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Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Finding Out What Jesus Wants

I wake up and wonder what does He want today? I can only hope He shows me. And that He shows me how to give it. How to wrap it up all pretty and present it to Jesus for Advent.

I climb out of the shower and into the routine. Dress. Coffee. Find my Bible and the other book I follow sometimes. It points me to this:

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.     Isaiah 58:11

I read it, and my heart speeds up. It feels like an actual word for me from the Maker of this very day.

I will guide you. Always.

I read the other verses and the entry for the day, but I can’t get past the whisper of God. The one He just gave as I sat at my table half-dazed.

No worries about the gift today. I will show you what I want.

So I read it again. And its truth saturates my mind and I decide I will study it until I know it through my whole being. I will learn it and think on it all day. Maybe I’ll put it on a little card. Carry it around in my pocket.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs . . .

And the end of the day, I will lay on my pillow and thank Him for the guiding. I will praise Him for the satisfying. My gift for Jesus today will be His Word to me. I will offer it back.

We’re celebrating Advent this year by offering daily gifts to Jesus. Why not join us? It’s a great way to find quiet at Christmastime and get ready for the greatest birthday celebration there ever was. Christmas Day.

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What Would Jesus Ask For

I wonder what Jesus would ask for if He were a child at Christmas today.

Would He want Legos to build boats with and teach His friends how to fish for men? Would He ask for toy flutes or a drum so He could march in pretend parades, waving at the crowds and worshipping the Father as He played?

If Jesus made a Christmas list from the amazing toys available today, would he find crazy fun games to play with the disciples after one of their long days? Maybe a little Just Dance 4 so He and John could find a jam and laugh at each other as they bust their moves? Can you imagine the Sons of Thunder brothers competing for that crown?

I have to believe Jesus loved to have fun. And I know He likes gifts. So I wonder for real what He might ask for this year.

When I ask Jesus what He wants for Christmas, I guess I’m not thinking about Legos or drums. I’m thinking more serious, like a cup of water for the needy. Some euro coins for the poor.

But maybe He wants me to think more like Him, less like me. Maybe He wants some fun stuff, too. Like sledding in the snow so I enjoy His Creation. Or laughing with a friend so I love more like He does. There’s a place for the serious. No doubt about it. But that place is not necessarily meant to override the lighthearted.

I wonder if He would number His list. The things He wants most at the top. If He did, what would be #1?

I think it might surprise us.

What do you think?

How Timber Changes Everything

We meet our friend at Starbucks in Vienna. She studies there in that amazing city just hours west of Budapest and worlds away from my Amish-land home. We drink cappuccinos and tea and hot cocoa under the Starbucks lady in green. Then we walk.

She takes us to St. Stephens Cathedral. We admire its Gothic beauty and tall towers surrounded by scaffolding. And merchants looking for tourists who’ll pay to make memories from a horse-drawn carriage ride. We take pictures of one side. Then another. And again. My mouth gapes open when we step inside.

It’s so tall. So beautiful.

We walk some more through the city. Make our way to the famous Manner waffle cookie store. Then towards Hofburg. I don’t know much about Hofburg, but I know it houses the Spanish Riding School. And the Imperial Treasury.

I’m not a big museum-goer, but this I want to see. It holds crowns and regalia and treasures of kings. Stuff royalty used back in the day. Hundreds of years ago.

We say goodbye to our friend and then head inside. Picking up an audioguide, we decide it might deepen our appreciation for the treasure we find inside the treasury.

We come upon the first case of royal fortune. A king’s crown and his sceptor. Legend says it’s made out of a unicorn’s horn. I have my doubts. But its intrigue proves hard to withstand. I mean, truly, we behold real royal treasure with our very own eyes. So we gaze and we stare and we try to capture its beauty even though we can’t use a flash and the lights are so dim.

We move through the exhibits. Many of them pull me, and I find myself loving this museum as much as the Georges Pompidou in Paris. Not at all the same. But equally enamoring.

We move past kings’ mantels and royal keys. Some more crowns and a robe. We walk into another room and find a beautiful cross displayed behind glass. Covered in jewels, it catches my eye like the first crown we saw. So I turn on the audioguide and have a listen.

The voice draws my eyes to the less prominent wood laying next to the beautifully adorned cross. It’s shaped like one, too, but it holds no jewels. Just a plain little piece of wood with a hole at the top. It’s encased in metal, but that’s it. Nothing like the big bejeweled one standing up next to it.

