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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

10 Things I will teach my daughter

There are things that you notice as you get a bit older.  Those things are things you expect everyone to know, recognize, acknowledge or abide by.  These are the things you'd definitely want your child to understand and respect.  So with that here's my list for today:

1.  Don't ask for a lift, anywhere (to a meeting, to town, to the airport, etc) without paying for the gas required to get there.  It's rude. If the person says, "no, it's ok." Insist. Usually if you insist they will accept. If they then give a reason why they don't want to accept your money, then respect their wishes and go to number 2.
2.  Say Thank you - never, ever be ungrateful and take others for granted. 
3.  Give things to others without any strings attached. ie lifts to the airport, your seat on the bus/tram, a cake for a birthday celebration, help when you have the time to give it.  CAVEAT - make sure you're doing it without any strings attached, otherwise it's disingenuous.
4.  Say Please - it's just not your God given right to expect anything from anyone.  The world is half full of selfish people who don't really care too awful much about you.  Sure they pretend that they do but (like you), they really don't.  The other half of the world is divided into your mom and dad and maybe a best friend or two and everybody else.  This everybody else group (minus your mom, dad and best friend) really likes to do things for other people but will after a time or two (or maybe a dozen) stop if you don't appreciate it. Then there's your mom and dad and best friend who will probably go a bit further than everyone else but will eventually feel neglected, uncared for and unloved if you continue to not appreciate them or be polite.  Also these are the people who you should be treating better than everyone else anyway.  So if you ask for something, ask nicely, politely and always say please.  It will go better for you.  Then once you've got this down, refer to number 3 on the list.  The two go hand and hand together.
5.  Don't think your emergencies, priorities or stresses necessarily equate to anyone else's emergencies, priorities or stresses.  I love that sign, "Lack of preparation on your end, does not constitute an emergency on my end."  SO TRUE - respect those that work alongside you or for you.  Respect THEIR time like you respect your own.
6.  If you say you're going to do something, DO it!  It's much better to say no or maybe or we'll see then yes and then not do it.  Also make sure you are under a mutual understanding with the person asking of what timeframe "doing" it means.  If you say for example that you'll "do the dishes" but that to you means you'll do them next week at some time when you feel like it, you probably shouldn't volunteer to begin with.
7.  Never, ever, ever put something into print that can come back to haunt you.  This includes Facebook, Twitter, Email, Websites, Blogs, etc, etc.  If in doubt - DON'T write it down. 
8.  Get anything important - IN WRITING!  There are many reasons for this - people forget things, YOU forget things, people and especially companies will try to cheat/trick or rob you.  Protect yourself!
9.  It's no one else's responsibility but yours or as my grandma Abney would say, "OHIO - only handle it once"  If you open it - shut it, turn it on - turn it off, take it out - put it back, dirty it - clean it.

And last but not least and what actually prompted this silly blog note:
10.  If you're a girl - don't go pee before checking to see if there's toilet paper in the stall. Enough said. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A Grief Observed...

It was not my husband, dad, brother or granddad that died and still I feel loss.  Loss mainly for those that are still here and suffering - really, really suffering because they loved a man that sincerely loved them back.  It's so rare in this messed up world.  Christian or not, young or old, rich or poor - to have someone that loves you sincerely is a rare gift indeed.  Alan Sr. loved his wife.  He loved his children.  He loved his grandkids.  They loved him back. 

Attending a funeral is one thing.  Getting everything prepared, living in the house of the deceased one's loved ones, trying to be helpful but also trying to stay out of the way - nothing could have prepared me for the last week.  Still I think the worst is yet to come in a lot of ways.  Last week we all had each other and sweet Chloe to distract us and make us laugh.  This week you're just alone with your memories and a few latent cards or visitors. 

Still there is light.  Light in the eyes of a friend who picks you up from the airport, takes you to your car an hour and a half away, refuses any payment for gas and then gives you homemade cakes, breads, cheese, fruit, chocolates and meat from his wife that is meant to sustain you over the next 24 hours when all the shops are shut. Light when that same friend and your pastor help to jumpstart your car that has died while you were away by rolling it down a hill.  Even when that friend was missing his own leg he was still willing to help. Light in the hugs and concerns of those you see at church that ask you how you're doing and really want to stay and hear your answer.  Light in the family that kept your dog on no notice and took care of arrangements for your pickup and gave you fresh fruit from their garden when you got home.  Light in a mom and dad and two sisters who offer help, love, lots of prayers and anything else really you could ever need.  And most importantly light in the eyes of the man God gave you for a husband who even though he's hurting as much as you've ever seen him hurt takes the time to tell you at the airport, "I don't care if we live in England.  I don't want if we live in Germany.  I don't even care if we live in Georgia.  My home now is wherever you are."  Despite it all we trust in a God who really does care.  He really does love.  He really does have a purpose and plan for our lives and it's at these times we really feel it.  Putting one foot in front of the other.  That's what we'll do for a while and that's ok.

The day of Alan's funeral my devotion, Day by Day with Billy Graham said this,
"Title: Jesus is our Comforter
Christ is the answer to sorrow.  When Harry Lauder, the great Scottish comedian, received word that his son had been killed in France, he said, "In a time like this, there are three courses open to man: He may give way to despair and become bitter.  He may endeavor to drown his sorrows in drink or in a life of wickedness.  Or he may turn to God.  There are thousands of people who have turned to God, but you may be still carrying your burdens.  God begs of you, "Cast all your care on me, for I care for you" (I Peter 5:7).  You who must go through the valley of the shadow of death, you who must say goodbye to those whom you have loved, you who suffer privation and misery, you who are unjustly persecuted for righteousness' sake - take heart, take courage.  Our Christ is more than adequate for sorrow."

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed



Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Good-bye summer, hello fall! :)

Well since I last wrote, we wrapped up a great visit with Alan's family and sweet friends in England.  We also managed to sneak a couple of days in Holland at the end of our trip just the three of us which was really, really nice. Here are some pictures of our time away.

So what's next...

Well, this is currently what we're planning for the fall:
The Loft (Continued construction work) - ongoing each week
 
MOPS and the Faithbook Club - Tuesday and Friday mornings with Chloe as well as play dates, moms nights outs and other events
 
Jesus Abend's at SAM for Alan - Monday evening in Waldorf and Friday evening in Sinsheim

Cell Group for Mary - starts Wednesday Sept 18th
 
Euro Intent Ground Team - last week of September
 
KurbisFest at the CVJM - end of October
 
The wedding of Jonas and Elisabeth (our third German wedding) - end of October
 
Teen Missions Team from Australia and New Zealand - Dec 27th - Jan 18th
 
 
Our apologetic style book studies will continue in the New Year as well as more language study for us both.  We've also applied for more Edge teams for next summer and are hopeful to receive a team from our sending church in Georgia as well so there will be planning and details to organize for that. 

