Friday, January 30, 2009

Illness and Aging :D

Today marks one full week of me battling some kind of changeling illness. It started with body aches and fever then morphed into sore throat and gallons of freely flowing phlegm. Then I woke up a mute on Monday morning with a headache. I spent several hours sleeping it off on Tuesday late morning to early afternoon. Wednesday evening my throat was so scratchy that I couldn't take a breath without coughing, which made it REALLY difficult to fall asleep. I didn't fall asleep until after 2:00 AM and then again spent several hours napping on Thursday. When I woke up, my left eye was sealed shut with goop. Late Thursday night the explosive sneezing started. Today, Friday, I'm still struggling with it, and as it's semester break (January is part of first semester here), I'm probably going to try to sleep much of the day today and kick this thing. Oh yeah. I've drunk about a gallon of orange juice, which is great for vitamin C, but terrible for a scratchy throat. I need a major dose of Nyquil, but I have none...

This past week I celebrated the 24th anniversary of my birth. While the fiesta my parents gave me for my 21st (complete with my 30 best friends, enchilada pizza, and a piƱata) birthday will always have the honor of being the best birthday ever, this year was probably the second best of my life (or at least in memory). It is beyond me how much love was poured on me this past week. On Sunday after a church lunch, the congregation members sang Happy Birthday to me (so cute for these wonderful Czech and Polish speakers to sing this song in English!) while they brought out a cake (with a fire cracker in place of a candle!), a flower arrangement, and a food gift basket (with pineapple juice, instant cappuccino, and menthol-eucalyptus hard candies-- VERY important to me this week!-- among other things). One of the elders, a good friend of mine, got up and said a few words about how important it is for them to show me this love because of the sacrifices I've made of being away from my family and working hard to serve their congregation and the community. He also said that he wished for me the blessing of Psalm 37:3-5
"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act."
I was overwhelmed with happiness almost to the point of tears. I really felt SO loved. And that wasn't all. On Tuesday morning, the delightful 2nd graders (see last week's post) sang Happy Birthday to me before prayer time, they thanked God for me in their prayers, and they even had gone all together to get me a small birthday present. The gift was delivered to me by one of the boys, Pastor Klus' eight-year-old son. When he handed me the gift, he shook my hand and said to me in English "Happy Birthday. Jesus bless you." So cute. During the rest of the morning, so many of the children and all of the teachers wished me a Happy Birthday. I received more chocolate bars on Tuesday... The most incredible thing of all this is that I had no idea how they had all learned that it was my birthday, as I hadn't been advertising it.

Ashley Angerman took me out for lunch, in the afternoon the Klus family showered me gifts and words of blessing, and then it was time for my conversation classes. My teenagers each gave me one long-stem rose and as a group they gave me a Czech Republic soccer scarf. Two of the girls together had bought me a beautiful little necklace. The adult conversation class gave me a bouquet of flowers and brought a honey cake (YUM!!!) with 24 candles to class.

It was overwhelming how much people poured their affection over me on Tuesday. I just can't believe how blessed I am and how it could be possible that they would love me so much.

Please pray that:
- the Lord would heal me of this illness, and that He would also grant health to all who are sick with colds and with other, more serious ailments
-I would be as much of a joy in the lives of the people I'm here to serve as they have been to me, that I may serve them with all the strength that the Lord will give, and that I would faithfully proclaim to them the words of His Gospel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Faith of a Child

I love Tuesday mornings. Today was not great (I had a lot of roadblocks in my way: late to bed, late out of bed, had to prep for school instead of shower... bad stuff), but in general, I love Tuesday mornings. I have 2nd Grade English during first hour. These kids are great. At our school, each teacher begins the day with his or her class with a devotion and prayer. Usually the kids are great: they patiently sit and listen during the Bible reading and then nearly everyone in the class contributes during prayer time, praying thankfulness for being able to go to school, to attend a Christian school, for ill classmates and family members and so on. Today was a different story.

The brief reading this morning was Matthew 10: 32-33: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."

Just as the main teacher was opening the Bible and getting ready to read, one of the boys jumped out of his chair and ran to his backpack on its hook across the room. He grabbed something and raced back to his desk and started opening it: a little plastic bag with a blue book in it. The teacher said to him, "It's time to read. What are you doing?" His only response was to say "I know" and finish removing the book from the bag and flip through the pages. He asked for the reference again, and at this point, she and I both realized that it was a Bible, and that he was getting ready to follow along on his own. She repeated the reference and invited him to read to the class, and he did.

After this, she asked the students if they had ever told anyone about Jesus. One boy shared a story about telling a non-believing cousin about Jesus, a girl told about talking to a friend, and another boy shared that he talks to his Dad about Jesus, because only his Mom is a Christian. After this, the teacher asked for prayer volunteers, and hands shot up all over the room. So we began to pray. Probably 10 of the children said little prayers for their friends and family members. I took my turn to praise Christ for the faith which He has so graciously and amazingly granted to these beautiful children, and to plead that this faith will be sustained and increased as they grow older, that they might be given more opportunities to acknowledge Christ before men.

May these children continue to be faithful witnesses throughout their lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sticking Around

Before Christmas I made up my mind that I want to stay in the Czech Republic another year, and God willing, that is what will happen.