It’s a piece of the cross of Jesus Christ, the British-accented man in the device tells me. It had been soaked in His blood as He hung on the wooden cross, the whole from which this small piece came. And my eyes are stayed. I cannot make myself look away from the wood. Can’t force them from the piece of timber that just might know the blood that took my sin-stained self and made me new. The blood of Jesus Christ.

To think the very King Who conquered all that matters may have bled on this lumber that lay right in front of me, well, I cannot fathom.

My family moves on. They find more treasures nearby. I know I should go, too. But I cannot pull myself away from this case. I can think of nothing but the blood that tore me from death and darkness and hate and Satan himself. That very blood might just have stained the wood upon which my eyes now fall. And I cannot peel them away.

I just keep taking pictures. Keep trying to capture the banging beats in my chest cavity with the click of my finger. Trying to grasp the meaning of the blood stains of God.

It’s Thanksgiving Day. We’ll be eating turkey soon with our American friends who’ve made home in this beautiful city called Wien. Eating turkey and talking thanks. We’ll be thinking of home and familiar and all things grateful. And Thanksgiving Day traditions will ride strong.

And tomorrow will be Black Friday at home in the U.S. And crazy will begin. And people will fight at Wal-Mart over an i-Pad 4. And life will continue as it always does.

But I will be different.

Because how can I know the blood of Jesus and not be changed forever? How can I contemplate the wood that bore my Savior’s broken body, that soaked up His very blood, and not be transformed from the very depths of my soul? How can my heart not be remodeled into a thankful that soaks every fiber of my being?

I look for the blood stains on that petrified wood. But I can’t see them. They’re all soaked in. If it actually is what the British man says it is. I wonder. And my heart still beats fast.

Because, whether that piece of wood felt the drips of Jesus’ blood or not, I know what has. My own soul.

God’s Kind of Beautiful and a Free E-book You Simply Must Read

I have always been uncomfortable around needy people. At least around the people I define as needy.

Like the lady I passed in Paris every time I went with my kids to the post office. She sat outside in her black covering and held a picture of a baby, telling people about her daughter and asking could they help.

And the man with no legs who would sit propped up against the wall with a bowl for donated coins and a look of I-hate-that-I’m-here despondence.

Or the lady outside Walmart holding the sign that tells me she needs food. And the man standing there two days later. He lost his job and his house and his pride.

And then there’s the man who approached me on my way home the other day in the middle of the marketplace. He held papers in his hand that looked like brochures. I made the mistake of smiling at him, so he handed me a paper which said something like I have a daughter and a wife and I need food. Can you please buy me some?

Uncomfortable.

The little Christmas Dorf stood about 40 feet away from us where crepes and bratwurst and Gluhwein abound. I only had a few Euro coins in my bag, ones for which I had been considering a different assignment. Like maybe flowers for the dinner table. Or Lebkuchen for the family.

So I told him I had nothing.

My heart beats shamefully fast even now as I recall those moments of uncomfortable dishonesty. Shameful.

I walked home without stopping for the previously considered items. Walked home wondering if I had just denied Jesus a crepe. And how could I have done that?

I thought my heart had been changed a few weeks back. Changed for the way I would deal with uncomfortable need. I had believed that, because God had been working in my heart to show me His kind of beautiful, I had arrived at the end and would suddenly be privy to all kinds of how-to-love-homeless-and-needy people.

I guess I was wrong.

Not wrong about God’s working. No doubt He is. But wrong that I had arrived.

You see, I read this book a few months ago by Jeff Goins. And it got me thinking about letting God wreck me for the things I don’t want to see or interact with. Like homeless beggars without legs. And foreign men with copies of a letter describing their need and could I please help?

And then I read another book.

Graffiti: Scribbles From Different Sides of the Street by Alene Snodgrass. It was the perfect follow-up for the wrecking God had begun. The finding my way in the midst of uncomfortable need in this world. The kind of need you find on the streets in the middle of homeless communities and inner city projects.

It’s a book about finding the uncomfortable and then asking God what He wants me to do inside of it.

It’s about looking for the beautiful inside of what I deem, well, not at all pretty. And asking God how I might help make it even more His kind of beautiful.

It kind of rocked my world. Or at least the way I think about my world.

God has been using it to transform the way I look at things that I used to deem ugly.