The most fun thing we're doing right now is experimenting with a new bread maker that we got four years ago for a wedding gift but have never used. In Germany we figured out we spend nearly 3 Euros a day (and sometimes more!) on bread for our family.  A loaf of bread in the bread maker costs roughly 60p.  Sooooo we will save over 2 Euros a day or roughly 60 Euros just on BREAD - AND it's sooo nice to have hot bread each morning.  I can have my 100% whole grain breads and Alan can make his white bread and we're both happy.  I wish I knew how easy it was to use.  I would have started a long time ago!  Right now Alan is in the kitchen making his first batch of hot cross buns.  Last weekend he made homemade pizza dough.  I would LOVE to retire from the kitchen and let Alan take over.  Maybe he'll take after his dad and become the chef in the family! One can dream... :)
 
Other than that Chloe continues to grow like a weed.  She's successfully given up her pacifier during the days now and gets rewarded with various treats (like the swimming pool with daddy today).  She can open our apartment door now with the key, is talking a ton and got her feelings hurt for the first time when a not so sweet girl at the playground was mean to her and said she wasn't allowed to play with them (in German but still Chloe understood fully).  Her little eyes welled up with tears and she looked at me like, "momma, what did I do?". :( I felt terrible for her but know disappointments and sadness caused by the selfishness and insecurities of others will be something she must learn to live with.  I told her after that just because the other little girl wasn't sweet doesn't mean Chloe shouldn't still be sweet and that sometimes people just aren't nice and that makes us very sad. Even at two, she seemed to understand.

Alan and I would love for Chloe to have a little sister or brother so pray that we can before we get too much older!  I fell chasing Chloe the other day and was reminded of how old I really am. Ah well, we're young at heart (or you would think so if you were a fly on the wall in our house sometimes.  Our favorite thing to do lately is all lie in the "BIG bed" and Chloe from the middle takes turns pushing daddy and mommy onto the floor. We laugh and giggle and tickle each other, play hide and seek and just let joy fill the house.  We honestly couldn't feel more blessed.  
 
Some prayer requests as we sign off.  Pray for us as things kick start again at our church next week and as the fall approaches.  Pray for friendships to be developed for us and for Chloe.  Pray for a house we can move into with a garden that is close to our church but also cute and safe for Chloe.  We are grateful for you all!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

The summer comes to an end - what we learned...

Well, it's all over now and Alan and I are enjoying a break in England after saying good-bye to 5 American, 1 Croatian and 1 UK Edger plus our 2 German interns.  Fortunately we do get to see the German interns again but their time working with us has come to an end. 

So what did we learn from this crazy filled two months and before that months and months of planning, organizing and prepping? Well, let me start by saying that it was not the easiest of summers.  In fact it was extremely difficult at times.  I am convinced God was taking all of us out of our comfort zones as we learned to work together and attempt to function as a team.  Galations 1:10 really rung true to me after a lot of prayer and contemplation about the summer.  You see I worried and sometimes worry still that I was too hard on the team.  The schedule was NOT easy and we pushed the team to their limits.  God continues to reassure me though that what was accomplished was worth the long days, hard work and time put in.  So much so that we have completed our application for a new team next year with the hopes that we can take on board the feedback and the lessons learned from the summer and apply them to whomever God leads to join us next year.  Short-term missions is NOT for the faint of heart.  It requires a lot of faith that God knows what He's doing and why He sent those He sent to work alongside you.  It also requires a lot of grace, of which Christ is the supreme example for us all.   

Galations 1:10 says, "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."

Here is the link to the video we made at the completion of the summer.  It shows a lot of what the team accomplished and the lives affected.  We are so grateful to the host families, co-workers in Christ at the CVJM and supporters who prayed for us and sent gifts to allow us to be here.  You are all true partners with us in this work and without you we could not accomplish any of it. 

Pray for us as we begin planning for the coming year.  Pray God would direct every single step we take.  Pray also for the Edgers who have returned home to their families, churches and schools.  Pray God would continue to reveal to them what He was trying to teach them this summer and pray it will impact them for eternity.

https://vimeo.com/72596858 - Pioneers Germany Edge 2013 video

Monday, 15 July 2013

Our Edge Summer so far...

We've had a packed and crazy summer and it has been just as we expected it to be - a very rich, full and blessed one as well.  We've had a few hiccups along the way but nothing unexpected or beyond the loving touch of our savior.  Amazing opportunities have arisen like the lecture on origin for our coffee house social by our friend and one of the leading physical scientists in the world, Dr. Henry Schaefer.  We've also seen people come to know the Lord, be discipled and be encouraged.  For Alan and I that's what being a missionary is all about - evangelism, discipleship and encouragement or help to the local church.  We've been grateful for every preach, testimony, helping hand, grateful heart and German word learned. 

Thank you for those that have prayed and helped to make this summer happen.  We are especially grateful for the 2 individuals and 6 families that have each hosted one of our team members and a great body of believers at the CVJM who have welcomed and assisted and loved on us all.

We have three weeks remaining in our 8 week program with the US and Croatia Edgers.  Jonny, our UK Edger got here on the 4th of July and this was his Facebook status update today which I think sums up fairly well what we've been up to.   When the summer is over I'll post a ton of pictures but for now here are a few that I really like...
"Well it's been a crazy couple of weeks involving construction, street evangelism, translating, co-leading theological discussion groups, giving my testimony in German, painting, canoeing, singing in choirs, acting in plays, football, climbing mountains, speaking lots and lots of German and loads more. I'm being really stretched and pushed out of my comfort zone but I'm loving every minute of it :)

Having said all that, it's great to have today doing what I do best- studying books and preparing for upcoming events. What's the catch? The book I'm studying is the bible; the event I'm preparing for is next Sunday's church service when I'll be preaching... completely in german... *gulp* Prayers appreciated for that and for everything else :)"
 








 
 
 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day 11 - God is good and the team is tired!

