Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holidays!

In the US the Autumn holiday season usually starts with Halloween, followed by the 11th of November which few people really know why (unless you are a Marine), then Thanksgiving & the mad dash to Christmas, & the abrupt halt on New Years Day.
The Polish holiday season is a bit different...
I have watched Halloween sneak into the culture over the last few years it is only because the English language has become more & more significant. Especially as the school children are require to have a fairly high level of master in the language before graduation.


The real holidays start with All Saints Day on November 1st. If you weren't raised in a Mainline Denomination you might not be aware of this holiday at all. But in Poland....
Culturally, I think in the "hearts" of Poles, that All Saints Day is equivalent to Thanksgiving for Americans.  So what is All Saints Day all about? Well...of course there is the official church or religious answer. But I think that if you go to one of the following sites you will get a better answer then I can give you:
But for my purposes I would prefer to look at the cultural impact it has on the lives & hearts of the average person in Poland. Like any holiday there are things we do because that is just what is done or those are the practices that have been handed down for generations & you just to think about it, let alone question them. When most Americans are selecting their pumpkins at the local patch or trying to find their way out of the adjacent corn maze...Poles are doing something completely different.  They are spending time at their family grave sites: cleaning, restoring, adorning, reflecting & honoring. While most Americans are thinking about "FUN" the average Pole is grieving.
For me as an observer...it is difficult to know how to describe it to you...
Partly because it is so VERY different...to begin with the cemeteries are filled...and I mean filled with huge family tombs. Especially on the west coast of the US those types of markers are rare. Then there are the candles....lots & lots of large candles in large glass cylinders of various colors, shapes, & decorations. And of course chysanthems of all different colors, & sizes. It is so amazing...there are so many candles that the cemeteries are aglow & they create their own fog. As you walk between the graves the smell of the molten wax sweeps over you. Then you catch a glimpse of a family gathered around a tombstone...who knows for sure what they are doing, saying or thinking. But I would like to think that they are honoring "That great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us. I pray that they would "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And (let us) run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus".

The second holiday is November 11th...
In Poland, it is Independence Day. It is the day that Poland was freed from the Germany occupation during WWI.  It also marked the beginning of a time of renaissance in Poland. The time between WWI & WWII Polish art, music, politics, etc flourished.  They were truly free...their lives & culture reflected that freedom.



 
For me...Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are many reasons but mostly because it is a pure expression of gratitude to God for who he is & the many blessings I have received in my life. So, every year I have a Thanksgiving celebration in Poland. It's never on Thanksgiving Day. Sometimes it is difficult to find a turkey, & I have to have canned pumpkin shipped from the US. But it has become a tradition. Those who have participated in the past look forward to it every year. Yet, for me it is a time to share about God's faithfulness with those you may not realize just how VERY GOOD GOD is.
This was the 2nd year that I had it at a B&B.
There were some 35 guests who represented 4 different countries, the city (Krakow), the town (Nowy Targ) & the village (Maniowy & surroundings). For 85% of the people this was their 1st Thanksgiving & the 1st time they had every heard about the roots of this amazing holiday. We even had little ones in our midst who made paper plate turkeys while the adults played board games. A good time was had by all...and all was to the glory of Him who has blessed abundantly.

Yup, they have Christmas! And St. Nicholas Day...And a Christmas Angel. But I think that I'll save those descriptions for another year...

Women of Hope & Living Beyond the Frame

Cheryl teaching & Natalia translating
October seems like a lifetime ago...well, I guess it is as tomorrow we will ring in the New Year. But I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the amazing 2 weeks we had with my special friend Cheryl Harris.This was Cheryl's second visit in as many years. And though the main purpose for her visit both times has been to be the main speaker at our Women's Retreat (this year Women of Hope), everyone who exercised their opportunity to hear her were greatly blessed.
The Women's retreat had more than 20 women who attended. They came from as far away as Denmark & Germany, some came for the day (Saturday) and others took up the challenge to drive from Warsaw (8 hours) for the weekend, some took the risk to come from the village to attend their 1st ever "non-Catholic" church event.
Cheryl brought an amazing message of HOPE to these women. They learned how God in His great mercy prepares us through the "plagues" of life, for unbelievable tasks that bring God glory. That our "lame excuses" of lack of: identity, authority, knowledge of God, & ability, are all opportunities for God to meet us in His presence with keys that unlock His kingdom in our lives & the lives of others.
I think something that is engraved in every one's mind is....