The e-book releases officially next Monday (November 26) for $3.99. But right now you can get it for free! It’s only 44 short pages, and well worth every minute you will spend reading it.

Especially as Christmas time hits and the greed of consumerism threatens to turn God-come-to-earth into how-much-stuff-can-I-get.

It’s the perfect way to enter Quiet Christmas. Offering God your heart and asking what He might want you to change to help make a difference.

Because, as Alene so beautifully points out, different is beautiful. And, really, the only way to make a difference is to be different ourselves.

How To Have Quiet When Christmastime Starts

Right about this time, every year of my motherhood life, I start feeling like I need to catch up. The anticipation of Christmastime fills the air of my lungs and I get so excited and stressed and happy that I don’t know what to feel, so I just walk around kind of crazed and pretend like I can handle this. Excited with the little trailers that pop up all over town, getting ready for Christmas tree shoppers on the hunt for perfection.

I love the buzz of Christmastime’s approach the few days before Thanksgiving. It gets my Christmas spirit pumping and makes me want to break out the cookie recipes and turn up the Jingle Bells. Yep. Two days before Thanksgiving for me is a perfect mix of hot mess and joyful bliss.

This year feels different. We all knew it would. Because Germans don’t have an official day when it’s socially acceptable to break out the Christmas decor. No 11-month timer that goes off at 11:59 Thanksgiving Day and rings Let the Christmas season officially begin. Germany declares no decisive day that must officially pass in order for Christmastime to actually begin.

People here celebrate Christmastime by calling it Advent. They start decorating the town in the middle of November. They’ve had Gluhwein and Crepes in a little Christmas Dorf (village) since last month. And I haven’t heard anyone complain about it. (Of course, I don’t understand most of what anyone says, so there’s that.) I can feel myself easing into the season. And I like the quiet I feel in the ease.

It’s got me thinking about the quiet I have always wanted at Christmastime. Not quiet like no music or bell-ringing or loud celebration. But quiet like Mary’s may-it-be-to-me-as-you-have-said spirit. The kind of quiet that loves the celebration but doesn’t let the crazy stress of it get into my heart’s crevices.

I talk about it every year. This year, I always decide, I will find Jesus more in the season. I won’t let myself get caught up in the urgent of the crazy and the lists. Won’t miss the reality of true Christmas. But then I find an unfinished list. Or an unwritten one (let’s keep it real). And I forget stocking stuffers and what about the neighbors and the baking and oh crap I forgot that teacher! And the quiet turns to chaos in a Christmas spirit heartbeat.

And suddenly the season of God being born becomes less-than in my I-want-to-be-like-Mary heart.

So I have decided to to make a change this Christmastime season. For starters, I think I’ll call it Advent like the Germans. It hits the spot more dead-center, I think.

I’ve decided to give something to Jesus every day of the Advent. To look for things He wants. A heart that is willing to say okay. A quiet morning of zero emails. A crepe bought for a beggar in the marketplace. Everyday I will search for what He wants from me. Maybe it will be a song I sing to Him in the shower. A verse memorized and prayed back to Him. I will ask Him each day. And then I will look for His answer.

Because He is the One I want my heart to celebrate. Jesus is the One I want to give real gifts to. The kind of gifts that will last forever.

So, here is my plea… Will you do it with me? Don’t we all want the quiet? Don’t we all want our Christmas spirit to bring honor to the Christ-child more than anything else? Don’t we want to live inside the Christmastime rather than wish we’d done it differently after the gifts are all unwrapped and we’ve taken our Christmas Day naps?

Please consider joining me. I could really use the company. I’ll write about it here a few times a week. You can, too. Right here in the comments. Or over on my facebook page. We’ll use the hashtag #giftsforJesus to keep it going over on Twitter.

So — how ’bout it, friend? You in? Please say yes! Shoot me an email and let me know you’re in so I can pray for you. Or leave a comment.

Overwhelmed to Simple Praise

The week of Thanksgiving is different here. Because I now live in a land where turkeys have nothing to do with stuffing or mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie or football. And they certainly do not conjure up images of Black Friday sales or crazies who camp out at Best Buy the week before they even eat the aforementioned turkey.

Christmas decorations are slowly finding their way into the marketplace here, and nobody feels like it’s a sin to put them up before the turkey’s been eaten and the thanks have been given. Because, well, Germans don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving. (Gasp!) It’s different here. And I am okay with that.

