Wednesday, November 03, 2010

standing in line..

after almost two months of silence, i'm not sure who is reading this .. but i hope to post more often than once every two months! so, jumping right in ..

each year i spend a few weeks (or months..) working toward renewing my visa. you would think after four tries it would be easier .. but it still takes lots of energy. but there are some good things. yesterday i went to pay two taxes, and it meant standing in four different lines. but it is done, which is a very good thing! and of the four people that interacted with to accomplish these tasks, two of them were smiling and interested in what i do and why i'm here in romania. often people at big offices, banks, or government buildings can be pretty serious and not particularly happy. so i was grateful for these two women who didn't fit my stereotype, and were helpful and gracious. it made standing in line much better!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

a purpose for worship

the second week of the wonderful class that i am taking had more intriguing articles. yay! and here are a few quotes that i have been pondering the past couple of days.

"God is not threatened; rather He is immeasurably saddened by false worship. When people worship anyone or anything besides Him, they become like it. God has better intentions for people." -- Steven C. Hawthorne

and the well-known quote from John Piper: "Missions exists because worship doesn't."

"We will not bring the kingdom or build the kingdom, but our privilege is to live out previews of 'coming attractions,' revealing what this kingdom will look like." -- Tim Dearborn

one idea which i have been pondering is motivation for mission. motivation for how we live and what we focus on, not just mission. if our motivation has to do with people, we will be disappointed. because people are sinful and selfish and make mistakes. (everyone -- including ourselves!) if our motivation has to do with our own selfish desires, we will probably not last very long. but .. if our motivation comes from a deeper, wider, bigger purpose .. then it just might be possible for us to stay involved exactly where we are. if our internal motivation is based on the One who is stable, we will have the capacity to face external challenges. and being invited to participate in the plan of God is much more exciting than making my own plan anyway! :)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

a new book!

on the way to hang out with a couple friends, i stopped to get my mail. and i found a book that i've been eagerly waiting for! once i arrived, i pulled out the package and opened it, and had this silly grin on my face as i saw the book and started looking through it. my friends looked at me like i was crazy. (this happens more than you might think.. :P ) on this particular occasion, the look was well-merited. because, you see, the book has 782 pages, and it is a textbook. all about the world Christian movement!

i am taking an online class called "perspectives" and am really grateful for the opportunity to read a large variety of authors and subjects, to be challenged in my view of God and mission, and to do so with a cohort of fellow believers from various places around the globe. here are a few quotes from this week's reading that stood out.

"Holiness is wholeness. To be holy is to be wholly the Lord's." -- Walter C. Kaiser

"None of God's gifts were meant for our own consumption. They were not meant to be mere badges or titles. They were for the purpose of declaring His wonderful deeds and calling people to His marvelous light." -- Walter C. Kaiser

"Blessing is God's provision for human flourishing. But it is also relational: to be blessed by God is not only to know God's god gifts but to know God himself in his generous giving." -- Richard Bauckham

I hope to continue to share quotes and ideas throughout this four month class. Some ideas are just better when they are shared!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

an abrupt transition

this past saturday afternoon it was 32˚C .. almost 90˚F.  nice, typical summer weather. warm, but not overwhelmingly so. then .. sunday morning i wake up and it is raining. the warmest it gets all day is around 21˚C .. 70˚F.  that is a big drop in temperature! and since then, it has continued to rain and be cooler. which is nice autumn weather. but it is so sudden!

change is a natural part of life. it happens to everybody. in all sorts of ways. internally and externally. but, it is nice when we can get accustomed to the idea of change, when we can prepare ourselves a bit. this change just happened faster than i was expecting. and made all the other changes going on just a little bit more challenging to deal with. ah well .. i am grateful that we are going to have a real autumn!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

an expression

while i was out walking this evening, i passed a man walking with his wife. when we passed, he looked at me, and the word that immediately came to mind was 'sneer'. not that his expression was horrible .. but it wasn't all that polite, either. two thoughts in rapid succession came to mind..
1. was that expression meant for me?!
2. did his face get stuck like that?

