exactly those funds to help someone on our team pay rent, so he/ she could be free to hang out on campus, plan a retreat for collegiates, or write new discipleship materials. I would remember when I used to raise ALL my financial support & lived on the West Coast. At times, I used the money I got from taking back recycling bottles to pay for gas. It can be a tough way to depend on others for providing your salary.

So I asked myself: "How can I give generously & even more sacrificially?" My sister- in -law's blog is also inspiring on sacrificing our dreams. By re- evaluating other purchases in the light of Eternity, I have passed by a shelf of lovely paper napkins I would like (I still buy them sometimes, but not as much as some years). At times I buy that awful, scratchy toilet paper (Germany uses this commonly) because it's cheaper than the soft kind! And no- name dish soap is not all that bad!

The next time you want to purchase a small "un-necessary luxury" (you decide what a "small luxury" is for you), ask yourself 3 things:
  1. can this wait a week (or month)?
  2. is the purchase based on wisdom & God's prompting or just on a whim?
  3. by sacrificing a few pennies or dollars here, in which ministry or person could I invest 10 Euro (or 20 or 200?), if I saved like this over the long haul? (make your shopping decisions personal-- not personal about YOU, but personal about those you want to support!)
What would my Grandma do!? Back in the good ol' days, people heated up things on the stove or in the oven. They seemed to accomplish a BIG load of things without our modern conveniences: grow a garden, mend a torn shirt by hand, sterilize the baby bottles, can their vegetables, & juggle various tasks. I already have 2 methods of cooking & heating up food in my kitchen. So why do I need a third one? It made me feel homey & like a back- to -the -earth pioneer woman to think about my Grandmothers.

How can I build in short times of reflecting on Jesus or sending up praise during the day?
I have an older CD/ cassette player in my kitchen where I can play music. Whenever I am cooking, standing by that stove instead of instant- heating a dish... waiting FOREVER for something to heat up... I try to remember to turn on good music. Even if it's just long enough for 1 song. That praise- moment lifts my spirits, encourages me spiritually, & aids me in tuning into God! It slows me down to pause & relax. Can you think of other ways to remind yourself to praise God during the day, and help this "fit" into a system or ritual in your week?

When I have a need, can I depend on God to meet it, or do I rush to "fend for myself"? Now don't get me wrong. God gives us money so we can purchase stuff, save it for a rainy day, or invest finances in His eternal plan. But many times the "purchase stuff" category comes to mind so quickly, when I could lift up the need in prayer FIRST. Or thank God for His taking care of me, for what I already have (like a stove)! And learn to be content.

In this case, after 7 months without a microwave, Birthe came to me: "Martha, you need to come by my place. Jessy asked me if I needed a microwave, because they were getting rid of theirs. I told her 'no, but I know of someone!'" God also used Birthe in the Fall as an instrument for me to have a cheap water cooker. I use it at least daily to make tea. It's not fancy, but again it's free! And seeing that blue machine is a reminder that Jesus is taking care of me, even through one of our Connexxion staff who develops HER support. And I can also learn a TON by letting others serve me! As I was about to take this photo, it hit me, "Oh wait! The coffee maker was also a great gift!" Anja's family donated it to me; her grandmother passed away last year and had hardly used it! So here you have it: my Row of God's Provision! It's your turn: what is one thing you've learned to live without the past months? How has it revolutionized your attitude & your giving?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sevilla has a special color (pt. 2)

Our excursion day on Saturday at the beach was a blessing-- here i am with Maggie (she and her husband Hendrik serve on staff with Connexxion, too and lead the Sevilla group), and my friend Inma!
Fran (Francisco) was one of my first friends in Spain-- what a great guy! This was his birthday!
Lauren and I had coffee in the center with a special friend Annie, whom I have also gotten to visit in her home in another city (Starbucks is in the background-- but no, did not get coffee there). Note: Starbucks was invited in the Northwest of the USA... very far from the delights of a real espresso machine found in literally thousands of bars in Europe, with much cheaper coffee and great atmosphere! Yes, in bars-- what I have found in Spain, at least, is that you do not need various types of eating establishments (yes, it exists)-- because the main place where you eat, drink and have your morning coffee with a tostada is a bar! Your "one- stop -shopping" adventure on every corner!
Love the flamenco dress creations... I will unfortunately miss the Feria de Abril this year, where I would wear my very own flamenco dress (thanks, Lauren, for storing it there for me!).
This is a very old bar (remember what I said above!-- I got "tapas" here) in the old city Santa Cruz, with an interesting mounted wild pig!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

chinese new year

Recently I was privileged to be invited to celebrate Chinese New Year with a student friend, Thanh. It was put on by the Vietnamese Buddhist society in a nearby city, where they also have a temple. It was fascinating to see how people worship, light incense and put fruit in front of the various statues.
Downstairs we just gave Thanh some euros and said, "Buy what you think tastes good and is typical!" With this cold bean drink, we really felt like we were living in Asia for an evening!
Here my friends S├Âren and Thanh are enjoying special delicacies... (Anja was here, too)
Downstairs there were various musical events, including a choir and a typical dragon dance with drums accompanying.
The bean drink-- you could eat it with a spoon!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

obscurity (pt. 2)

Today I read another verse that reminded me of what I'd written before regarding obscurity... I was generally feeling that obscurity is a BLESSING from God - that if they can't find me on the planet (ha!), it's good. But maybe that is not always true. ??

Check this out!

"Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men."

- Proverbs 22:29 (ESV)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sevilla has a special color

I just spent a glorious week in Sevilla, my old "home", where I was privileged to see friends and visit the Connexxion group. The title of this entry is a line in a song... Here is the Giralda tower of the Cathedral (it used to be a mosque centuries ago). I stayed just 5 minutes from this spot.
My hosts, Paloma, her son Paco and daughter Inma (my good friend), along with her boyfriend Johnny and our friend Abraham.
3 good friends-- Hendrik, Juan Carlos, and Abraham (Hendrik and Abe are both working for Connexxion part- time). Hendrik is also doing ministry with the youth of our church, and we are excited that Abe has just started his practicum with Connexxion for 5 months.
Here is Hendrik preaching at our church in the town of Bormujos.
Right before I flew out we had a lunch together with the Connexxion team, at a super noisy restaurant that serves lots of meat-- beside me are Lauren D. & Abraham. Across are Maggie and Hendrik, and Lauren H.

Pasta & pub

We had fun at our end of the semester party-- well, done a bit differently than our usual "motto" parties.
We started in 2 locations, a type of frat house called ABC House, and also in a large dormitory kitchen. Everyone brought pasta and sauce and we cooked together.
Later we all ended up at a large pub in the city center.... (below are Ollie, Elli, Caro & Thanh)
and hung out & played "Kicker" (the German word for "Foosball"-- and I bet you thought THAT word was German!). "Fussball" is actually the German word for what Americans call "soccer."
Here are Elli and Birthe hard at work in the kitchen... I left the pub a bit early-- which was around 11 p.m. for me .... because the next morning I flew to Sevilla to be with the Connexxion group there.