Day 1 - Danijela Zorić arrives after a crazy, crazy 16 hour train trip from Croatia where she had to change trains due to flooding in Austria/Munich causing her to arrive late and miss us by 8 minutes :). We were told she had probably fallen asleep, missed the stop and was now heading to Frankfurt and wouldn't be back until late. Eventually we did find each other and get Daniejla settled in at the Knigge's. Yah to have Danijela here with us for the summer! :) (Mary)

Day 2 - Andrew Wisner, Nicole Demers, Joshua Carter, Beth Shumway and Lynne Free arrive at the Frankfurt airport at 7:30am, meet Alan and come to the CVJM where a traditional German breakfast is waiting plus the rest of the team. Saskia is introduced as is Wiebe Lisa who will are the CVJM's German interns and who will be working with the team this summer. After a tour of the CVJM and an intro meeting the teams head to their host homes to rest. That night it's Tensing where the team has fun meeting all the teens and listening to Saskia share. (Mary)

Day 3 - The team spends on their own in Heidelberg. (Mary)

Day 4 - Team heads to their first church service (Gottesdients) at the CVJM at 11:00. Joshua is already playing his guitar and singing during worship and Andrew joins in to help out singing as well. Rebekka shares about her time in Kenya and the amazing things God did in and through her while there. Frank makes a great lunch for everyone and the team hangs out afterwards at the CVJM before heading back to their host homes. (Mary)

Day 5 - The team heads to Heidelberg to get tested at the Volkhochschule for their German knowledge. Joshua, Beth and Lynne - who speak no German yet are all registered in the first class while Danijela makes it into the 4th class and Nicole and Andrew prove to be too good at German to take any more classes! :) They will instead use their German to offer free English lessons to folks in the church while the others are in school as well as do some more volunteer work at the CVJM, die Birke and SAM hopefully! :) The team then went to the University of Heidelberg mensa where they did spiritual background survey's. Dinner and a long meeting was held at the Rathbone's where we assigned roles and responsibilities for the summer and watched the ASK apologetics CD on origin in preparation for the coffee house social on Thursday night. (Mary)

Day 6 - the team met for a prayer time before starting their first work day at the CVJM. Lots was accomplished by all and we are very encouraged by the team's willingness to work hard for God and the people at the CVJM. (Mary)

Day 7: The morning and early afternoon was spent in Heidelberg at the University doing spiritual background surveys with students and handing out flyers to our coffee house social. Everyone had the rest of the day free to relax and catch up on sleep! (Mary)

Day 8 - Our team worked very hard from late morning to early evening. We then had our first "coffee house social" to kick off our apologetics course for the summer. It appeared most present were born-again, but we still thank the Lord that so many came and participated. (Andrew)

Day 9: We continued work with the CVJM loft's floor. At Ten-Sing tonight, we painted a backdrop for our play and practiced songs for the upcoming concert. We also decided that "Schlumpf" is an acceptable word to describe anyone. Spiritual warfare is increasing by my observations. (Andrew)

Day 10: Another hard day of work at the CVJM. We are all tired, both physically and spiritually. Prayers are much appreciated. Hopefully, we can unwind at a BBQ tonight. (Andrew)

Day 11: I preached today on living a life filled with passion for God like the apostles did in the book of Acts and so many Christian missionaries on the field today that end up giving their lives for their faith.  Here is the text of my preach if you want to read it.  I was so thankful to Boris for translating for me and that Lisa was back to help lead worship with Corrie!  We have missed you Lisa!  (Mary)


Passion for God - As seen in the book of Acts and Today

Today we will continue our discussion on missions and the book of Acts.
 
Alan and I are doing a bible reading plan this year which requires us to read through the New Testament twice.  Each time I read the book of Acts what stands out to me is the work of the apostles and how powerful their message was and how they didn’t waiver like they sometimes did in the gospels.  They went out, preached, were persecuted, performed miracles and they did it all because of the passion inside them to reach the lost.

Fast forward to today and occasionally you see some of the same passions in people but really it’s rare.  The book of Acts was clearly a powerful time for the Spirit of God to move, work and bless.  Most Christians you and I know are not passionate.  Most of us are self-centered, apathetic and our lives so closely resemble lives of non-Christians no one can tell us apart. 

There are some exceptions though. 

In the past century we’ve seen missionaries like Jim Elliott and Nate Saint, who worked with the Auca Indians of Ecuador or Simon Geske who was called to the Turks in eastern Turkey.  Dave Mankins was called to the Kuna people of Panama and John and Elisabeth Stam went to China.  Maybe you recall some of these missionaries and their stories of great courage and passion. 

All were filled with the Holy Spirit like the apostles in the book of Acts but they also shared something else in common.
 
They all died.  All were martyred for their faith. 

But what did they die for?  In fact what did they live AND die for?

Billy Graham, the famed evangelist once said that he was in the room with Chancellor Konrad Adenhauer - the first chancellor of Germany after Hitler.  Adenhauer was charged with picking up the pieces of a broken Germany and he had called for the young evangelist to visit him.  Graham sat nervously and waited for one the greatest statesmen in history to speak.  Adenhauer surprised the evangelist when he asked him, “Mr Graham, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?”  Billy Graham was stunned for a moment and he said, “Sir. if I didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would not be an evangelist.”  Mr. Adenhauer then walked over to the window and looked out at the debris of Cologne and all that the war had wrecked and then this great statesman said this, “Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ I know of no other hope for mankind.”
 
“No other hope for mankind.”

So let’s think about the apostles in the book of Acts.  The three that stand out to me are Paul, Peter and James (the brother of Jesus).  These three also had something in common.  James rejected Jesus as the Messiah before his death.  Peter denied him three times and Paul persecuted the entire Christian church.  This was however UNTIL they met Jesus face to face after his resurrection.  That changed everything.  Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews and James was the head of the church at Jerusalem.  They, like so many missionaries today and the other apostles (with the exception of John) were martyred for their faith.  They believed so strongly in the resurrected Jesus that they withstood persecution, prison, beatings and finally death rather than deny or turn their backs on their faith.  Remarkable.

So how ready are you and I to give our lives for Jesus?  Maybe you will say, well that won’t ever happen because I plan to live and die in Germany.  God has not called me to be a missionary to places today where Christians are being killed.  I’m just going to live my life here and I will be safe. 

I guess I would say to you, “have you watched the news lately?” I don’t watch the news too often because it thoroughly depresses me.  All bad news.  If we are not in the end times already there is a very strong possibility we will be in only a few short years. Look at the prophesies foretold in the bible and then look at the world around you.  It’s not long now. 

Maybe you won’t be called to give your life for Christ but the real question becomes how ready are you to LIVE for Christ every day?  Do you find it difficult to read your bible every day?  How often do you really pray?  Do you find you get passionate about sharing Christ with your family members, friends or co-workers who are lost?  When’s the last time you told someone the good news that Jesus came, rose and conquered the one great enemy that haunts each and every one of us?  Death? 

