Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Back: Our Top Blog Posts of 2011

It's just about time to ring in the new year! And what better way to do so than to look back on our year of blogging.

As you flip through the cable channels in late December, it's easy to spend most of the day watching "Top ___ of 2011" specials. Who wouldn't want to laugh through the top 100 sports bloopers of the year or revel at the funniest commercial of 2011?

Well, we'd like to follow suit. So here are our top blog posts from 2011:

8. Video Blog: 2011 Christmas Update
7. A Ministry Opportunity - Aspern Seestadt
6. Why Do Americans Act Like That?
5. Fund-raising as Ministry
4. Video Blog:  Austria Bound
3. Video Blog: Wrapping Up 2 weeks in Austria
2. Thoughtful, Funny and Surprisingly Christian
1. What Color is Your Underwear?

No surprises with the number one... we knew the provocative title would pull people in!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Invitation to Breath

I just read Marshall Shelley's most recent Leadership Journal newsletter.  He was reflecting on the week between Christmas and New Years as a chance to slow down and catch a breath.  When I was working I looked forward to this week as a time when no one else would be in the office.  I was one of the few hold outs that had used all my vacation days through out the year, and I was using that uninterrupted time to sort files or take care of those things that sank at the bottom of my "To Do" list.

Life can feel like a train we got on years ago, one that has gathered momentum with every small decision. And when we reach for the break leaver, it comes apart in our hands. With the life changing steps we have taken, we have the chance to re-imagine things like this.  I get to ask the question, "How do I want to spend this week between Christmas and New Years?" I don't think I expected that preparing to serve Christ is Austria would push life so off the rails that I'd have this much of a chance to rethink how I invest my time. I am thankful for the opportunity.

What do you want for this week of quiet time?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Bells On Christmas Day

For me (Nate) Christmas can be some what of a mixed bag. I really love an opportunity to remind myself of the incarnation. I love to remember this beautiful, impossible, redemptive act of the God who pursues us. I also love wonderful times with family and friends to celebrate and enjoy each others company. It is always a special time of year, one that will be especially hard when we are over seas.

But as my wife will confirm, I am not an intensely sentimental person. I am not usually one to get caught up in that part of any holiday. The consumerism built into the American celebration of Christmas and the ways that plays at my heart also can make this time of year challenging.

This Christmas I have meditated on a carol by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Besides being an amazing piece of poetry, it is a moving exploration of how it often seems as though God is far off.

Here is Johnny Cash singing the song.

to read the full text of the poem hit the read more link (I really encourage it, there are some great extra stanzas in the poem that the song omits).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Last Christmas?

Photo credit: paulabflat from

I recently received a Christmas e-card from our team leaders in Austria. When we arrive in Vienna, they will be our mentors and guides as we adjust, learn the language and begin ministry. In the card, they wrote a short note that struck me: they encouraged us to enjoy our last Christmas in the States.

I hadn't really thought much about it until it was put into words...that this hopefully and probably will be our last Christmas in the U.S. for awhile. With that realization comes a lot of mixed emotions. Hope and excitement that in less than one year, we will begin the journey for which God has been preparing us. Sadness that the next holiday season may the first of many spent away from our families. Anticipation of new cultural experiences, new traditions and new relationships.

But with all of this also comes the realization that we might still be here next Christmas. God's timeline is not always the same as ours and He could keep us here for longer. That would be difficult...but we need to rest in the fact that God's timing is always perfect. If His timeline is longer than what we are hoping for to get to Austria, He will surely use it for good and for His glory, to continue teaching and molding us.

When Christ came into the world, it was at exactly the right time. Romans 5:6, 8 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly....But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This verse is a good reminder of God's providence and sovereignty. Just as Christ came at the right time, so our future and our journey is in God's hands and will happens when He wants it to.

This may or may not be our last Christmas in the States for awhile. But I know that we will arrive in Austria at just the right time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas time is here...

Photo credit: click from

This Christmas, we sent out our first printed newsletter! It was a good learning experience for us, working with WorldVenture to get over 300 newsletters in the mail. But it was a fun project and a new way for us to get the word out about what God is doing in Austria and in our lives!