But still, I find myself contemplating all the amazing God has done in my life. Like answering a prayer for my grandpa which I had prayed for more than 30 years.

I went to visit him and my grandma last year for four days. My grandpa’d had a stroke. And I wanted to see them before I started this crazy year-long adventure.

Here’s what I wrote in my room one day that week. Still in awe that the Creator of life and grandpas and hearts and minds, would hear my heart and grant a request. Even after so long.

I sit in awe as he ponders life from the bed in which he heals.  A stroke put him here, and it’s not been easy.  Unyielding, in fact.  For the breaking of a man is never painless.  And the breaking of this man, especially.

I prayed for him as a schoolgirl who wanted to know she would see her grandpa in heaven someday.  The prayers never stopped.  Thirty some years I prayed for his spirit, for his faith in Jesus Christ.  Many of those years I wondered, not knowing, only hoping.  But praying just the same.

I sit with him now and marvel at his spirit.  The faith that God has sparked in him.  The depth of genuine sincerity with which he now expresses his care about the deep things of life and the searching of the soul.  I love this man so dearly.

And I catch myself surprised at God’s very real answer to my thirty-year prayer.

Thank you, God!

That Almighty Maker of Men and Healer of Broken would hear my cries and finally answer simply stuns me.  I am honored to know this God.  I am honored to know this man.  And now they know each other.

And a simple answer to the simple but long lasting prayer of my heart inspires a certain praise in my soul that will quite literally last much longer than the 30-years from which it came.

From the depths of my being, my soul cries out astounded gratitude.  But the only three words I can get my mouth to form are quite simply

Thank You, God!

The Thing About Light

When it’s dark and someone turns on a light, you can’t help but find it. I mean, your eyes, they go right to it.

And in the day time, when it’s bright outside and the light shines onto what would be transparent, the flat surface acts like a mirror. The light shows itself off on the see-through surface.

I want to be a surface like that. The kind that shows off the Light in all of His glory.

By how I live.

How I love my husband. My kids. And strangers on the bus.

By what I say. And how I say it.

What I write and how I deal with success. And failure.

I want my life to show off Who God is.

So that when people look at me, they see Him instead.

Where I Want to Stay

Fridays are becoming my 5-minute days. I am starting to love my friend Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Fridays and the people who link up there. Maybe you’d like to check it out, too? Here are the rules, in case you haven’t heard:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back to Lisa-Jo’s blog and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

The topic this week? Stay.

GO

I posted an update on my facebook wall last week. I told everyone I’m kind of ready to be done here. No real reason. Just done.

But alas, we will stay. Because we have committed. Because we believe without reservation that God has our family here in this land of the Deutsch for this very moment. Because we live here now, and we’re only five months in.

Sure, we could give it up. Go home. Hop on a plane and tell my Mann’s company we could take the difficult no longer. But that’s not who we are. And, well, we are truly not done.

And so we will stay.

We will stay here where God is making His way of life more clear than it has ever been. To me. To my Mann. To each one of my kids. Stay. Planted here in the middle of the place where 4:30 pm in late Fall means headlights and street lamps and kitchen lights must burn. Where bike-riding is more prominent than car-driving. And cashiers at the grocery store ring it like there’s no tomorrow.

Yes. We will stay. Because this is where we were called to be. And wherever I am called is where I want to stay. Even when I feel like I’m ready to be done.

STOP

So — there you have it. Unedited me on staying put.

Have a comment? Or your own thoughts on stay? I would love to hear from you. Why not send me an email? Or click the little speech bubble up there next to the title of this post?

How To Watch Your Daughter Soar

She has wanted a cell phone since she could hold one in her hand. So yesterday when I gave her mine for the day, you can imagine her joy.

Her sister was sick. Well, sick enough to stay home from school and convince me that she needed a day to recover. It knocked our ride-the-city-bus-to-school-and-back routine out of whack.

I couldn’t just run her to school with the sick one in the back seat. I have no car. And what about after school? How would she get home?

My Mann did a u-ey on his way to work and came home so he could take her to school. Then my 10-year-old daughter and I discussed the options. How would she get home? She could ride the crowded bus full of all kinds of people. Like we do everyday. My girls and me together. Lots of kids do it without their parents. Even six-year-olds. But, well, being Americans in a foreign land full of people whose language we only sort of speak, we’re just not ready to join those ranks.