The last couple of months we spent talking about the Holy Spirit and the life he desires for you to live.  The life He wants to enable you to have.  Did you pray for the Holy Spirit to come into your life and to radically transform you like He did for the apostles in the book of Acts?  Do you even believe it’s possible to live like this? 

If we are honest, week after week we live relatively uneventful lives... but maybe, like me, you want to be like one of those apostles in the book of Acts or like one of these missionaries who gave his life for Christ. 

So what will it take?

1)  Be Passionate – apathy.  The great danger of the church.  Don’t be apathetic.  Be anything but don’t be an apathetic Christian.

2) Be Called – The Great commission has called us all to be missionaries. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
 
Meckesheim is your Jerusalem. 
Germany is your Judea
Europe is your Samaria
and Tanzania, Chile, China, America is the ends of the earth.

3)  Be Willing – pray God will change your heart and make His will be Your will!  Alan and I fight this all the time.  We would both love to be living in our homelands, visiting with family and friends, speaking English at all times.  But more than that we want to be willing to be where God wants us and at least for now that is in Germany.

4) Be Prepared – put on the armor of God as is called out in the book of Ephesians, chapter 6.  Read your bible, search out an accountability partner, pray, forgive, live a life that is dependent on Christ.  Build a relationship with Christ and make it your first priority.

Don’t be comfortable – God never called us to be comfortable.

Don’t be apathetic – Your life has purpose and meaning!  Don’t waste it.

Don’t be a complainer – As CS Lewis says, “"What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritlcal in the sense that it does not appraise - does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going." 

Live a life radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the son of the most high God who created the world we see around us came, died and rose again conquering death and we are to live to give him glory for all He has done.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Marthon begins! :) Day one - the craziest day I can remember in a long, long, long time

So the day starts with Alan and Chloe taking the car to Neckarsteinach to catch the train into Heidelberg where their plan is to go to the Neckarweise (the park along the Neckar river) to play for a few hours.  This is both for their enjoyment but also to get them out of the house so I can clean.  Alan says he'll be back in time to ride his bus to Neckarsteinach where he'll then jump on the train to go to the Jungschar program (the after-school children's program in Meckesheim where he works every other Thursday).  This is so that Chloe can go down and have a nap instead of me having to drive him there and her miss her nap.  I say great and kiss them good-bye. 

So they leave and I start to clean.  The laundry has piled up so high since I've been in school every day that I can barely sort through it.  I start the first load and then begin to just "straighten" the house.  This to me is akin to going into one room and finding all the things that don't belong in that room and just putting them in the room where they do belong.  This takes me 30 minutes or the time for the first cycle of clothes to finish in the wash.  So then I'm outside on the balcony hanging the clothes to dry after starting the second load and I realize the balcony is a disaster.  So I trim all the flowers and throw all the dead stuff away, scrub bird poop off the chairs and the ledge and realize that the cushions need bleaching.... again.  I just did them a month ago when my parents were coming but ok so they have to be done again.  Fine.  As I'm finishing I need to get the dustpan which is kept in the back garden so I go around to get that and realize the back garden is a mess.  So I finish with the front, move to the back and for the next half hour or more work on the back garden.  OK so now it's looking good and it's time for another load of laundry.  This continues until I've done 6 loads of laundry, completely cleaned and organized Chloe's bedroom, vacuumed the house, showered and I'm watching the clock wondering when Alan and Chloe are coming home.

I call.  No answer.  hmmm.  ok so I call again.  No answer.  So I just go back to it.  I start on the kitchen while gathering trash and trying to rearrange meetings so that Saskia and I can meet in the afternoon via Skype rather than in person at the CVJM (well because supposedly I don't have to drive Alan to the Jungscar program he's going to take the train).  So I do all that, do another load of laundry, start back in the kitchen and Alan calls.  It's 1:15 and he's just now leaving Heidelberg.  Immediately I know he's not going to make it back in time to bike and then catch the train to Meckesheim.  He's not convinced though so I just say ok and wait for him to come home.  He calls from Neckarsteinach and says I do indeed need to drop him off and he'll just swing by to get me and leave Chloe in the car.  OK so I do that.  I take him to the Jungschar program, Chloe and I go to DM for a few toiletries and then to the bakery to get some bread. In the parking lot Alan calls again.  The van he was supposed to pick up from the CVJM to pick up all the students in the morning won't be available now until 6:30 so he says he's gonna work at the CVJM until he can pick it up.  I then rather quickly remind him that he can't do that as I have to leave at 5:45 at the latest to go to get the car cleaned out so I can be at the Bahnhof in Heidelberg at 6:45 when Danijela's train is arriving.  He has forgotten this and says he'll call them back. 

So I think he's sorting it out, go home and have decided it's too late now to put Chloe down for a nap and we'll just put her down early (actually Alan will since I will be at the bahnhof with Danijela) so I start cleaning again, give her something to eat and let her play in her room.  An hour or so passes and Alan calls again.  The van still won't be ready until 6:30.  He's finished with the Jungscar program, has left his train ticket in Chloe's bag, has only 2 Euro's on him and has no key to get into the CVJM.  So he's basically wandering the streets of Meckesheim and I'm at home up to my neck in laundry with a daughter who's exhausted and I'm suddenly realizing that no matter what now I'm going to have to take Chloe with me to clean out the car and go and get Danijela and deliver her to her host home.  So I'm suddenly stressed.

Alan and I go back and forth a bit and we come to the conclusion that he'll use his 2 Euros to get to Neckargemund where I can pick him up, he can help me clean out the car and then he can take Chloe home from there on the bus or train and put her to bed.  OK so I head out.  30 minutes later Alan calls again.

The train didn't stop in Neckargemund.  He's now in Heidelberg and he's stuck. 

ok so I say well I'll have to clean the car myself and I'll come to the Bahnhof and get you.  Danijela is coming in in about an hour and a half anyway so it'll be ok. 

I get to the car wash and there's a big line of cars which is ok because I have to vacuum and fill the car up with gas so I do that and then put the car into the car wash.  Well Chloe is near breakdown stage at this point.  She's soaking wet because it's so hot out and our car has no air conditioning.  She's thirsty and has drunk the only drink I brought for her and now is wanting more.  The vacuum terrifies her and when she sees the car go into car wash and then the dryer come on to dry the car she is in full sobbing mode.  I try to reassure her, get back in the car and head to Heidelberg.  Every couple of seconds Chloe is either saying, "home", "mommy" or "daddy".  Non-stop for 30 minutes.

