Monday, May 30, 2005

my children will eat frozen grapes

Is it possible that Olympia no longer has need of the sweet nectar of cranberries? Have the gods instead turned to the frozen vineyards of the Snow Queen to provide their summer refreshments? Whatever the case, I have been blessed to experience the delight of frozen grapes.

Imagine arriving after 8 hours by train in a city experiencing an abnormal heatwave, then lugging your things from the subway, to the tram, to the bus, and then up two flights of stairs ...

... And then imagine the sensation of frozen natural sweetness caressing your pallet.

Then and there I vowed that my children would one day enjoy this delicacy. And why stop there?! Why not frozen cherries, frozen plums, frozen kiwi? I do believe I’ve stumbled upon something wonderful, thanks to my roommate Anna, a Taiwanese missionary here in Prague. My decedents will call her blessed.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

oh, to be turned away!

I would have regretted getting on that train. Had I been an avid fan of european football it would have been one of the most exciting moments of my life. But that not being the case, I turned down the invitation to join a train full of maniac Berlin soccer fans.

My connection time in Hannover was entirely too short. I arrived at my track just as my train to Berlin was pulling away. I rushed to the train station’s information kiosk.

Please, I’ve just missed my train to Berlin. I’m traveling to Prague. What should i do?

There’s a train leaving from track 9 in six minutes.

Well, needless to say, when I arrived at track 9 I felt inclined to try my chances with the next train and let that one go on, despite the promises from the drunken blue and white clad fans that there was plenty of room for me.

When a proper train headed to Berlin eventually rolled into the station, I hopped on board hoping that somehow I could still make a connection to Prague, seeing how I missed the original one. I quickly disembarked, well, as quickly as any girl with two large suitcases and one large gym bag can maneuver, and searched the departure times. Ah, 45 minutes ... and on the same track. wonderful! So, I settled in and make sure everything was in order.


My neurological pulses began to quicken. I didn’t remember seeing my passport when showing the conductor my ticket on the train to Berlin.

I checked my travel bag.

There was no use searching the other bags. I knew exactly where it was. It was in my dad’s computer scanner. Just before the taxi came to take me to the train station I was in the office copying my passport so my parents and i would both have photocopies should anything happen to it while i was in Prague. During the copying, a missionary called on the phone and then the doorbell rang. I quickly ended the call, rushed downstairs to meet the taxi driver, and ... you’ve got it ... I forgot my passport in the scanner.

So I had to catch a train back to Celle (only a 3 hour trip), purchase a new ticket to Prague for tomorrow, hail a taxi at the train station, and break into my parents’ home (Who knew there was a key behind the planter on the back window ledge!). Ironically they were gone for the day with the rest of the Hannover church on a field trip to Berlin to visit various Dietrich Bonhoeffer sites.

With no way of contacting them to let them know that their daughter would be home when they got back, I left a note on the door.

“I’m home. Supposedly they don’t allow Americans without passports across the Czech border. Don’t worry, I’ve got new tickets.”

Not one to sit around doing nothing, I decided to take my camera and walk about our town’s castle and enjoy a nice cold glass of ice coffee at a local cafe watching people stroll by on this unusually warm evening. (You do know that it doesn’t really get dark here during the summer months till after 10 pm, right?)

My only regret ... I didn’t get all the way to the Czech border to find that my passport was not with me. What a magnificent memory that would have made! Being turned away at the Czech border.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

my right hand

Upon receipt of my luggage, I strolled to the train station of my little town to join my parents in Hannover on this perfect Friday morning. I felt the beauty of nature swirling around me, embracing me; and for a moment, I thought this is a moment when one can enjoy traveling alone. One can enjoy creation without the distraction of conversation. I could hear the birds sing. I could sit on a bench for as long as I wished, soaking in the sun’s warm rays. I could wander along as slowly as I liked. Everything seemed so perfect.

However, this revelry was interrupted by a sudden feeling of emptiness in my right hand. It occurred to me that the only way to improve my euphoria was if I had someone’s hand holding my own. The feeling was overwhelming. Here I was, the spokeswoman to young women all over the world. Did not our brother Paul say, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8). How often have I stood on the proverbial soap box and pleaded with all young women to embrace their single status, enjoy it, use this time to develop their love affair with Christ? And yet I was allowing my mind to linger on ... marriage?

At that moment I understood the feeling of oneness between a husband and wife, walking hand in hand, enjoying God’s creation, without the need to say a word ... no entertaining each other, no conversing, just communing ... together. I thought that to have a hand holding my own might make the birdsong sound purer, the grass smell sweeter, and the colors appear more brilliant, and the river run swifter.

This moment of prophetic foresight may have caused anyone else in my position to feel disheartened or lonely. But not me. Instead the feeling of ecstasy remained with me throughout the day, for I thought ... this is what I have to look forward to.