The Cure for whatever is stopping you, whatever you are afraid of, whatever is worrying you or preventing you from doing what God has planned for your life is...THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

Finally...we learned:
  1. ALWAYS REMEMBER....God is with you
  2. NEVER FORGET.....that if you don't sense His presence...you moved
  3. SING A SONG...to remember all He has done for you
  4. What "Label" is keeping you from God's best?
  5. PICK UP A ROCK....do something tangible to help you remember God's faithfulness
Pastor Jerzy & Cheryl
Cheryl's visit was a blessing to me personally as ....WE LAUGHED....A LOT!
We hung out at the new hot spring spa & just talked.
Then we hit the road....
The women from Warsaw were so excited about what they learned that the retreat that we were invited to their church. Cheryl taught 2 intensive evenings. Even so, we managed to sneak in a trip to the hair salon, where 2 of the gals from the church blessed us with new dos & a quick tour of the Old Town with the pastors.
"World Changers"
Then back on the road to Maniowy...a village near Nowy Targ where Cheryl was able to help some young women begin to explored their giftedness, so that they will be better able to work together to serve their community.
Sunday it was back to Krakow where Cheryl shared in the Church of God that I'm in relationship with. It was wonderful because a young woman who had attended the retreat..."took the bull by the horns" & faced her fear. She translated for the 1st time :) I'm so proud of her.

I'm so grateful to the Lord for putting Cheryl in my life & the blessing of her teaching! If you EVER have the chance to hear Cheryl Harris teach you will be deeply blessed. Click this link for an overview of the message we heard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DId-ritaIbE

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pepsi's Guest!

I got ya!
Where are you?
I don't know if Pepsi has been particularly lonely or the cool weather has encouraged some little friends to come in. I'm not sure how they get in. Especially that I live on the second floor.  The only thing I can figure is that they climb up the side of the building & then down the chimney.  I have one vent for the fireplace heating that doesn't stay on. Have you guessed who the guest was, yet?
Mr. Mole

Sunday, October 09, 2011

International Kite Day Comes to the Village


Today is International Kite Day...A new piece of information for me.  But today we, as a church did something a bit unusual. We move church to the village...Kluszkowce, in the Czorstyn Lake area to be exact.
Rays of Hope
We decided to "BE" the church by supporting one of our emerging leaders as she & her time bring life & hope to their community. It was a great opportunity to begin bridging the gap to those who have been recently saved in the village. Those who have given their lives to Jesus have done so because they have seen the "hope" that is within Natalia & she has been able to give an answer for that hope.
Here are some pictures from the Kite Festival....
Oh by the way I won the adult category :)



The Fireman with is Monkey

A Clown's Trade










Adjustments must be made
The Kite Doctors
Natalia with her sister








Kite filled skies

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Anniversary Quiz

It is amazing the kind of perspective one gets after 25 years of ministry & 15 years of living among a particular people. I wish I could say it was all wisdom. I have put together a trivia quiz to share with you some of what I have learned & experienced.

Quiz
left to right - bottom to top:
(a) banana (b) coffee (c) mulling spices (d) peanut butter (e) lime (f) brown sugar (g) oreo (h) celery (i) reese's mini cups (j) M & M's (k) can pineapple (l) cassette tape (m) lemon (n) Irish cream coffee syrup

Which of the item(s) above were/are/was/is:

  1. purchased in Poland?
  2. used to "grease the wheels" when crossing the borders in the 1980's?
  3. included in AmPol care packages during communism?
  4. comfort food brought from USA?
  5. started a pie baking craze when 1st discovered?
  6. cost more than $3.50, today?
  7. the root form has been commonly used in Poland for years?
  8. controlled "substance" during communism?
  9. brought as gifts during communism?
  10. new within the last year in Poland?