I arrive, Alan and I hug and we say it's better to laugh then cry and I go inside to check on Danijela's train.  It's 12 minutes late.  ok no problem, Alan and I sit in the car, Chloe has fallen asleep and we wait.  And we wait.  No Danijela.  I go back in, check everywhere and she's nowhere to be found.  I ask everyone that even slightly resembles her with a suitcase if she's Danijela and the same response - nein, tut mir leid.  OK so now what?  We've been there for 45 minutes and we have no clue what to do.  I try Danijela's phone.  Beep, beep, beep.  No voicemail, nothing.  I use FB to contact Garret and he hasn't heard anything.  He tries to ring her but gets the same.  Then my phone dies.

UGH!  And I didn't bring my charger!  My phone was full of charge when I left but all the calls to and from Alan and checking the internet for information and now my phone is dead.  And Danijela only has my number.  So now what???

I go back around the train station for about the 5th time and see two classmates of mine from the Volkshochschule.  They say hello and we chat briefly and I tell them our predicament.  They say they are sorry, ask if there is anything they can do to help which I say thanks but no and then they head to McDonald's for dinner.  Fifteen minutes pass and still nothing.  I ask my classmate if I can use her phone to check FB and let Garret know my phone has died.  She says sure.  I get Danijela's phone number from my email over the internet, give Garret Alans phone number and now we're all talking about what could have happened.  Garret reasons she's not missed the train because she would have called.  He thinks she may have just accidentally missed the stop.  So I go back inside the HBF and the guy says that the train's next stop was Frankfurt and that if she missed the stop she'd have to get off there at 8pm and catch a train back putting her in sometime between 9-10pm. 

Chloe is awake now and realllllllllllllllllllllllly tired.  She also hasn't eaten in over 5 hours and we have no way of knowing whether Danijela is trying to reach us because my phone is dead and the charger is at home.  We decide to leave and take Alan to Meckesheim to get the van. He'll then go back to the bahnhof and wait to hear from me.  In the meantime I'll go home and put Chloe down and check my phone.  So we get to Neckargemund, Alan jumps out of the car and literally sprints to catch the train to Meckesheim trying to save me 30 minutes in extra driving time and I head home.  Nearly home I realize I've not given him the sat nav to find Danijela's host home or her train ticket for tomorrow morning AND I remember that my mobile phone doesn't work at my home so even if I did get it home and charge it I wouldn't be able to check messages.  ARGHHHHHHHHH!!

So Chloe and I are home now and I don't even park.  I lock Chloe in the car, sprint up the 30 plus stairs to our apartment and grab my charger.  I'm thinking that if I can just drive back into Schoenau and call Alan and tell him then he can come home, get everything, park the van and take my car back into Heidelberg.  Unfortunately even plugged in, the phone won't turn on it's so dead.  I decide I might as well start driving back into Neckargemund and I can meet Alan and give him everything.  Almost there my phone turns on and I have four messages - from two different German phones.  I'm confused. 

I check them and hear Danijela's voice.  "I'm here! Where are you?" 

I call the number back.  A German woman answers. 

In my broken German I ask if Daniela Zorak is with her.  She is.  Same question.  "I'm here!  Where are you?"

I ask the same back in return. 

She's at the bahnhof.  Apparently due to the flooding in Munich they made everyone get off their original train and get on another one that arrived an hour later.  Too bad they didn't happen to mention that when I asked about the train in Heidelberg.  So she got to McDonald's (our meeting point), about 8 minutes after we left.  She had now been waiting an hour and you could tell she was stressed and a bit frightened.  She handed the phone back to the German lady and I explained that I was on my way to Heidelberg as was my husband and that we'd come and get Danijela.  The woman asked where I was at that moment and I said nearly to Neckargemund.  She said that she would bring Danijela to Neckargemund as they were heading that way.  I thanked her and hung up then called Alan and told him. 

When the two German ladies arrived at the Bahnhof I got an ear full in German from them both.  I tried to explain our situation and what had happened and in the end they were very understanding. Alan arrived and took Danijela to her host home and I came back here with Chloe.  Chloe had dinner at 10:30, a bath at 11pm and was in bed by 11:15. At 11:30 I got an email from the pastor's wife asking if I'll preach the sermon on Sunday as she's not well.  I almost cried. 

And this is only day one!! 

Please pray the remainder of our days with the team are not as exciting as today.  Five Americans arrive in the morning.  It's 12:30 and we have to be up again in 5 and a half hours.  I've been doing paperwork for the last hour for our meeting tomorrow, still have done no grocery shopping for our team breakfast at 9am, missed my meeting with Saskia tonight to get everything organized and just about everything else that could have gone wrong, did.  But still we praise God for what He's going to do this summer and we know that if the devil is trying this hard to break us down then that just means God is up to something great. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Church complainers and church hoppers

I want to start this by saying something that too often goes unsaid. 
 
Be careful who you listen to in your churches. 

If you know someone who is always critical about something - the building, the people, the leadership (or lack thereof), the temperature, the music or whatever else AND you entertain their complaints (you nod in agreement, smile or join in with your own judgments), you should be aware that 1) more than likely it will be you they are critical about next 2) the person complaining has yet to see what good God is doing and if they do recognize it they choose to ignore it and only emphasize the bad stuff or 3) you are assisting in driving those who hear the complaints and frustrations away from church (at least yours) and with God.  You are doing exactly what the enemy of our soul desires - NOT God. 

Every church has problems.  As CS Lewis says in Screwtape Letters, "What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritlcal in the sense that it does not appraise - does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going." Uncommenting?  Humble?  Any nourishment that is going?

Easier said than done I know from experience but has there ever in the history of the church been a "perfect" church?  I've gone to a dozen or more churches in my lifetime and of every background and denomination from southern baptist to pentecostal to non-denominational and every church lacks... something. But the one thing I do know is that Christ was doing something in every church and if I wasn't convinced of that then it would have been time to leave myself.  At church 1 it was in the children's church and music program, church 2 had a fabulous youth group, at church 3 it was in the women's study and the use of their multi-media to get across the message, church 4 had fabulous worship and bible studies and church 5, a caring and sensitive pastor.  Church 6 was passionate about missions, church 7 loved to help the poor and church 8 felt more like a big family.  Every church is different, unique, special and every church can be used by God. 

If you are church hopping looking for the perfect church let me tell you, it simply isn't out there!  Unfortunately church hopping has become more of a profession than something needed when one moves to a new area.  I think people sometimes use it as an excuse not to get close to people or be held accountable for the sinful life they are leading but maybe I'm wrong. 