If you don't receive a newsletter in your mailbox this week, but would like to in the future...let us know! Shoot us an email with your address and we'll update our records.

In the meantime, you can download this year's Christmas newsletter here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Video Blog: Christmas Update

This month, we've put together a brief video blog. Click the video below to get an update on our progress and learn ways to pray for us and for Austria.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A See-Through Church

Skye Jethani is a writer, speaker, friend and all around great guy, and he has an excellent blog that we would encourage you to check out.  One of his recent posts grabbed my attention.

Two Belgian architects have worked together to create an art installation that makes a bold statement. The photo to the right shows their work of art - a church constructed with stacked steel plates. When viewing the structure from some angles, it appears to be a solid building; however, move to one side and you can see right through the church, as if the walls are disappearing before your eyes.

Belgium, like Austria, is a secular, post-modern culture where God and church are seen by many to be empty, meaningless pursuits devoid of truth and value. Through this artistic portrayal, these Belgian architects are seeking to make a statement about churches in many European countries that are increasingly empty. But perhaps the statement goes beyond that, suggesting that the church is not only an empty building, but also an empty pursuit. If we read between the lines, what else can we see in this art installation?

Last year in Austria, 90,000 people officially revoked their membership from the Catholic church and the number of people walking away increases year over year. There is much darkness and need for the gospel. Please pray for us as we go to a country where, like Belgium, the church needs to be rebuilt, restored and revived in the hearts and minds of the people.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pastoral Answers About Giving

Photo credit: penywise from

Giving to the church and God's work around the world has always been a passion of mine. I was raised in a family who values giving and I was taught this from a young age. I also believe it's biblical. But now that we are on the receiving end of financial giving, it is a whole new adventure, one that is constantly challenging, humbling, and clothed in prayer to the One who is the Ultimate Giver!

I recently stumbled upon an excellent article written by Kevin Miller, priest at Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, IL. The church is in the midst of a giving campaign to raise funds for a new building (their first building, actually), and Kevin has been approached by church members and attenders with many questions about giving. In the blog article, He does an excellent job of addressing common questions about giving money to the church, questions that I think everyone asks or wonders about.
  • How do I decide how much to give?
  • I want to be stretched in giving, but I have lots of debt to pay off. What do I do?
  • What if I want to give more but my spouse wants to give less?
I would strongly encourage you to read the article, especially if you are thinking and praying about How God is leading you to donate your funds. Kevin's responses to these questions is biblical and thoughtful.

Here are some quotes that stood out to me from Kevin's thoughts on giving...

"[Giving is] not sparing but generous: 'Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously' (2 Corinthians 9:6)"

"You should be able to say of your gift: 'I chose this. I wanted this. I wasn’t manipulated or guilt-ed into it.'”

"I do not advise waiting until your debts are fully paid off before giving to God. You need to give for your spiritual health, for your connection to the church, and for your own dignity."

"It’s in this kind of decision where married people learn how to do what Paul said: 'submit to one another' and to 'bear with the failings of the weak.' What I’ve seen is that when couples bring this spirit to 'how much should we give?' they end up closer to each other."

How is God challenging you to be stretched, but also prudent in how you use your funds?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christ and Culture: Two Simple Questions

I just read a quote about missions that applies to all of us:
"If [Christians] are to have any influence at all, [we] will touch upon culture every time [we] speak and wherever [we] work. For better or worse...[we] are agents of cultural change in accordance with the commands of Christ (matt. 28:20). It is important, therefore, that [we] have a biblical view not only of Christ but also of culture.  [We] must recognize that every culture has elements of divine order and satanic rebellion; each has potential for the revelation of God's truth and for its concealment or mutilation." - David Hessselgrave
For better or worse, we are all ambassadors for Christ. There is a tremendous need for the people of God to understand and engage with the culture that surrounds them.  This doesn't mean that we seek to blend in; we are not cleverly disguised.  

The question of cultural engagement is a challenging one, and not something I hope to tackle in this post, but the reality is that every action we take is in a cultural context.  

The questions become: 

Are you aware of what you are communicating? 

Are you communicating what you want to be communicating?

These aren't questions to answer easily, and they must be answered prayerfully and in community.

Photo credit: grietgriet from