Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Moment at Bible Study

So many of you have said you enjoy reading my (Nate's) "Word of the Day" or "Phrase of the Day" that I post semi-daily on Facebook. Most of the time, this is just a new word that I learn and a way to have additional touches with the word. Part of this is because they say you have to have contact with a word at least 6 times before it comes into your vocabulary (the same is true in a native language as well), and I want to maximize the amount of contact I have with a new word or phrase.

But often times, there is a second reason that I post these words, and that is because there is a great story attached to them. Sometimes I am the star of that story, bravely carrying my new word into unexplored territory. More often, I am simply the "Dick Van Dyke" of the story, tripping over the same ottoman again and again.

Yesterday was one of those days. We were talking in small group about someone writing a card, and then someone else, in response to saying what would be in the card, said, "oh yeah, then you know schleim schleim" (it sounds like slime but with an "sh" on the front). Bethany and I both looked at each other and gave a collective "what?"

"sich einschleimen" is a verb that means to kiss up to someone or suck up. It has the same negative connotation that our phrases do in English. So in the context of the conversation, they meant "yeah and then you just fill in the card with things that butter them up."

First of all, can I tell you how much I love this word?! It is onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they are) at it's best! "Der Schleim" is actually slime or phlegm (another great word). This is just a fun word to say.

Second of all, it illustrates a point that I think is important. A while ago, I was using a language tool we have that is a series of question cards for starting a conversation. The question was: "If you could learn any language over night, what would it be?" The challenge with that question is that language learning is tied to relationships and memories. I can't disconnect my knowledge of the word "einschleimen" with the memory of last night, and I would say my language learning is richer because of those memories.

We will continue to have "wait what?!" moments for a long time, but this one was far more fun than embarrassing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nate's Second Sermon

He's at it again! Nate preached his second sermon in German this past Sunday! This time, he co-preached with a university student from our church, so Johannes spoke for the first 20 minutes and Nate closed out the sermon for the second 20 minutes.

Having his first sermon out of the way already, the second time around was a a little bit less pressure. Plus, there was less content to prepare and only half the time to speak. However, co-preaching also meant meeting with Johannes and coordinating how their messages would fit together and provide a well-rounded picture of the 2 Corinthians text. Johannes hadn't preached before, so Nate also spent some time helping him prepare and giving him feedback and tips on how to preach effectively. It was a unique challenge, but one that brought another opportunity for growth for Nate.

I was thankful to have heard most of his sermon, because Ellie was quiet enough to sit at the back of the sanctuary with me for awhile. (Sometimes her joyful shrieking relegates me to the "baby room".)  Nate's message was about discerning the will of God and his three main points were:
  • God is faithful
  • God gives us the holy spirit
  • God gives us community

Here are some more photos of Nate in action!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Meat Counter

We are coming up on the 2-year anniversary of being in Austria. In some ways, that seems and sounds like a long time; we feel very at home here and have learned so much in terms of the language and culture. We have found friends and a community of both German and English speakers. We are in the midst of serving and done with our official language study phase. Our life in the States before this feels like a long way away.

And yet, we are still babies, learning how to crawl. As I watch Ellie figure out her body and how to move around, I see a lot of similarities with our journey. Each opportunity to learn how to live and serve here builds on the previous one, much like a baby strengthens her muscles and learns how to put movements together. Before we know it, we will be full-out walking!

Sometimes, it feels like I am walking already...but then I have an experience that reminds me that I'm still learning and I'm still reaching new milestones. This week's success: the meat counter.

When we first moved here, everyone would tell us hilarious and embarrassing stories about trying to order meat at the supermarket. Not only are you attempting to use your new language skills to order food, but you are also figuring out how much to order in kilograms instead of pounds. This makes for some entertaining accidental mix-ups. (Similar to the time I tried to order 100 Kilos of dried cranberries at the market. That's 200 pounds, people.)

In an attempt to avoid making some of these same mistakes, I have been avoiding the meat counter. Today's supermarkets have plenty of pre-packaged meat options, so it hasn't been difficult for me to just look at a package and decide if it's the right kind and amount of meat that I need. But this week, I took a sample of a new lunch meat at the counter and really wanted to order some. Thankfully, the man asked me how many slices I wanted. Now, slices are something I understand! I ordered 15 slices and felt accomplished. That gave me the confidence 2 days later to order ground beef from the counter. I wasn't sure how much I needed, so I asked her, "Can I see how much 250 g is?" And that was a good way for me to judge if the amount was right for my chili recipe.

Even after two years, I am still experiencing small little victories like this. They remind me how far we've come but also how far we still have to go. We are always learning and with God's grace, we hope to keep a learner's attitude the whole way through.

[Side Note: sorry for the slow down in our blog posting lately! Life has been chugging along and keeping us busy. We will try to post more often in the weeks to come!]

Photo credit: Seemann from

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More Than a Bucket of Ice Water on the Head

If you aren't on facebook, instagram, or just don't care about social media, you may have not heard yet about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has gone viral and continues to raise more and more money for research into this disease. As of yesterday, that number is in the $70 million territory, which is a huge amount of money. The rules get a bit fuzzy at times (as anything viral is prone to), but basically, you dump a bucket of ice water on your head, and then challenge friends or family to do the same, or donate money, or both.

There are compilations on YouTube of celebrities taking the challenge and people failing at it in almost every way imaginable. Some people, including President Obama, were unwilling to take on the challenge due to to amount of water it uses or because of fear the money will be used for stem cell research. Much internet ink has been spilled over this idea, with many claiming this is just group-think or fad activism at it's worst.

One thing that has struck me about this whole thing is how many young people have gotten involved. A survey of teenagers before this summer would probably have produced dismal results regarding ALS, but now, there is awareness. Greater than this, I hope that everyone involved discovers something new. I hope they discover generosity.

Giving is an essential part of the Christian life. A "God perspective" of possessions and money is essential to our understanding of the world. In Matthew 6, Jesus says "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We recognize that there are certain external things in life that display inward realities. When a 12-year-old spends every last bit of their money on candy swizzles, they are showing what is most important to them, namely candy swizzles. Likewise, when a 40-year-old spends every last bit of their disposable income on a two-wheel device that lets them drive down the street very quickly, they also display what is important to them.

The great thing about generosity, though, is it is a spiritual disciple just like prayer or study. It is something we can get a taste for and the amazing thing about it is, it is fun! Not in a "look at how much better I am than all these other people" sort of way, but an actual "look at what God can do with my little bit" sort of way.

The reality is that pouring water on your head is kinda fun, especially when it means you get to tell your friends to do the same thing, but that is not what it is about. I hope that at least a few people out there give money away and get a small taste of generosity. And through that small taste, they look around for other ways to get involved, to reject a consumerist "me" mentality and find ways to give. I know that everyone that participates will not experience this, but I think there will be a few. And for those few, this could be a first step.