In summary - don't complain and don't church hop.  Go to church because you need it and because the church needs you.  Give more to the church than you believe is physically or fiscally possible. Be a part of a house group, serve in whatever way is needed and expect lots of problems.  The blessings will come because you kept your complaints to yourself and you stuck it out. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Three months away from blogging - wow, time flies

I can't believe it's been 3 months since my last post.  To summarize everything we've done, seen, been a part of, gone through would take hours and hours I think.  Sorry to all of you that follow our blog only to be disappointed with no updates.  I hope to get back on track this month and into the summer.  There will be lots to report as our Edge members from the US, UK and Croatia arrive and work with us for the summer. 

So let's see.  In short over the last three months we:
  • watched our precious Chloe begin to speak more and more.  She is such a treasure and an amazing gift from God.  She can run SOOO fast and if you're not careful she'll just disappear!  She celebrates her 2nd birthday in 11 days.  They have been two of the best and most blessed years of our lives.
  • Mary continued her involvement with MOPS, helped plan and orchestrate with a great team the MOPS Easter playdate with 50+ moms and children in attendance
  • Alan finished work in the coffee house at the CVJM, helped with numerous other small projects and has recently started work on "the Loft"!! YAH!
  • we were on the ground team and helped with the Pioneers InTent European leadership conference in Altensteig, Germany
  • Mary continued the Screwtape Letters book study with a great group of German young adults
  • Alan finished up two months of intensive German language school
  • Mary started another month of intensive German
  • Alan continued the Jungschar after school program for German children
  • we hosted Alans mom and sister for a long weekend where they got the opportunity to love on sweet Chloe
  • we met my parents at the Pioneers European-wide conference in Malta and spent a couple of extra days touring Malta and Sicily.  So fun!!
  • we attended the CVJM annual pentecostal camp where the worship was led by the Heidelberg house of prayer and we had the opportunity to get to know lots of families in our church better as well as plan for the summer
  • we've spent a lot of time organizing individuals and teams coming over to work with us this year.  Amongst them are a TMI team from Australia and New Zeland, a great young adult couple from Iowa in the fall and the 7 Edgers that are coming to work with us this summer from the United States, the UK and Croatia. We have wonderful families from the CVJM lined up to host the students this summer and we're very excited about the work they'll accomplish while here.
Here is what we hope to report as being successfully completed after the summer:
  • Beginning construction on the CVJM loft space
  • A weekly coffee house University student apologetics Q/A study & discussion
  • Devotionals for Ten-Sing (a weekly youth talent competition)
  • Testimonies at Soulution (a bi-monthly young adult event)
  • Testimonies at XChange (a monthly teenager event)
  • CVJM children’s programs, worship band, preaching, testimony sharing
  • CVJM children’s camp
  • First CJVM English Camp
  • Evangelism in Heidelberg with the IHOP (International House of Prayer)
  • Evangelism and Spiritual Background surveys – University of Heidelberg
  • Volunteer work at die Birke (Heidelberg's ProLife Organization)
  • Volunteer work at SAM (Refugee camp and aid program)
  • Jungschar after school children’s program
  • Intensive German course completion – Volkshochschule, Heidelberg
Please if you think of us, pray for us.  While the last few months we've seemed to accomplish a lot it has not been without a lot of struggles and spiritual attack.  Still we are so grateful God is faithful, extends undeserved grace and provides for us.

Friday, 15 February 2013

My three day fast - day 3

I think I might actually do it.  By God's grace and strength alone.  Fortunately He made me very determined to see things through once I start them so here I sit at 12:16** this afternoon having only had water and half a cup of tea with no sugar or milk.  I will have to admit to planning all the good things I'm going to have to eat tomorrow already though! :)

Last night as I was lying in bed hearing my stomach growl nonstop God brought to mind all the children around the world (and adults) that hear that sound EVERY night.  They don't eat because they are fasting.  They don't eat because they don't have ANY food!  I have a refrigerator and cupboards stocked full of food and three grocery stores within a 5 minute drive AND money in my pocket to buy food.  I am blessed beyond measure.  But am I blessed because I am special?  NO I am not.  I am blessed so that I might be able to use my resources to help others.  Not just hoard them for myself.  I told myself that tomorrow (now today) I would increase my donation to a missionary and organization we support in Africa that feed children.  Nice and good but is that only my intention or am I actually going to see it through?  Am I willing to sacrifice some of our food money each week so that someone else can eat that would otherwise go hungry?  Because as missionaries ourselves we don't have extra cash just lying around.  We have 150 Euros a week for food, diapers, gas (at $9.00 a gallon), toiletries, gifts, entertainment, etc.  But we do alright.  God looks after us and I buy everything possible on sale.  My point is, am I just going to be satisfied with thinking about doing it, maybe even having good intentions of doing it and then never follow-through?

That's the problem with most Christians.  Good intentions - poor follow through.  It reminds me of that story in Matthew chapter 21 where Jesus was talking about the father asking the two sons to go and work in the field.  The first says he won't go but then does and the second son says he will go but doesn't.  Jesus asks, "which of the two did what his father wanted?" and the chief priests and elders said, "the first".  So isn't that it?  God doesn't want our good intentions.  He wants our follow-through!  BTW - I just made that donation.  I'm tired of being a good intention person.  I want to be someone that follows through.  God blesses follow through I think.  So if you are blessed today beyond measure and you want to bless others with a gift of Gods love and generosity then I would ask you to really consider supporting some great organizations out there that need your help.  Here is a list we love:
Supporting children:
http://www.kupendwaministries.org/#!donate-here/cl9k
http://www.aidsorphans.org/
www.worldvision.org
http://amazima.org/

Supporting missionaries:
http://www.teenmissions.org/donate/
www.pioneers.org/donate


**Update: It is now 10:06pm and I've made it.  Heading to bed now.  It feels good to accomplish something I've always wanted to do but never thought possible.  God is good and He can help us do all things.  Without Him we are nothing.

My three day fast - day 2

Who said day 1 is the worst in a three day fast?  I'm quite sure day 2 is so far the worst.  Ugh.  And I had to pick to fast over Valentine's Day?  What was I thinking?  My husband said he had plans to bring home steaks and grill out for Valentine's Day.  A nice bottle of wine, steak and baked potatoes, salad and chocolate truffles for dessert. 

ok now I'm just torturing myself. 

