Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the Year

Rest and exercise has been my motto this week. Yesterday, I went to the swimming pool and sauna, which of course felt very good with these cold temperatures. This morning, I walked with a friend for two hours and a half through the snowy woods. It was a great walk, even though the sun is still reluctant to show its face.

The year 2010 is coming to an end, and only the Lord knows what 2011 has in store for us. I'm thankful that we don't need to worry about the future, as long as we hang on to our Father's hands. I found this devotional below in "Our High Calling". I like the implication that we are channels of God's love. We can definitely make a difference in this world if people can see Jesus in us. I pray that He may teach me more how to live for Him and bless others. And this is my wish for you as well!

Another year of life is now in the past. A new year is opening before us. What will be its record? What will we each inscribe upon its spotless pages? The manner in which we spend each passing day will decide this question....
Let us enter upon the new year with our hearts cleansed from the defilement of selfishness and pride. Let us put away every sinful indulgence, and seek to become faithful, diligent learners in the school of Christ. A new year opens its unsullied pages before us. What shall we write upon them? ...
Seek to begin this year with right purposes and pure motives, as beings who are accountable to God. Ever bear in mind that your acts are daily passing into history by the pen of the recording angel. You must meet them again when the Judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened.
If we connect with God, the source of peace, and light, and truth, His Spirit will flow through us as a channel, to refresh and bless all around us. This may be the last year of life to us. Shall we not enter upon it with thoughtful consideration? Shall not sincerity, respect, benevolence, mark our deportment toward all?
Let us withhold nothing from Him who gave His precious life for us.... Let us all consecrate to God the property He has entrusted to us. Above all, let us give Him ourselves, a freewill offering.
May the beginning of this year be a time that shall never be forgotten—a time when Christ shall come in among us, and say, “Peace be unto you.” John 20:19. Brethren and sisters, I wish you, one and all, a happy new year. (OHC, p. 7)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What a Winter!

I safely made it to southwestern Germany this past Thursday. It was snowing in Brussels when I left there, but passing the Rhine River at about half of the trip, the snow turned into rain. However, it started snowing again here - very heavily. What a picture!

It's always with mixed feelings when I spend this time of the year with my family, given the fact that I'm the only Adventist. But I just have to accept that there there are certain traditions in my family. I haven't been home for Christmas since 2006. In the past three years, I've always been somewhere in the US. The fact that it was on Sabbath didn't make it easier, but it was ok. We spent Friday evening at my aunt's house with all the Christmas songs and exchange of presents. Below are some pictured impressions of this celebration as well as of the winter scenery here. I'll write more later.

My younger brother Florian playing music with my cousin Antje

Antje and I
Backyard at my parent's house
We are overwhelmed with so much snow...
...but indeed it's a beautiful scenery!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Will Strengthen Thee

This is how my backyard is looking this morning. We are having more snow than ever this season, and there is more to come today.

I can't help feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. One of the reasons is our upcoming seminar with Amazing Facts. There are only 3 1/2 months left and still so many open questions. I had thought it would run smoothly now, but after our yesterday's meeting, I realized that it won't be that easy. What upholds me is the fact that there is still motivation and willingness in the team. The thing is that this event is being organized because I made the contact with the Hargreaves' family, so there is a lot of pressure on me now. But with God's help we can all work it out for sure.

At work it has been rather strenuous lately, especially the last week. Most of my colleagues took vacation as of tomorrow, since there are only 3 working days left until Christmas break. My head of unit will still be there until Wednesday, and we will have to help him a lot to get his boxes packed for the move.

I just hope everything will be fine with my trip to Germany this coming Thursday. I will be with my family for 10 days. I look forward to this change of scenery and to see my loved ones and church family.

Indeed, there are many unanswered questions, and I don't know yet how to handle everything (suffice to say that I could use your prayers). But the God who led the people of Israel through the wilderness is also the God who leads His people today. I really like His promise in Isaiah 41:10:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
He has everything under control indeed, and He cares for each one of us individually!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eventful Trip

Last weekend in the Black Forest was very blessed. It was good to be with the board members of the German ministry again (even though only for a few short days) and it was also nice to see some of their homes. The meeting was very fruitful. Amongst other topics, we talked about the organization of our camp meeting next August and also about a new name for our magazine. Not all questions have been resolved yet, but with a lot of faith and prayer, everything will work out. What I find remarkable about our team is the fact that we are all very different, yet we harmonize so well as a group. Only the Lord can do this, no doubt.

