Monday, April 30, 2012

Made It to DC

As you may have heard, Bethany and I are travelling these next few weeks. We are visiting friends in family in the Washington DC, Virginia and Tennessee areas. We have all of our things packed into our car as we move from one place to another. We are aiming to finally land in Atlanta where we will be for a few days before a 6 week trip for training and to participate in a missions conference in Minnesota. 

We have decided that Cheese Nips will be our mascot for this leg of the journey. I (Nate) have a thing for cheese, cheesy flavored crackers and some times cheesy jokes so this seems to fit us well! We are so grateful to everyone that is housing/feeding us and to those we get to spend time with on this journey. It is a blessing to spend time with everyone and to tell them how God is preparing us to minister in Austria!

We'll try to keep everyone posted as we continue on this grand adventure.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Religion versus a Relationship

I saw a post over on the Out of Ur blog entitled 12 Months, 12 Religions. They pointed towards a story about Andrew Bowen, who practiced 12 religions in 12 months. The project came out of a crisis of faith that led to a desire to explore these different faiths. Here is a link to the original post about the project. 'Url Scaramanga' nailed the consumerism angle of picking and choosing the different faith traditions that you participate in, as well as the reflection of how many young people view religion.

While Bowen was going about his journey through 12 religions, he also sought spiritual mentors from each faith as he studied it. I was amazed at some of the reactions I read from the different mentors. For example, the wiccan mentor said that he was one of her best students. I can't help but be impressed at the drive that Bowen displayed to explore and learn. It is a kick in the pants to remember that I need to steward my time to make sure I am walking with God.

There is also deeper point that jumped out at me through this whole thing. It is a basic question that I couldn't help but see float to the surface.... "what is religion?" Is religion merely something you practice? Is it a shirt you can try on? Is "religion" somehow different than faith?

The answer to the last question helps set the stage for the rest of them. Religion and faith are different.  Religion is a set of practices that one takes on in an effort to please, show devotion to or approach God. Faith, on the other hand, is complete and utter trust in a person. In Christianity, that faith rests completely on Jesus Christ. Our faith in His story: His coming to earth to fulfill prophecy, living the perfect life we could not, and dying the death that we should have, only to rise from the dead and defeat sin and death; this is what grounds and centers any religious pursuits we may have.

The problem is that people put the cart before the horse. They think that it is about simply following a religious system, showing up at a specific place and time, reciting words and then going home. However, apart from the transforming work of Christ in our life, all of those recitations are meaningless.

We should learn much from those who practice other faiths, but we must never forget that our faith is not grounded in traditions or sacraments. Our faith flows out of a relationship with the creator of the universe.

Be sure to check out both articles to read more. The last quote from Bowen is worth the click over there and Out of Ur always has a fun comment section. Leave your thoughts below!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here There and Everywhere

Bethany and I are embarking on a new phase of our journey. We began by leaving the relative safety of an apartment and full time work, and now God has another step for us. We are going to be even more nomadic as we travel down the east coast and then back and forth.

I have been thinking about what this means to go on a journey and I thought that these images would communicate this idea very well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Celebrating 3 Years

Time flies when you're having fun! And that has certainly been true for us since we tied the knot 3 years ago today. Marriage has been a fun and wonderful adventure for us, and we've learned so much about ourselves and each other since April 18, 2009. Our marriage has been full of a LOT of change, as most of you know...but it has only brought us closer and taught us how to do life together, no matter the circumstances.

Here are some photos from our special day 3 years ago...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Baking for Ministry

Last night, Bethany and I spent a chunk of time baking. We were preparing to spend some time with folks from Encounter Church in Darien, CT and to give them an authentic Austrian experience, we made a chocolate torte and an apple strudel. We have gotten to know everyone down at that church over the last few months, and we are excited to have this time together to talk about what God is doing in Austria and how He is preparing us to minister there.

Here is a quick photo diary of our baking adventure!

pealed and waiting to be chopped
Apples and raisins getting the sugar and lemon juice treatment

One last brush of melted butter
(there is a lot of melted butter in this thing)
Baking in the oven
Finally dusted with powder sugar and looking crispy and flaky

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Prayer Suitcase

The class with Bethany and me. And of course, they have
their prayer suitcases packed and ready to go.
On Sunday, Bethany and I taught the children's church at Covenant Church of Easton, which is the church that she grew up in. It was fun to remind the kids that we were once exactly in their shoes and that God has exciting things for their lives. We had a great time with these kids.

When we asked the boys and girls if they knew what language the people in Austria spoke, one little boy's hand shot up. He said he knew what language they spoke and that it was German. We were pretty impressed at this little guy! Some adults aren't 100% sure about the answer to that question. He also said that he knew how to speak German, which was equally impressive and would right now put him ahead of us! So we proceeded to ask him in front of the class how you say 'Good morning' in German...and his reply made all of the adults in the room crack up laughing. To say 'good morning' in German, he merely said, 'Good morning' in English but with a German/Swedish-Chef accent. It was a pretty spectacular moment.

At the end of our time with the kids, Bethany did a craft project that was really great. We knew that the children wouldn't be able to come visit us anytime soon to see the ministry that God is doing in Austria. So because they couldn't pack their real suitcases, Bethany had them pack a prayer suitcase instead for the times when they would pray for us. They put in it everything that they would need to pray for us: an Austrian flag, our picture cut out from our prayer card, a few prayer requests written out to remember, our theme verse, and then any decorations that the kids wanted to add.  Some added a flag pole for the flag or drawings of mountains.

The more I thought about this, the more I was intrigued by this concept. Somehow we think that spending time in prayer and how to prepare for prayer, because it is a spiritual activity, is totally different than other activities and requires few tools or time or preparation. But are we wrong in our thinking?

If I want to go rock climbing, I have a mental list of things I need to pack: my shoes, my harness, rope, and other pieces of gear. Nothing is worse than getting to a climb and realizing I forgot something that will make the day either miserable or unsafe. Have you ever tried to spend an entire day outside without a water bottle? You get thirsty pretty quick.

So when it comes to prayer, I am beginning to think about what I would need to pack to spend more time in prayer. Like many other parts of my life, planning and preparation are a growth area for me. Like any relationship, this is something that both grows organically and requires you to be intentional. 

So here is the question: 
What do you put in your prayer suitcase?
How do you organize and prepare for your times of prayer?