I talked about it with Pastor Michal to see what he thought about the possibility. When I had decided that staying is what I wanted to do, I emailed my volunteer coordinator, David, to let him know. All that being said, the ball is now rolling for me to stay here, teaching and telling people about Jesus for another school year. The next steps which much happen are: David must get the go-ahead from Pastor Michal that he in fact wants me to stay for another year. Then, the people in St. Louis have to rustle up some paperwork for me to fill out and must do some number crunching so that I can know what kind of support I will need for the coming school year.

Even though the course of events necessary for me to stay here has begun, it is still possible that I won't be here anymore after August. Yes, I have decided that I want to stay here another year, but I do not know that this will happen. I hope it does. I am praying that it does, that God will provide for me to stay here.

Please join me in praying that God's will be done in this case: if it be for me to stay, good; if it be for me to return home, His will be done.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Someone Else's Thoughts on Calvinism

I've never heard it put quite this way....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is it Christian?

If something-- a sermon, a book, a person-- proposes to be Christian, it had better actually be about Christ, right? If someone talks about God, which God are they talking about? He had better specify.

Christians should never talk about God without mentioning Jesus. Without Jesus, God the Father is completely inaccessible to us men. God the Father, apart from Christ is for us as in the days of the Israelites wandering in the desert, camped at the foot of Sinai. This was a mountain they could not touch, could not approach, without death coming surely and swiftly upon them.

"God talk" is nothing unless it's about Christ crucified for sinners.

Also, talking about God and His righteous demands, without talking about Christ's fulfillment of them has nothing to distinguish it as Christianity from Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and a host of deist and theist cults.

Paul resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified when he was with the Corinthians. Why don't we Christians do the same?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to It

Christmas is over. The wonderful days spent with families not my own, enjoying their company, playing with the kids, talking to the adults and being loved beyond what I could imagine, given that I was away from home, are over. My week in England is over. The Christmas tree is down, the floor vacuumed, the armchair is back in place and the gifts are all put away. Classes have started again. And now it's time to get back into the daily cycle of waking up tired, teaching, planning, and staying up too late.

I've been semi-coerced by one of the men in the brass band at the church into being the new director, because our current director-- after years of threatening to retire-- is finally retiring. I've told him that I can't do it because I don't really speak Czech and none of the men in the band really speak English. He insisted that I could just say when things sound bad (which is most of the time :s) and when we need to try again. I don't want to be the director of the band. I'm not even qualified for that. I just want a chance to play my trumpet occasionally.

Every month when I go to send my newsletters to my supporters, something goes wrong or weird, and December was no exception. In fact, it was the worst. Usually I just forget to attach the document before sending, but this month I actually attached someone else's newsletter. And I received all kinds of email from friends and family wondering if I'd changed my name or if I'd eloped and who this "Daniel" fellow is. Oh my. No, I didn't change my name, I haven't eloped (or met anyone worth eloping with, for that matter-- I'll let you know if I do :D), and Daniel is the other person's supervisor.

The Best of the Break
Worship Service: Christmas Eve, 9 PM. It was so beautiful, and I cried a little. One of my friends, an incredible musician, had organ duty and it was incredible. Also, I was asked to share with the congregation about God's goodness in my life. I made a point of not talking about life's circumstances, but about the only way we can really know that God is good: He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins and reconcile us to the Father.

Meal: This is a tough call. It was either the carp on Christmas Eve (delicious, though bony, fish), or the duck on the 26th. Wow. Duck is good.

New Christmas Hymn: A Polish one whose title is roughly translated "Let's all go to the stable" Very fun tune. There's a Czech one that I really liked that is about the presentation of Jesus at the temple (it talks about Simeon and Anna), but unfortunately I can't remember the title.

Snowball Fight: Another toss up. It would be either the one I had on Advent 4 after church or the one I had in the mountains on the 26th. The Advent 4 snowball fight started between me and three little brothers (a set of 6 year old twins and their 8 year old brother). While those three were ganging up on me, three of my grown-up guy friends (in their 20s) snuck up on me and started throwing snow at me too (NOT a fair fight, but very fun, and I definitely held my own). The one on St. Stephen's was between me and another 6 year old. His family and I were sledding at his grandparent's house (on the side of a mountain. Gorgeous), and of course it all broke down into throwing snow. It was great because he would throw snow at me, and then I would chase him and tackle him and scoop snow onto him. Great fun.

Place Visited in England: The B&B where we stayed in Stratford-upon-Avon was wonderful. The proprietors were a couple of... crazies. They were very warm and welcoming and funny. But also out of their gourds. We were sad to only stay with them for 2 nights. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were the best thing to photograph in England, I would say. Bath was my favorite city of the trip: beautiful architecture and interesting history.

Pray for:
-Peace! Pray that the current war in Palestine will come to an end.

-all the missionaries who are heading back to their posts after visiting home for Christmas, for safe travel, for encouragement and motivation in fulfilling their tasks and in speaking to people about Jesus. Also that they would be fed with the Word of the Lord and renewed in their faith.

-new missionary Terri who will be coming to Poland in about a week to start teaching English, and possibly Spanish, at a small Bible school, for courage, patience, and calm as she comes to a new place knowing so little about what her role will be.

-strength and patience for all of us teaching, that we will faithfully and joyfully, with love and determination, carry out our responsibilities as teachers

-the spread of the Gospel to all the ends of the earth, to every tribe, and nation, and language