Friday, May 27, 2005

for the love of ... Bob and Debbie

Home for me is walking out of baggage claim, seeing my father rush toward me with a bouquet of daisies, and giving into his warm bear hug. Home for me is strolling down the street with my mother with our little fingers linked. While I may have an enormously independent spirit, Bob and Debbie are always worth coming home to.

Upon arriving in Hannover airport, I passed over baggage claim and customs altogether and headed straight to the Lufthansa counter. Experience has taught me that it’s a fat chance that my luggage will show up the same time I do. So why not save a few moments and start filling out the paper work while others are still waiting for men to unload the plane’s cargo?

While Madeline (the Lufthansa representative) was attempting to find where in the world my luggage was (which was made infinitely more difficult by my having flown standby), I turned around and saw that my dad had discovered a coffee machine in the corner of the office and had made himself extremely comfortable with a little plate of cookies and his cup of joe. He looked as relaxed as could be. My mother was on the side of the room idly looking at the posters on the wall. I had to smile. They were as accustomed to this as I was.

Hmm, have I mentioned how much I love my parents?!

Ha! One of the moments that I love, is our mock conversations. These usually occur when there’s not much to talk about ... so, we’ll make up a random topic, something we know nothing about, and we’ll each pretend to be experts on the subject. There have been occasions when these “conversations” have turned into “arguments.” I remember once when my father and I were really going at it in the living room ... our voices were raised and everything. At one point, I heard my mother’s footsteps rushing down the stairs, she opened the door and the concern on her face was heartbreaking.

“Please ... please, stop arguing. Remember, you love each other!”

Poor, dear! She hadn’t actually heard what we were arguing about. She was so torn apart because we never argue in our family.

At that moment, my father and I looked at each other. That all too familiar mischievous twinkle sparkled in both our eyes. Together we began to “float” toward my mother (which involved us moving in slow motion as the astronauts do) and embraced this dear, concerned little woman and told her to “lighten up.” Only then, did she know that it had all been in jest.

One of my favorite memories with my mother, was actually a time when she scolded me this past Christmas. We were walking hand-in-hand downtown from our home across the river and I was bearing my heart to her about a situation that I found myself in. Someone had guessed at my secret. Confiding in her as girls do to their best friends, I was looking to her to soothe and comfort me, assuring me that I had done the right thing. Instead, I was completely surprised. She told me that by suppressing my passions, I was not living. This idea was so foreign to me. While shock still enveloped me, she proceeded to explain that our passions are given to us by God, to suppress those passions is to suppress the life God has intended for me.

Tonight we engaged in a family tradition. We sat together on the sofa and watched a movie. I enjoy it so much when all three of us squish together on the sofa. My father’s hand planted on my knee and my mother’s arm and fingers entwined with my own. I am home.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

thank you for the memory

“I have stolen your most valuable possession!” lamented a friend to me today.

“I disagree.”

“What do you mean?”

“I disagree. I do not believe that time is my most valuable possession. Long ago, I decided that aside from the Holy Spirit, my memories are my most valuable possessions. So ... thank you for the memory.”

Last week I found myself coveting the memories made by my friends who had gone camping together. While I sat at home watching rented movies, they were off having an adventure. For instance they arrived at the campsite Friday night at 11 p.m. after the park had closed. They were locked out. They had to find a vacant hotel. I envied them the opportunity to think back on that moment and smile at the memory.

But now ... now, I have my own. My friend, who drove me to the airport to begin my journey this summer to Prague, took a wrong turn at the last moment which caused me to miss my flight.

What a great way to start off my adventure! No. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m in earnest. If no exciting, amusing things happen in life, what is there to remember? What would bring that random smile to one’s face? Oh sure, I would much rather be in the air on my way to Europe at the moment ... but I know that eventually I would make it there. So, I allowed myself to enjoy the moment, certain that it would provide many random smiles in the future.

Perhaps it is a bit Pollyanna-ish of me. You know ... the peppy young girl who played the “glad game” every time people were feeling down. “Let’s see ... what can we be glad about?” However, I make no apologies. I am so assured of God’s sovereignty that whatever happens in my life I am convinced has been predestined for a good purpose. That is why I can calmly ask the airline clerk when the next flight out of Savannah will be. Hey, who knows! Maybe the flight I missed was going to crash over the Atlantic and it was not yet my time to go. Or maybe my new flight IS meant to crash and it IS my time to go. While I would be okay with this, i’m afraid, should it actually happen, it would thrust my chauffeur friend into years of therapy.

Well, as the old song goes, “Que sera sera.”

Or as Paul instructs, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Amen and amen.

Monday, May 02, 2005

becoming Ruth

Have I been blind to God's vision? I can only assume this, since He has chosen to reveal it to me through other people. Perhaps because this new calling contradicts my very nature, I have been unable to see God's plan.

I am to become ... a "Ruth."

For the past year, I have been acting under God's command to be a pre-Isaac "Rebekah." To be a woman who lives one day at a time, doing God's purpose for that day, without concern for what the future holds. Now am I to switch role models? Am I to switch from a passive attitude to one of action? Can I?

