Friday, June 17, 2011


Today I was pondering the idea of "extravagance" ... showing people you care, even in small ways, can truly make a difference. We usually don't have enough hours in a day to do things up BIG. I'm not saying I'm good at going beyond my "duty" or the smaller things that people should expect, to really FULLY and GRACIOUSLY show love .... but I applaud and notice it when someone does acts of extravagance-- I think this reflects the character of God-- his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his kindness, his generosity, his "attention to detail."

What about when we really "go for it" and mirror the profound depths and breadth of God's love-- by going out of our way for someone... Doing something that normally is not "necessary." Beyond our duty. Not playing it safe. We could even "waste" perfume (like the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus).
  • a kind word said in passing is lovely & can hit the spot -- but what about if you mailed a super, creative card with 10 lines of encouragement? extravagance.
  • the value of a gift does not matter. We say: "it's the thought that counts." But what about if you gave a really generous gift (monetarily speaking, if you have the funds)? Or one that showed you had to plan to get it more than a couple of hours ahead? extravagance.
  • it's truly nice to send a text message, just to show someone they were on your mind! - What about if you offered to skype, and give the gift of extravagant time? (Hmmm... after all, it's not that convenient, is it?) Or take them to dinner and coffee for a few hours? extravagance.
  • asking "is there anything I can do to help?" is a gracious offer. How about the next time asking probing questions or observing this friend's life, and noticing something they need-- then meeting that need in a timely fashion?! extravagance.
Whether it be words, gifts, time or acts of service -- I think God really smiles when we sacrifice and imitate Jesus.
"Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13
My bike has been in the basement "out of commission" because I don't know where my bike lock's KEY is. Ugh! I was fully surprised today when Anja told me, beaming from ear to ear, that she'd asked a friend of ours, who is good at fixing things, if he had some bolt cutters. Basically, she was giving me a heads up, "We may be coming over on Saturday, to free up your bike!" Now, that is the definition of extravagance, on the part of both of them!

Another example-- last Saturday (June 11th!) when I came into breakfast, the whole room of retreat participants stood to their feet, sang "Happy Birthday" & then greeted me with handshakes & hugs. extravagance-- even in standing up versus singing while seated. I was led to a special birthday seat decorated with balloons & a "Snickers" cake (made by Anja & transported by car to the retreat center!). extravagance. Then I was asked to unwrap a box, in which were several smaller boxes inside each other ... (extravagance.) ...which finally opened to a tiny red (how fun!) iPod! It was the size I can use to work out at the gym. The group knew I had been missing mine; I lost it on the plane in February. extravagance. If that were not enough love, hugs, attention, honor and fun-- on the iPod was the engraved word: "gomartha," as well as the reference for a theme verse in my life:

"Das Volk, das im Dunkel lebt, sieht ein großes Licht. Die im Land der Finsternis wohnen, Licht leuchtet über ihnen." - Isaiah 9:1 (in English verse 2)

being team

Do Anja and Vera look like they're UP to something? They are--UP-- like dozens of meters up in a small cable car!
Ahhhh.... this was over the city of Thale, in the Harz Mountains...
I think Kris was excited and Birthe was trying not to rock the cable car! In addition to the crazy times of fun-- it is truly a privilege, in every sense of the word, to serve on a TEAM with great leaders and special friends in Connexxion, who lead students in 3 cities.

After having our student retreat, our Germany team stayed at the center for a mini- retreat together...
Our fantastic Germany Connexxion team:
Front - Antje, Birthe, Anja, Vera, Martha
Back: Stefan, Thomas (Anja was with their 2 kids in another city-- we missed her!); Kris

During our meetings, we talked about ideas such as fall plans & exchange trip ideas ... also about various concepts, such as the benefits of TEAM-- and how to think more "We" than "I." We also had a Bible study on how to pray better to stay strong in our walk with God despite the obstacles. Of course, we did exactly that-- prayed together for our campuses & each other.

Retreat, Freizeit, Retiro...

We had a marvelous 3-language Connexxion retreat last weekend in the Harz Mountains with over 40 attending ...
Here are our 2 main speakers, Mike Story and Thomas Koch, our team leader in Jena! My best buddy Abraham Rios came from Sevilla, who is doing a practicum with Connexxion and was able to represent our group there and share his story. That was a bit of a challenge for me (but a good one), to interpret for Abraham quietly during the sessions, sitting beside him. From the front, Conny or Stefan translated for Mike, from English to German. Thus, it was a very multi- lingual event!
We had 9 visitors from Oklahoma including our speaker, Mike, who leads the Baptist Campus ministry at OSU.
(above after winning a game-- Henning, Abraham, & Marc)

The theme was "Plug In" and Mike spoke about how our lives are planned by God & we can only discover His best for us as we "abide" 100% in Christ... and are connected and rooted in Him (John 15, and Colossians 2:7).

Friday, June 03, 2011

tables & learning

I get the chance some weeks to do a fair amount of teaching about God, & also blending that, I hope, with a fairly heavy dose of learning & soaking up ideas from others! (Caro & Birthe clowning around!)
Often it happens close to a TABLE ... Here are some shots of this week...I was privileged to lead an extensive Bible study time this week with students from our 2 discipleship groups, on the topic of dating & sexual purity (ideas on a blog post soon!). It was a holiday so we prepared breakfast together! Thank the Lord that I inherited a great wooden table from my grandmother that you can let out!
Here we are sharing a long table in the "Mensa" (student cafeteria) for Birthe's birthday this week.
Sitting around tables in my weekly Spanish class (usually I'm just a student but this time you see me in red at the front). I had to give a presentation this week, for a grade, about Sevilla!
Our Bible discussion groups always meet at a cafe where it's cozy around a table. This week the weather was so amazing, we sat outside at 2 tables. (from left to rt., Dodo, Janina, Niklas, Kris; and in the back, me & Lars).
From left to rt. around the top, foto below: Sören, Thorsten, Christiane, Elli, Oli, Anja, Meike and Miora. We had great conversations about the Love Chapter (1. Corinthians 13).

God said some interesting things & told stories about people around tables...
"They spoke against God, saying, Can God spread a table in the desert?" (Psalm 78:19)
God can & will provide, even when I doubt his ability to pay my rent, or put bread on my table, or give me the fellowship that I crave. Some more verses using "table"...
"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7)

"But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table." (Luke 22:21)
"Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him." (John 12:2)Tables are places of relaxation, of being nourished. Of making new friends, and resolving conflicts. Of showing hospitality, and serving. What cool experiences have you had recently around a table? Do you have any special events that happen regularly in your schedule, around a meal time?