(necessary explanation for thought number 2 .. there is a 'calvin and hobbes' comic strip where calvin makes a horrible face. and an adult says 'be careful. it could get stuck like that.' calvin, of course, spends the rest of the panels with the same face, hoping it will become permanent. in the last panel, he is gravely disappointed .. it didn't get stuck!)

strange, i know. but it made my day better. and .. instead of being offended, why not find something humorous?!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

choosing to be grateful

"I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." -- Philippians 4.12-13

"Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." -- 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

these two passages have come to mind a number of times recently. from what i have seen in my own life, faith and belief often have to be worked out and practiced in decisions that seem inconsequential. small, daily choices do matter. at the moment, one of the choices i have daily (hourly or more often!) is to complain or to be thankful about the heat. yesterday it almost reached 100*F in the shade. it has been in the 90s most of the week and looks like it will continue to stay there. this is true in many parts of the world .. summer brings heat! (and in some places this is just life as usual .. which makes me really glad for the other three seasons.)

someone made a comment to me a while back that we humans are so good at finding things to complain about! when it is summer, we complain about the heat. when it is winter, we complain about the cold. there is always something. (i have spent time with people who excel at finding things to complain about, and sometimes am amazed at how creative they can be!) but in the same way, if we simply choose to look at things from a different perspective, there are always reasons to be thankful. i believe this is a spiritual discipline. especially in today's world, when there are always ads telling us that we need their product to be happy, or the newest version of whatever the hot technology is.  choosing to be thankful for what we have, for who we are with, for things we cannot change doesn't just happen, we have to practice!

in the heat of the day, i am choosing to be thankful for accessible and clean water. for a fan from a friend. for the cool breezes and temperatures that come each night (even if they aren't really cool, they are much better than noon!). for the wise One who created seasons. for fresh produce that needs the sun and warmth to because so flavorful. for ice cubes in my glass of cold tea. for friends to share an ice cream with. for shade. for green trees. see? once you start being thankful, it's hard to stop sometimes!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

to mark or not to mark ..

i don't particularly enjoy writing in books. this is something i learned from my family, i'm sure. some people use pens and highlighters and colored pencils .. making it easy to tell what they thought when they read a certain book. but i enjoy reading books over again. at least the good ones! and i prefer to read it again without necessarily remembering the same thoughts.

the first time that i remember actually writing in a book was junior year of college. for a class called 'sport and society' we read Friday Night Lights and then needed to write a paper applying issues we'd discussed in class to the book. it was a good book, and i enjoyed it, but i knew that to write a good paper i would need quotes. so i grabbed a pencil and made light vertical lines next to sentences or paragraphs that stuck out. this was enough for me to later use those in my essay. and not so much that it bothered me or others who borrowed the text.

that same technique .. pencil with light lines running down the margins of the paper has continued with me, even though i still don't use it very often. but i run into problems when i read authors like frederick buechner (currently that means A Room Called Remember) or eugene peterson (currently Eat This Book) .. because there are sometimes so many consecutive thoughts and phrases and ideas that i could simply put lines along the edges of all the pages and call it good. but i refrain myself and try to only put lines next to the salient sentences. (i try!) and .. it usually means that i will just need to revisit their books periodically, reading with new eyes and trying to let a little more of their wisdom become my own.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

hot water again!

today i took a hot shower for the first time in almost three weeks. marvelous!

much of the water here is centralized, so when they do repairs (usually at the beginning of the summer) they turn off all the hot water in the city. for something like a week or two. this time it was two and a half weeks. but they turned it on again, which is marvelous! during the first week it was hot outside (high 90s, F) .. so cold showers were alright. after that it got a bit chillier and the showers got shorter, as well as a couple times heating water on the stove.

my organization has something called learning community, and at the moment we are discussing creation care. what it means to be good stewards. this can be played out and discussed in so many ways! we read an article and watched a video (20 minutes, definitely worth it!), and then got started talking. one thing that stood out to me, because of the lack of hot water here, was the difference between choosing to be a good steward of resources .. and being forced to do so. it is one thing to have had plenty and then to decide to live differently and seek simplicity in various ways. but if you have not had enough, for someone to tell you that you must life without seems very unjust. all that to say .. i've been thinking about what sort of expectations we should have of one another, especially when it comes to crossing cultures and economic lines.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


i had an odd moment today. spending time with a friend who speaks both romanian and english, like i do. our conversation was full of both languages, changing from one to the other without an apparent reason. at one point, we just stopped talking and looked at each other. after a few moments of silence, she said 'i just don't really understand how you think.' made me smile, because i was thinking something similar.