I sort of feel like Esau did when he sold his birthright.  Only by the grace of God and HIS strength will I continue this fast for another 42 hours.  It's been 40 hours so far so I'm not quite half way done.  Technically I'm doing a 3 day and 10 hour fast since I went from dinner on Tuesday til breakfast on Friday without eating or drinking anything but water or hot tea. That's better right? lol

At this point all I'm trying to do is think about what to do the rest of the day to keep my mind off food.  As soon as Alan gets home I think I'll go and work out or else convince he and Chloe to go for a long work and then go work out.  I want to pick him up a Green Thai Curry for his Valentine's Day dinner.  I made him pancakes this morning before he left for school and I was sitting there thinking - oh I'll have mine with chocolate chips and peanut butter... until I remembered I was fasting!  So I drank my cup of tea and that was that. 

Had to admit being a bit sad that there wasn't a bouquet of flowers waiting for me when I woke up this morning.  I got Alan about 5 boxes of chocolates and a card but when he saw I was sad he felt really bad and said, "but Valentine's Day is all day right?" That's a poor mans excuse for forgetting I think (or a procrastinating man's). :) Ah well, he was busy yesterday going to school then going to work at the CVJM Waldheim.  As soon as he got home I left him with Chloe to take care of while I went to the gym so he does have a valid excuse and it only bothered me for a few minutes. 

Chloe is sleeping now and I'm trying to get at least somewhat organized before Alan gets home.  I take that back - Chloe just starting shouting "mama, mama, mama" over and over again.  So much for getting organized! :)  brb

ok I'm back now.  Chloe's favorite word has become "mama".  She says it literally all day long.  Not because she necessarily needs anything but only because it sounds good I think. lol I keep trying to get her to say daddy or webster or nana or anything else because hearing mama one thousand times a day is a bit much.  My responses range from, "yes honey" to "yes sweetheart" to "yes baby" to "WHAT!?"  That last one always gets a giggle out of her.  I couldn't love this child more.  She is my precious Valentine and all the cuddles I got yesterday far made up for the fact that my beautiful two dozen yellow tulips (my favorites) didn't arrive until Alan got home.  He's a sweet man and he tries so hard.  I am very grateful and very blessed to have him in my life.  Can't believe we've been married for nearly 4 years.  Where does the time go??

My three day fast - day 1

Just so I can say this upfront...

I have never fasted before for longer than a day.  But I always admired all those folks in the bible that could do it.  Look at Esther - she needed the whole Jewish community to fast for her when Haman sent out orders to kill all the Jews and she needed to go before the king without first being summoned.  She said to tell everyone to fast for her 3 days and she and her attendants would do so as well.  Granted, their lives were in danger but fasting was a way of life in the Old Testament and New Testament too really and yet it's something I see very few Christians doing.  Our church back home encourages folks to fast for 40 days - to give up something that they crave.  For my sister it was coke, for my mom it was chocolate.  For several friends it was Facebook.  Lots of catholics give up something for Lent. I am inspired by their commitment.

Fasting is something I've only done in the past for weight loss if I'm being honest.  I did find myself praying more on those days than other days and reading more of my bible but it wasn't because I was any more spiritual but because I knew I was lousy at fasting and I was begging for help!

So, this got me thinking. 

I have a very difficult time with my weight.  Always have done.  Is it genetic?  Absolutely and without question.  But that does not mean I can just give up and stop fighting which is what I saw myself doing these last few weeks.  I'm so tired of the roller coaster lose 5-7 pounds and then over the next couple of months gain it all back.  I meal track every ounce of everything I put in my mouth, keep to the calorie goals, exercise like mad and nata.  hmmmmmm

I am not a binge eater.  Never have been (well except those times when I was like 7 that I actually took a suitcase to the 7-Eleven and my allowance for the week and filled it up with all the snack foods my mother would never allow us to have.  I even took a friend and we sat in my room with the door locked and pigged out!). Still even though I never binge I struggle and fail at the eating thing far more than in any other area of struggle in my life. 

About a month ago I started this new plan on YouVersion called Made to Crave.  It is soooooo me! In fact it's so revealing I wonder if she knows my life story?!  The thing I'm just realizing now though is that it is also speaking to hundreds of thousands of other folks out there.  I used to single myself out and think no one had the same struggles I did but that's just a lie that the devil feeds to us to keep us isolated, afraid and defeated.  Day one of this plan talks about the fact that we are loved no matter our size.  I am loved by my creator, by Alan, by Chloe, by my family and friends.  BUT God does not want us to stay defeated.  Defeated is definitely where I am right now or where I've been.  STRUGGLING and FAILING but with God all things are possible.  On my own it's failure because I have to wrestle with my flesh and a lifetime of bad habits, with my own set of demons that sees this as the best possible way to take me out and with the fact that you can't just give up eating in its entirety for long.  You MUST eat eventually or you will die.  That's why I see being a food addict as much worse and much more difficult a disease than being an alcoholic or a drug addict.  Giving up either of those will not kill you.  There are substitutes.  Yes there are substitutes for food as well but it's still food.  Every single thing I put in my mouth has calories and too much of even a very healthy good thing all adds up.  So it's what you eat, how much you eat of it, when you eat it, how long it stays in your body (do you exercise or are you a couch potato), etc.  No wonder it's so hard!

Well, if you are reading this post then that means I made it through at least the first day and hopefully the remainder of my 3 day fast. Still, prayers for the every day struggles are much appreciated. Especially when you have a husband like I do that can eat practically anything and as much of anything he'd ever want and never gain a pound. Why can't that be my life?!? :))

Temptations are all around us and they are sure to come but GREATER is HE that is in me than he that is in the world.  I crave.  I desire.  I think about and arrange my life around food.  I always have.  So what about exercise??  Can't that help?  Exercise I love and I do without issue - normally 3,4 or 5 times a week I'm doing hard cardio workouts, weights, everything and yet the scale won't move.  So that's why I've resorted to a 3 day fast.  No I can not continue this long-term and many, many would say this isn't the best way to lose weight (all the stuff about slowing down your metabolism and all).  All I can say is believe me when you've struggled with your weight as long as I have you know all that stuff already.  Still, for me, if I can stay out of the kitchen completely then it becomes less of a struggle and right now I just need to see, to taste a little success in this area.  So indulge me.

I'm writing as fast as I can type and no one will ever see this post if I don't successfully complete this fast.  Oh the beauty of saving but not publishing! :)  Every time I have struggled so far today I've prayed and tried to read some of the bible.  Alan and I have been doing a daily bible reading each day since July 1st so that I can say I've officially read through the bible in a year (another thing I've never done).  But lately it's so dry for me.  I have NOT wanted to read and have allowed a thousand other things to flood into my way of doing so.  Still I'm caught up but not happy about where I am with God and I'm hoping that this three day fast will help revive me spiritually.  It's all tied together.  If I put food before God then that's not the way I should live. God gives us food for nourishment and for pleasure but too much pleasure that is unrestrained is not a good thing (Made to Crave - day 1). 