The answers are:
  1.  a,b,d,e,f,g,h,j,k,l,m,n
  2. b
  3. a,e,k,m
  4. c,i
  5. e
  6. b,d,f,n
  7. h
  8. l
  9. a,b,j,l
  10. g
If you got ______ questions correct:
9 - 10 You are old enough to remember "when" & tell some "unbelieveable" stories
7 - 8    You have been around enough to understand that decisions & actions of a few politicians can    effect the lives of many for generations.
5 - 6    You've had pierogi at Russian restaurant.
3 - 4    You've been to Victoria & felt like you were in an exotic "European country"
1 - 2    You're an expert on the foreign foods found at Costco


    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Celebrations of New Beginnings!

    Niedzice Castle - symbol of the stubborn
    thinking & fear that blocks out God's love
    "Tree of Life" - Czorstyn castle ruins in the background
    Symbolizing new life is possible amist the ruins of life
    I've never considered myself to be a sprinter or much of an evangelist.  I'm more of a work horse...steady & sure...plowing the fields. I've never felt that I was particularly good at giving people the opportunity to accept Christ. I don't know if it is because of times, early in my walk with Jesus that people have "strongly" encouraged me to "evangelize" the lost...meaning people I didn't know & that I was poking my head into there world for a moment to make the close.  All that felt so artificial. Or because of times that I made a muck of it because I was doing out of my own strength & forgetting that the Holy Spirit draws people to God & I'm just the tool in his hand. So I focused my "service" on relationships thinking that that meant I was a discipler & I would leave the evangelizing to the "professional evangelists" or at the very least the ones who were gifted in it.

    The Hidden Fruit
    Today as I reflect on 25 years of ministry in Central/Eastern Europe and 15 years of full time ministry in Poland I have been challenged to re-think my views. I think that my logic only allowed me to hide the fears that keep from experiencing more of God & His blessings for both me & others.  Princess Diaries are one of my favorite movies & there is a line that constantly challenges me..."Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the knowledge that there is something greater than that fear". What is greater than introducing someone to their loving Father so that they can experience a new life...eternal life? Who made me god that I would decide who or who would hear the goodnews because it isn't my "thing"?

    Jesus forgive me for my selfish pride & living a life of fear...forgetting that you have called me to live
    a life of faith free from fear & full of your unfailing love.
    "And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him." 2 Cor 5:18 (NLT)

    That is all well & good but I'm still someone who is more relational & I hate "sales pitches" of any kind. How to reconcile this conflict? 
    A few years ago I read John 1:14 "again" in a new way & it all clicked for me. "So the Word became human & made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love & faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one & only Son." (NLT) It was then that I realized that Jesus (The Word of God) is now living in me ... I am the flesh he now lives in & I get to make my home among people for the purpose of revealing the Father's unfailing love & faithfulness.  This type of life allows the Holy Spirit to draw people to himself...and if I am only willing those who are being drawn will ask about this life of love, faithfulness, acceptance & hope.  I just need to be ready with the answer Jesus has for them.  It is like scooping them up with a butterfly net if I'm faithful, open & obedient. 

    Yesterday, after 1 year of praying & believing Jesus that he had told me to believe for 5 people to be baptized, I had the honor & privilege to baptize 5 people (my whole church Drzewo Zycia - Tree of Life) & lead one of the guests to Jesus.
    In a place where anything that doesn't follow the hard line of the Catholic Church is a sect, these brave, courageous, & obedient individuals embraced their love for Jesus above all else.
    Rejoice with us & pray for the continued protection of these young believers as they swim against the tide of the society to be the individuals God has created them to be.