I was kind of apprehensive about my journey, as you always have to expect delays when travelling by train. The era of high speed trains has added to the problem. Yes, they are supposed to take you somewhere very fast - I think the highest speed is about 280 km/hour (about 175 miles), but especially when it's very cold (or very hot), they can't run up to their peak performance. Thus, I was having delays already on Friday, but finally I arrived only 1/2 hour later at my destination. On Monday morning, everything went pretty well until I arrived in Cologne. From there, I was supposed to transfer to the Thalys (the high-speed train to Brussels and Paris), but to my consternation, this train had been completely cancelled! I had a similar experience last year, when I had to sit for hours at the station in Cologne to wait for the next Thalys. However, this time they ushered us straight to a regional train which was going to Aachen, and for the last 150 km (90 miles), an ad-hoc bus service to Brussels was provided.

On that bus, I happened to sit next to an MEP (member of the European Parliament), a German lady representing the Green Party. I got into a very interesting conversation with her, mainly about EU politics. Being an MEP for already 11 years, she had a lot of insights. She was also aware about the new "Working Time Directive", which will soon be voted on in the Parliament. I had shared on this blog about the conference on the work-free Sunday which was held in March (the issue about working on Sunday is also part of this proposed Directive). I told her that I had seen it just went into consultation within the Commission (from there it will go to the Parliament and finally the Council to decide). This lady had some interesting background knowledge about the topic, and she also gave me her assessment concerning the work-free Sunday, saying that she didn't think that it would be enforceable on EU-level. I can't share anymore about it at this point though, as it hasn't been decided yet.

Anyway, I also got to talk to her about health a little bit, and I finally gave her a tract about the 8 laws of health. I also asked her for her card and she said I could contact her if I had any questions. In fact, I may do this at some point! I was very thankful about this encounter, and you may imagine that I gladly accepted my delayed arrival in Brussels!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Have You Checked Your Oil Lately?

Brussels has been snowed in these days. It's not so common in Belgium to get snow, and maybe that's why most people never clear the walkways in front of their houses. This has made it rather dangerous to get from my place to the metro station, but so far I have only almost slipped!

This coming weekend, I will be in the Black Forest to attend a board meeting of this German ministry I've been working with. I'll be taking the train tomorrow early in the morning and arrive there by 3 in the afternoon. We will be spending the Sabbath together, have our meeting on Sunday, and Monday morning I'll be traveling back. I look forward to this special weekend, I just hope everything is going to work out with the journey.

Below is a little article about an experience that I wanted to share with you. It's almost three years ago that I had to go through a rather precarious situation. I had just finished my Lifestyle Counselor course at Uchee Pines and was going to stay there as volunteer for a few more months. During the Christmas break, I decided to attend the GYC conference in Minneapolis and make some visits. I flew there from Atlanta, leaving my car at the airport. After the conference and a short visit with friends in Pennsylvania, I arrived back in Atlanta to drive up north. My plan was to stop at Wildwood for a couple of days and then finally visit friends in Tennessee before returning to Uchee. Well, what happened on this trip is related in this article. It has been published in a women's devotional, which is an initiative of the Women's Ministries department of the General Conference. They published my first devotional in 2006. After this, I thought this was the end of my inspiration, but there was still more to come. For this one, I have to give credit to my friend Mark Ehrlich from Virginia, as he really did a great job editing it. It still gives me cold chills when I recall this experience...

"It was on a cold December evening that I drove from Atlanta Airport north on Interstate 75. It had just turned dark when I realized that there was something wrong with the car. It made a rattling noise whenever I pushed the accelerator. Then I saw the "Check Gauge" warning appear on the panel. Since I was already late for my appointment, I chose to ignore the warning, not wanting to admit that I might have bigger problems ahead. Sure enough, as I drove on the noise became louder and louder. All of a sudden, the oil gauge plummeted to zero and my engine broke down.
     Now I had no choice other than to park on the shoulder. It didn't take me too long to realize that I could be in serious trouble, and immediately some disconcerting thoughts flooded my mind. Here I was, a woman, all by myself on this freeway in a foreign country. It was dark and I didn't even have a cell phone on me. I knew I had to do something so I started waving to the cars flying by at 70-plus miles (113 kilometers) per hour. Not too long after, a friendly couple, followed by a truck driver, stopped in response to my frantic gestures to check if I was OK and to inspect my car. It was determined that my car would have to stay, but by God's providence the truck driver was heading to Nashville, Tennessee, and my destination was on his way! So he gave me a ride and dropped me off exactly where I needed to go.
     I later found out that I had been driving a car that had not had any oil, thus ruining the engine. The oil gauge was broken and erroneously indicated that there was plenty of oil!
     This incident reminded me of the parable of the 10 virgins told by Jesus. Like the five foolish virgins, I failed to ensure I had enough oil; I believed I had enough. In the same way, Satan likes to deceive us into thinking that we are doing just fine and don't need to grow in our daily walk with Jesus. The five wise virgins knew the source of their supply and ensured they had enough oil. Through daily prayer and Bible study we also can be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord - through Him we can overcome sin. I don't want to play the foolish virgin again. What about you?"

("Love Out Loud", Review and Herald 2010)