We could hope for the best and plan on the usual after school pick-up. Assuming the youngest would be fine by then. But at that point, I just wasn’t sure.

I guess I could walk home. She said it as if it were her own idea. I liked that. Something she refused to consider on days I don’t want a bus ride. But today was different. And somehow her walking the 2.1 kilometers home seemed less scary than switching buses in the central station and having her ride alone.

Really? I asked just to make sure the wax in my ears wasn’t teasing me. I assure you, it was not.

So I happily surrendered to the cell-phone battle for a school day’s time, and we made a plan. Call me as soon as you leave school. I knew she would. She’s a really good rule-follower when it means she gets to use the phone.

When she called me the first time, I could hear the smile in her voice. She was big, and I was helping her with it. A wing-spreading moment I was happy to assist. I could almost hear the growth plates of her heart as they stretched from little girl to prepubescent ‘tween. She filled the role well.

She called again to ask about stopping at the library down the street. More freedom I was willing to give. More maturity she was ready to attain.

You can bet I prayed her all the way home. And without a doubt I hugged her like crazy when she walked through that door. But it wasn’t for the fear of what might happen to my little girl. It was for the knowing Whose hand pulls her along and into the grown-up that she is becoming.

 

One day, I will send this little girl to womanhood. I will wave goodbye as she drives away in a car. I will help her move into a college dorm room. I will stand at the front of a sanctuary holding tissues as she changes her name to become one with a man I will then call my son. Someday my girl will have a life of her own. And yesterday was just a start. Because when that day comes, she will be ready.

And she’ll probably have a better cell phone than me.

Two Questions For Sabbath and Why I Took One

I’ve read it too many times to count. You probably have, too.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy (Ex. 20:8).

Somehow in college that was easier for me. More black and white. A sacrifice for sure, but easy to recognize what God wanted me to do when I got the nudge to trust Him with my Monday classes by not studying on Sunday. Somewhere between my freshman and junior years (I don’t remember when), I felt the nudge to give up my true geek on Sunday and rest from the normal. I had to study more on Saturdays. But always, God honored the sacrifice.

The work I do now, however, is not so easily discernible. Mommy stuff. Writing. Keeping up with Facebook. And Twitter. Learning German. Working on Tribe Writers assignments. (Did I tell you I’m taking an online writing course with Jeff Goins? Love it.) Not so black and white. Because I love the writing. And the Mommy stuff is kind of my life right now. And facebook, well, isn’t that a kind of rest? And I have to learn German. I live in Germany.

And yet, heading into yesterday, I felt the old conviction to rest from the usual. Take a break from the normal life.

So I took a break from email. And writing. And facebook and twitter.

Oh, I had all kinds of arguments against it. What about the encouragement I wanted to send to a friend today? Does that count as normal? And the facebook page for Graffiti, an ebook I get to help launch (it’s awesome! By Alene Snodgrass. I’ll tell you more very soon! Check it out here.)? There’s a lot going on right now, and it would be bad for me to miss any of it.

But when I realized the true questions at hand, and then answered them, I knew absolutely what I needed to do.

Don’t you think God can take care of it, since He’s the One asking you to give it up?

I had to go deep to answer this one honestly. Because somewhere in the last few months of this journey, I started trusting my work more than the hand of the One Who has given it to me. I have grown dangerously close to the kind of self-preservation that keeps me focused on my accomplishments and endeavors. But the truth is, I want quiet-hearted humility that stands firmly focused on God’s ways not my own.

To take an entire day’s rest from all things writing and networking, well that required the kind of submissive trust in God that I have been lacking. The kind I need if I am ever going to be truly successful as He defines success.

Why would you not take a day to rest?

God Himself took one. And all He had to do was speak. Let there be light. Let dry ground appear. Let us make man . . . ” (See Gen. 1.) God used the spoken Word to create life itself. All of Creation. And when He was done, He took a whole entire day, and He rested from His work. How can I not need the same? And how could I possibly not be able to step away from my work for just 24 short hours? Am I better at this work thing than God?
I answered the questions. Then I took a step of faith. And I let myself rest from the normal pull of the laptop. I found refreshment in time with my family, no just sitting next to them. And this morning when I opened my computer, I was actually able to think straight to respond and deal with each email.

What about you? Do you practice a Sabbath rest of some sort? What’s difficult about it? Let’s chat. Leave a comment (click the bubble next the title up there at the top). Or click this to send me an email.