Saturday, December 31, 2011


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 is difficult to know how to describe it to you...
Partly because it is so VERY 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 moved
  3. SING A remember all He has done for you
  4. What "Label" is keeping you from God's best?
  5. PICK UP A 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:

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