strange this .. we speak the same language. we speak two of the same languages. and yet, understanding each other can be hard work. feels like parallel lines sometimes. i understand the words .. but the meaning? not so much. part of it is culture .. part of it is background .. part of it is simply the ways that our minds work. which is marvelously different. interesting and challenging and sometimes frustrating. but marvelous, all the same.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

a bit of refreshment

a couple of days ago, i went with a friend to her choir rehearsal. and it was marvelous! the director is passionate about music, and had everyone singing (and singing together!) within the first few minutes. simple warming up exercises became gorgeous three part harmony, and then there was rehearsal with four or five songs. sung repeatedly (at least three times each), getting better each time. made me miss singing in a choir. and at the same time, hearing some beautiful music fed some piece of my soul that needs beauty.

and then, through some blog or news on my google rss feeder, i was introduced to the 'carolina chocolate drops' .. a bad that does blues, jazz, fiddle, banjo, various percussion instruments .. wonderful sound. probably it's best to listen to them. here's one song i've been enjoying the past few days. good music .. it refreshes the soul!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

memorizing twice

reading the Bible is something that i do every day. most mornings i wake up (not always easily..) spend a few moments checking email, and then i head to the kitchen to heat water for coffee, wash dishes, and grab a simple breakfast. then it's back to my living room with coffee and cereal .. often homemade, with homemade yogurt, and some nice fruit as well. :) i put them on a stool, tuck my legs up in my comfy chair and open the Word. somehow, eating physically reminds me that i am eating spiritually. the Bible isn't just something that's good to know, or something i try to get through .. spending time quietly reading, pondering, listening, reflecting, meditating .. is good and necessary for the soul!

a couple weeks ago, i read Ephesians. it's only six chapters, and sometimes it's good to read whole books at a time .. not just a chapter or two a day. so i was reading the whole book on this particular day, but when i got to the end of the third chapter, i just stopped. and i read it again. and again. and again. and then i worked on memorizing the words. it's a passage that's well known. but, like so many things which are familiar, sometimes we forget what is actually being said. on this particular day, it struck me as astounding.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. -- Ephesians 3.14-21
Amazing!! glorious riches .. Christ may dwell in your hearts .. rooted and established in love .. all the fullness of God .. his power that is at work within us .. what astounding concepts! i shared these verses with a few friends, but then i had the idea that it would be cool to share it at church. except for the fact that it meant memorizing it in another language. but i was up for the challenge. so .. i did. i memorized it (mostly) in Romanian. and English. same concept, but different words, different emphasis. it was a challenge, but a good one. except that now, when i think about this passage, it is hard to think of it solely in one language or the other. if i am reciting it to myself and get stuck, it is often the other language which comes to mind. so i translate it back into which ever language i'm using at the time. but it's a strange place .. having this passage mostly memorized in two language, and succeeding to keep them separate only by deep concentration. maybe that's how the rest of my brain is .. a bit unorganized, in terms of language, so it only makes sense. but still .. a bit odd to begin in one language and end in another.

Monday, April 19, 2010

good bacteria!

one thing i have been doing regularly, for at least four or five months now, is making yogurt. it's actually a very simple process ..  heat milk until it almost boils, let it cool down a bit, add 2 big spoons of yogurt, then wrap it up in towels and wait. the bacteria does the work. six hours later (or so) i unwrap it and put it directly in the fridge. the next morning .. yummy yogurt!

i like this process for a few reasons. one of them is that it tastes very good! another is that i know what is in the yogurt. and it's a bit cheaper. (not much, but still..) but i also value the picture! feels like a good image of what happens so often in our spiritual lives. God puts is in the right atmosphere (i would say .. some challenges, but not so many that we break) .. and then keeps us there while He builds up our character. or while He sands away sinful habits. or while He deepens our roots. or while He hollows out more space inside us so that His Spirit can fill us even more. whatever He may be doing .. it is His work! and we are changed, not through our own efforts .. but through His grace! so. yogurt is good to eat. and it reminds me that we have a God who is always, always working!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

sounds of Easter

one of the things i really savor about living in Romania is the seasons. not just the four seasons (although they can be rather glorious!) .. but the other signs that a certain time of year has come. say, for instance, the week and a half when strawberries are in season, cheap, amazingly juicy and sweet, and everybody eats them while they can! or, perhaps, knowing that it is near Christmas because it smells like oranges and a sweet-bread that is made traditionally here.

