Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Shadow of What's To Come

I knew that getting a puppy would be hard work. But what has been a bit of a surprise to me is how similar caring for a puppy is to having a baby. Here are a few similarities we've noticed...
  • We get up at all hours of the night to clean up after the puppy when he goes to the bathroom (on his puppy potty) or take him outside
  • We are attempting to train the puppy to go to the bathroom outside. This involves taking him out constantly and wondering whether or not he understands what is happening. Potty training is a big part of our life
  • When Mozzy takes a nap, I wonder to myself, "hey, what can get done while he's sleeping?"
  • We bought him a bunch of cute toys, but all he really wants to play with are paper towel rolls and milk cartons
  • We plan our outings around the dog, since we can only be out for a certain amount of hours
  • He goes through regular waking, eating and sleeping cycles throughout the day. When he's awake, he often needs attention and to be entertained
  • When we take him for walks, we get stopped by many people oo-ing and ahhing about how cute he is
  • We speak to him in the same voice we use for most small children
  • He's absolutely adorable. But I suppose everyone thinks that of their own "children"
More than one person has commented on how having a puppy is good practice for us as we prepare for our baby girl to arrive in January. And yes, it's a bit like a warm up. But honestly, we know this stage is only a shadow of what's to come. We may be practicing now, but anyone with kids knows that you can't really know what it's like to have a baby until it happens to you. It is much more intense than anything we've experienced before. Mozzy is a wonderful part of our family, but we will love our child more deeply than we can now imagine. And we know that having a baby will be much more work and much less sleep.

This is perhaps a stretch, but thinking about this comparison led me to think about the difference between talking about eternity with God and actually experiencing it. During our physical life on earth, we catch glimpses of eternity - we experience God's grace and mercy, we reflect God's love in our actions towards others, and we read about eternity in scriptures. But we know that our experience here and the words we read are only a glimpse of the magnificence of what's to come. Our imagination cannot even fathom what God has planned for us. As it says in I Corinthians 13:12:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Our perspective of parenthood now is dim. But soon we will know fully. Our experience of eternity with God is dim, but soon we will know the blessing fully!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why are You Still in Language School?

Why are you still in language school?

 While most people don't ask us this question directly, I am sure it is floating around out there in the ether. Or maybe the question is something like: "if you can speak German right now, why do you need to go any further in the language learning process?"

The short answer is: we aren't there yet. The goal of our language journey is not just survival, but the ability to share on deeper heart levels. We canspeak German, but we have a lot still to learn.

Recently, we had an experience that illustrated this point. On Sunday, we were invited to have lunch with some friends from church. It was a really great time to speak German and connect with some people our age outside of the Sunday morning setting. We had a great meal and spoke only German the whole time. We laughed, told stories and had a great community experience. 

Towards the end of the meal something fascinating happened. Some long time friends of the people we were eating with stopped by. They heard us speaking German and the conversation continued as one big group. But the whole pace shifted gears. The conversation picked up the pace a little bit more and vocabulary got a bit more complex. No one slowed down for us - as they spoke, they sped up! For the most part, we were able to keep up, but I could feel a shift. I needed to concentrate more to keep pace, and I missed words or phrases along the way.

Neither the pace of the conversation at the beginning, nor the change that happened were intentional. And it wasn't wrong or bad. In fact, it was a really great conversation to be a part of. We love to be challenged in our skills and the relationships we are forming here. But it is interesting to experience the shift from a conversation that isn't requiring as much mental energy, to one that requires more focus to follow along. 

For me, this was a reminder of two big things

First of all, we have come a long way. It is amazing to me that we are able to have these conversations so soon after arriving here. The language learning journey is different for everyone and there can and will be road blocks for us in the future. I am a very verbal person and as I am able to express myself more and more in this new language, there is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that comes along with it. 

Secondly, I know that we still have so much to learn. We long for the day when we are "there", and we can begin the ministry we came here to do. But we still have a long way to go. It will be awhile before conversations with a group of native speaker don't move too fast for us. It would also be false to say that ministry begins when we are fluent in the language. That statement implies that the time we are investing now isn't "ministry time." But it is. One thing that was reinforced through support raising was that this entire process is ministry. It is not an end goal situation, but a journey of evolving ministry responsibilities. As we walk through this phase, we are reminded that God will continue to provide for our needs and open doors every step of the way.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Morning Puritans

I have really come to love the Puritan prayers in the book, the Valley of Vision. So often they express hopes and desires that I have in such thoughtful and constructive ways. They are balanced in a way that I think my prayer life and personal thought life rarely is. There is never too much "hell fire and brimstone", but there is an acute awareness of our own sinfulness, and the grace that is never far off. I'd like to share one of these prayers this morning.


O Thou That Hearest Prayer,
Teach me to pray.
I confess in religious exercises that the language of my lips and the feelings of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon my tongue a name never pronounced above without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes and of my fears, 
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.
Let him produce in me wise desires by which I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate* for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity.
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude**.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities, vexations of the spirit, and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour, image, presence, service.

* importunate means to obnoxiously ask
** solicitude here means concern

There are so many things to grab ahold of here, but I really love the prayer of confession at the beginning. I think coming out of a Sunday service experience, it is good and right for us to confess our unbelief and the contradictions that we live with internally. Confessing those to God and to each other is a valuable way to press in to God.

The other section that I really love is towards the end and it talks about our connection to God. The writer asks that he be poor, afflicted and despised with God's blessing, rather than admired and rich and thereby forgetting God. It is easy to get caught up in trying to please other people, or trying to gain their admiration. Our main goal and focus should be nearness and closeness to God. May we continue to seek that.