Another thing I always want to do, plan to do, tell folks I'm going to do is to pray more for folks specifically.  God knows there's a lot of struggling, hurting people out there.  I heard this week about a girl who was hit by a police officer chasing down a drunk driver.  The girl hit has a broken back and hip I think they said and her 21 year old sister was killed in the accident. 

Yesterday I caught myself still mourning the loss of sweet Abigail and her sister Laurel again.  I just can't imagine myself in Brennen's shoes.  Every time I try I break down and cry.  Selfishly I guess because I always think of how I'd feel if I lost Chloe.  Devastated is not a strong enough word. 

Today I found out that sweet Charlie Guyer died while taking a nap yesterday.  I still see his face sitting opposite from mine at the Christmas party dinner table back in December.  He and his wife Jerry have been staples in my families lives for decades.  Such a Godly, loving and sweet man.  He will be sorely missed.

On top of the major tragedies which seem to strike like bells on the clock, there is the every day stuff that needs prayer.  Our marriage, sweet Chloe, our families, the ministry here.  Our friends and supporters, our finances, our plans, Gods plans.  Prayer changes lives.  I know because I've seen it change my life and the lives of those I love. 

Lastly there's a bunch of stuff I want to do but have never made time to do it - like sending condolences cards or birthday cards to friends and family.  It's the deep organizing in the house or deep cleaning that I always put off to next week.  Maybe when I'm not spending so much time in the kitchen planning, preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals I can actually tackle some of that.  We'll see and I'll keep you posted.  :)

Screwtape Letters Letters 3-7 Reviewed

This is a continuation of our Screwtape Letters study.  I have made available the notes from the study if they are of any interest to anyone...
 
Screwtape Letters - Chapter 3 - Relationships
“My dear Wormwood,
I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man’s relations with his mother. But you must press your advantage. The Enemy will be working from the centre outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient’s conduct under the new standard, and may reach his behaviour to the old lady at any moment. You want to get in first.... The following methods are useful.
1. Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind—or rather to that very expurgated version of them which is all you should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office....
Your affection uncle,
SCREWTAPE

“Intercessory prayer is, therefore, always concrete in some sense; prayers which have no reference point in the real world are just words. A great rabbi once observed that we should never ask God to do something if we are unwilling to be an instrument of God’s action. So it is playacting to pray that the hungry be fed, if we are unwilling to change our lifestyle, contribute to relief, and seek justice to enable those goals to be accomplished. It is a delusion to pray for peace and understanding in our homes if we are not willing to listen, endure, and give of ourselves in the mundane things such as washing dishes, arranging schedules, and deciding what sofa to buy.”

While “conversion” or “faith” may well entail an internal reorientation, it becomes powerful and real only when it makes a difference in our behaviors.

Peace on earth begins with patience with an annoying word or tone uttered by one in our own household.
         Bill King, Virginia Tech


Read aloud:

James 2:14-26, Matthew 25: 31-46

In what ways did Chapter 3 ring true to you?  Have you ever lived with someone (a parent, sibling, husband or wife) where you could relate to what was said?

Give an example in your own life where you see your prayer or spiritual life penetrating through other parts of your life and give an example where you do not.

 
Letter 4 – Sincere Prayer

Why do you pray?  Why do you think God wants us to pray?

“The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether...Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment (The Screwtape Letters, Letter 4).”

Do you believe Christians are guilty of judging the quality of their relationship with God by how they feel?  Why or why not?  

Who is God to you?  If you had to describe God in five words which words would you use?  Write them down.

Have you ever had a prayer that God answered?  Describe it.  A prayer ignored?  Describe.

 “For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment desperate.... In avoiding this situation – this real nakedness of the soul in prayer – you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose.  There’s such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!” The Screwtape Letters, Letter 4

Letter 5 – War and Suffering
In this chapter Lewis emphasizes the essential theme that suffering, in and of itself, does not serve evil. While the Evil One delights in our “anguish and bewilderment of soul”; the bigger issue is whether these experiences bring us closer or further from God. The key issue for Screwtape is “undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues” (p. 22).  Screwtape notes that the dangerous things from his perspective (and remember that Screwtape’s interests are always at odds with God’s) are that suffering prompts humans to recognize their need of God, that they are prompted to focus on things outside themselves, and that they are forced to focus on their mortality (Note his scathing critique of a culture that denies death in its medical system, pp. 23-24).  “Contented worldliness” is lifted up as one of the great danger the believer faces. This is a recurring theme in the work.–Bill King, Virginia Tech

Screwtape spends some time explaining that war is entertaining for himself and every other demon, but that war should not be enjoyed so much as used. "If we are not careful," he writes, "we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the enemy." War breeds suffering, which can turn some to their "father," but more often than not the pain, physical and mental, causes the afflicted to turn to a higher power. Also, it would be much better (from their point of view) for the people in the war to die in a nursing home where everyone lies to them: every indulgence is granted because of their illness, rather than them dieing in a bloody conflict, where they can apply for salvation and be granted it. – UTA Canterbury Blogpost

Screwtape closes with a reminder that though war can be bad for them because of the awareness of mortality, "at the precise moment of terror, bereavement, or physical pain, you may catch your man when his reason is temporarily suspended. But even then, if he applies to Enemy headquarters, I have found that the post is nearly always defended." This shows how the opportune moment for tempters is when "reason is temporarily suspended" because of anything. This is our weakest time. However, Screwtape also discloses the fact that God will always defend and protect us from facing more than we can bear IF we turn to Him at these times -- if we "apply to [God's] Headquarters...[we] will nearly always be defended." –Frank Mariduena Orca IFS

What spoke the most to you out of this chapter?

Letter 6  - Anxiety and Fear

Read aloud:

Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 6:34, Psalm 118:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 27:1

“direct the benevolence toward distant people, complete strangers or those in need, and to direct the malice toward the Patient's neighbors - those he is around constantly.”

“the grandest good intentions cannot keep a man from Hell, but they may make him more amusing once he gets there.”

Letter 7 – Patriotism vs Pacifism

Screwtape discusses patriotism versus pacifism as it relates to extremism. Screwtape says, “All extremes except extreme devotion to the enemy are to be encouraged” because extremism almost always pulls the focus away from God and toward a “cause.”

What problems or social injustices in the world do you see Christians becoming extreme over?