Last week, my soul became burdened because of a certain phenomenon in today's Christian culture. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, wrote a two-part article titled "From Boy to Man--The Marks of Manhood." He sums up the situation by saying, "We now face the phenomenon of perpetual boyhood on the part of many males. Refusing to grow up, these young men function as boys well into their twenties--some even into their thirties and beyond. An extended male adolescence marks the lifestyles, expectations, and behavior of far too many young males, whose masculine identity is embraced awkwardly, if at all." According to Mohler, Biblical manhood is "a functional reality, demonstrated in a man's fulfillment of responsibility and leadership." His article ended with thirteen marks of Biblical manhood that would prepare young men for marriage, fatherhood, and church leadership.

You have all witnessed this phenomenon. You know it to be true. Does it bother you? Does it cause you to lose sleep? It did for me last week. Two questions kept probing my mind. First, have Christian young women somehow contributed to this phenomenon? And second, is there anything we can do to act as a catalyst to rectify the situation?

I asked my wise father for answers. He, himself, is struggling in his own church with men refusing to take on the responsibility of leadership. I emailed Dr. Mohler, hoping that he would have some insight. Nothing.

This past Monday evening, at my church's outreach program, I introduced my dilemma to my table of fellow-letter-writers. What are godly women to do to spur the "boys" in their lives toward manhood? An answer surfaced (suprisingly from one of the young men at the table). "Perhaps it is time that women 'pull a Ruth.'"

My mind floated back to the story of a young gentile widow living in a strage land with her mother-in-law. One of her deceased husband's relatives took an interest in her, cared for her needs, protected her, but it never occured to him to become her kinsman-redeemer (a close male relative who would take on the role of her husband). It was only until she approached him under the cover of darkness where he lay on the threshing floor, uncovered his feet, and pulled his cloak over her, and ASKED him to redeem her did he realize his destiny.

My mind balked at the prospect. Was it even godly what she had done? ... but wait a minute ... there is a whole book in the Bible devoted to her story. On one hand I yearn for today's Christian men to rise up to their potential and realize their desitiny as leaders on their own (Shouldn't it be inherent?!). And on that same hand, I cringe at the thought of pushing a man to do something that should be so obvious as his role. I fear the other hand, however. The hand of action. The hand of confrontation. The hand that Deborah, the judge of old Israel, used to push Barak into his leadership role in Israel's Army.

No, I couldn't do it.

The next morning I had completely tossed the "pulling a Ruth" idea aside. Imagine my surprise, though, when I read an email my mother had sent me that morning.

"Dear Christine,

Hi.  I hope that all is well!

I was doing some research on Ruth, which is our Bible study topic for four weeks, and I thought about this:

Ruth and Boaz knew each other.

They liked each other.

Ruth was interested in him.

He was friendly and nice to her, but nothing more.

She didn’t really know whether he was interested in her.

He didn’t know that she was interested in him.

He never made an attempt to have a deeper relationship.

Then . . .

Do you get where this is going?  It is not at all like the story of Rebecca.  Isaac and Rebecca is not the only model.


Of course, her email focused on the marriage aspect of the story. What mother doesn't eventually want an Obed (Ruth and Boaz's son)? I found the email amusing, ironic even, in light of the previous night's suggestion.

I decided to give her a call.

C: I don't know when the barley harvest is. What if I've missed it?

M: Pentecost is coming up. You could do it then.

C: Isn't that a little soon? When is Pentecost? Wait, let me look on my calendar. May 15. I think I'll wait till the next barley harvest comes along. So let's say, by some miracle of God, I meet Mr. Wonderful between now and May 15. What are you suggesting I do? I'm not going to sneak into his house, under the cover of darkness and lay down at the foot of his bed! You didn't raise me to be that kind of girl!

M: No, I suppose not. Maybe you should wait till the singles in your church plan a camping trip?

C: Ha, you know ... ironically, they are ... that weekend.

M: Well there you go, just wander over to his tent and unzip the bottom of his sleeping bag.

C: Ha ha ha ... Yeah, that will go over big. That's why we have chapereones!

Well, you can't blame her for trying to speed the courtship process along. I would be concerned if I were her, too. Is it natural to have a daughter who has never dated, or shown real interest in a particular potential mate?

This time I laughed off the suggestion of Ruth.

The following evening, however, I felt a heavy pit in my stomach. After teaching my 5th grade girls' missions class, Wednesday night, I slipped into the singles' Bible study. I peared over to the pastor's Bible to see what passage he was discussing ... and to my astonishment I read in the top left corner of the open page ...

... Ruth.

God had my attention.

I am now resigned to the fact that God has some plan for me in which I am to become a Ruth. I know that in my own power I could never accomplish such a thing. This is how I know that it is of God and not my own making.

Today's Sunday School lesson was about receiving visions from God. God forbid that I should be as the prophet's servant who could not see the armies of fires surrounding their enemies.

"Whatever I am destined to do, whether it's big or small, open my eyes to Your plan."