Easter is clearly coming. the most obvious reason being that everyone is cleaning their rugs. and this process looks a little bit different than in the States. rugs are rolled up and carried to the nearest bar, which are probably within a 5 minute walk of just about anybody. there is an instrument, much like a racket, which is used to beat the rug over and over until there isn't much dust left in it. this makes a loud sound, which one might mistake for some sort of violence, if one didn't know better .. everyone is cleaning house before Easter and visitors, so i hear this sound often. but i take it as a reminder of what this week represents, of what happened on Friday .. and what happened on Sunday. and it's all true!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

an apt picture

this is a photo that i took from my bathroom. with a little bird resting for a bit on the concrete just outside the window.

this winter, we had a few really cold weeks. because of the way the heating works, i always left my bathroom window just a little bit open, so there would be some airflow. a few days into our incredibly cold streak, i started to hear bird noises more often, but i didn't immediately realize why. some mornings i would find old bread crusts in my bathtub, which sits right below the window. strange, i thought .. but i still didn't guess why. upstairs neighbors and wind? bored kids?

eventually, it clicked. these birds had been coming to my window to find shelter. because the window was cracked open, it meant that there was air just a little bit warmer than outside, and they were taking advantage of it! sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes much longer.

talking with God, this felt like a picture of what He has invited me into. people can come into my home (and friendship) and they can be warmed, comforted, refreshed. these birds needed a place to really rest, and it feels like i sometimes get to do the same thing for my friends! invite them in, share what i have, be present with them, enjoy life together, and send them on their way with just a little bit more hope, Lord willing.

a friend recently visited and the birds kept reminding her of the passage of Scripture that talks about God taking care of the birds of the field, and that we can trust Him to provide for us as well. she encouraged me to trust Him to provide for me and for whatever the future may hold. so .. each day as i hear and see the birds (who still come around and visit, even if it's not cold outside) .. i remember these two thoughts, and wonder what else is in store for me to learn!

Saturday, January 30, 2010


apologies for the long pause. hope you enjoy this story!

wednesday i traveled from romania to germany. two plane rides. each of them less than two hours. but still .. i got to be on a plane! traveling is something i always enjoy, and this day was no exception. i arrived at the airport in germany and needed to get down to the train station (connected to the airport, just takes a bit of walking to get there) for the train i had a ticket on that left 40 minutes after i had collected my baggage.

when i arrived at the train station, i looked up at the wall to see which trains were leaving when. my train wasn't on the list. i got a feeling that all was not well with the world .. and walked back a short ways to the place where you can buy tickets. i showed one of the women working there my ticket, and she said 'oh.. this is from the main station in the city, not from the airport station.' she looked at my sad face and said 'there's a train leaving on line 4 in 4 minutes. it's ten minutes into the city center and the conductor probably won't come and ask for tickets. so .. that's what i did. i walked very quickly and made the train (it was two minutes late, even, so i didn't have to worry!) and although the conductor passed by, there were many people already waiting to exit the train at the stop so she didn't ask for any tickets. thanks, God!

the track i needed to be at was just one over, so it was easy to get there and i even had almost 10 minutes to spare! turns out the train was running 10 minutes late, so i had a bit more time. once i got on the train and found a seat (i had a seat on my ticket but it was in use, so i just found one nearby) that was next to another woman. i assumed she was a german, and when she went to the bathroom she spoke german to me. but .. after she came back, she called her mother. and .. what language did she happen to use?! why, romanian, of course! so we had an hour and a half to talk about all sorts of things! there were some mechanical problems with the train, so it stopped for a bit and went a slightly different direction .. but God had provided this woman who would kindly translate for me! and who let me use her phone to call the friends i am visiting, letting them know i was going to be late.

it felt so .. providential. something that is just too much to be a coincidence. i come to a different country .. and end up having a ticket for the wrong train .. and sit down next to a random woman .. who just happens to be fluent in romanian and german (and at least 3 other languages as well!) .. and who wants to talk about some of what God is doing in romania, and things we understand about the culture. such a gift! made me feel that i truly am taken care of. with nothing to worry about :)