The boat sways on high sea
I stand uncertainly on my legs
powerless against the powers
I stare at the shape in the fog
and a gentle voice in me calls:
Come! Trust me!
I inhale deeply
I want to dare the leap
and let go of the edge of the boat
I step on the water…
I forgive my brothers and sisters who wrong me
I pray for those, who hurt me
and I don’t lash out at them
I step on the water
and the water carries me
the water carries me
for a loooooong time!
I had painted the picture that meshes with the poem “Steps of Faith in the Storm” more than one year before that. Originally, for me it referred to the steps of faith that I take by trusting God and following his guidance.
I wrote the poem, when I discovered a new dimension of steps of faith – when I am unfairly treated and harassed, to not insist on my right, defend myself or strike back, but let go and trust that God is above it all and can turn things around for good.
That is what happened in the specific situation, during which I suffered a lot and felt helpless at the mercy of some higher powers. In the end, God turned the situation around and changed it into blessings.
Several years ago (2009?), I participated in a Facebook meme. I had fun reading the lists of “25 random things about me” from other friends, so I wrote my own list after being tagged by several.
Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
Here is a revised version of my “25 random things about me” in case you are interested:
1. I am dyslexic and had a hard time at school with German and English classes, but was top of the class in Math. I consider it God’s humor that he called me into a language related work. As a result, I went to England as an Au Pair (nanny) to improve my school English, and had to learned French for one year in France. In addition I learned Dutch during my time living in the Netherlands and Spanish during a short-term work in Mexico. Again for my work, I had to learn three African languages: Sango in CAR, Djenaama and Bambara in Mali. Along the way I learned a little bit here and there but I can’t claim to speak them, such as Turkish and Italian. During different training courses we practiced learning a language for a few weeks, including Amharic, Kurdish, Chinese, Lingala, Suaheli. In most cases, I remember just one word.
2. I can’t read a book or article without finding spelling mistakes.
3. I was not allowed to speak the local dialect as a child (my parents forbid it) so my pronunciation sounded rather “German” (instead of Austrian), to the point that some Austrians would not believe that I am Austrian, especially after 3 years at a Bible college in Germany. For Germans it was always clear that I am not German but Austrian. Talk about identity conflict.
4. I hate traveling but keep doing it a lot for the sake of God’s calling. I have lived in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Mexico, France, USA, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali. I have visited Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Zaire, Chad, Kenya, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Santa Domingo, Croatia, Greece, and maybe some more which I forgot. I even traveled three times to Eastern Europe as Bible smuggler before the fall of the Iron Curtain. For now I am done traveling that much, since it probably contributed to my burnout.
5. My original training was in plastic engineering, as part of a technical high school, but equivalent to a college degree. I would have needed to work in this domain for two years to officially obtain my engineers title, which I never did.
6. I am fascinated by other cultures and love to observe and analyze cultural differences and personal idiosyncrasies. I also love guessing where people come from and what language they might speak.
7. I am an organizer and love logic puzzles. My love for whodunits probably falls in the same category.
8. I first need a framework before any detail information makes sense to me. I guess that means that I am a global thinker.
9. I got my first camera at age 14 and loved photography ever since. I learned a lot about good composition through it. Or maybe I should say, I did it intuitively right which was very helpful also for painting.
10. I am from the tribe of “hunters and gatherers” – during my childhood this meant catching frogs, lizards, grasshoppers, and collecting stamps, coins, dried plants, books, song texts, poems, etc. – Now most of my collecting is digital: photos, music files, song texts, articles, etc). And I no longer put dead mice in my colleague’s in-baskets. 😉
11. I love all kinds of dancing and started teaching others to dance at age 16. I once opened a ball with the Lutheran Bishop of Austria, Oskar Sarkrausky – he was a very good dancer. During a recent furlough I won two tickets for the Concordia Ball, the ball of the Austrian Press club, in the Vienna Rathaus (city hall). It was a challenge to find all the things (dress, shoes, accessories) AND a dance partner within three days but it was great fun.
12. During school I learned playing recorder, during Bible college guitar, and during a recent furlough I started playing clarinet. I did not get very far with playing the pan flute.
13. During the same furlough I took singing classes and even reached the high B. During the next furlough I learned to more use my chest voice. Regrettably I am better in singing along than singing solo.
14. I love musicals and grew up listening to West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Anatevka (Fiddler on the Roof), Porgy and Bess which my father had on tapes – old-fashioned big tapes.
15. I have a large family because my mother had 7 siblings and my grandfather 12. One of my great-grandfathers was a wood turner. During his journeymanship he traveled all over Europe mostly on foot – Dresden, Vienna, Trieste, Lyon, Paris, London, and eventually got married in Paris with a wife sent to him from back home. Another line of my ancestors goes back to the Huguenots from France who fled to Czechoslovakia and later came to Austria.
16. I love watching (and photographing) sunsets and other sun atmospheres and clouds. They can calm my spirit in incredible ways. Watching birds from close by touches my heart deeply. And looking on water surfaces is very therapeutic.
17. I can be very curious. Which really helps with strange food – I have eaten porcupine, snake, bush rat, monkey, gazelle, elephant trunk, elephant guts, cat, giant frog (3kg! photo below for those who can’t believe it), caterpillars, termites, locusts. Elephant trunk is the finest meat and caterpillars with Koko leaves in peanut sauce was my favorite dish in CAR.
18. I won a bike with three gears at age 14 in a youth traffic quiz. I had it for many years until it was stolen in the Netherlands only a week or so before moving back to Austria.
19. For a relaxing vacation, I like to read a lot and swim, preferably in the ocean with lots of surf. A special bonus is when I also have a chance to do windsurfing which unfortunately does not happen very often.
20. I never stick to a recipe but like to change it. That’s called creativity.
21. I learned the hard way that maintaining relationships is more important than avoiding high telephone costs.
22. For a long time, I was “half-African” when it came to temperatures due to living in Africa for 20 years – I hated the cold, and everything below 26C/80F was cold for me, which did not mean that I liked it when it’s too hot, i.e. above 32C/90F. During the recent years in Austria, my body re-adapted to European temperatures. Luckily! Or I might be frozen stiff by now. 😉
23. I think that there are no black people, not even in Africa because even those called black are shades of brown. In my dreams, all people have the same skin color. I usually recognize a friend in my dreams not by their skin color but by their mannerisms.
24. I love worshiping God through songs and whenever possible like to express my worship through freestyle worship dance. Even though I had dreamed about it for many years, the final impetus for this type of worship came from a Fuller colleague and therapist, whose artist name was Picasso.
25. Last but not least – since the original meme I discovered that I am HSP (highly sensitive person, also called sensory processing sensitivity). It was really eyeopening and explains so much of what I knew about myself. I wrote a blog post about it which you can read here. (This replaces the random fact of painting, which is no longer any surprise.)
I would love to get to know my readers
If you have done a similar list, feel free to post the link below in the comment section.
If you have don’t, I’d ask that you post 1-3 random facts about yourself below in the comment section.
Talitha Cumi – Resurrected to New Life – Cold Wax Painting
Paralyzed with fear, a person is sitting in the cave. The path passes an abyss. The fear of falling into the abyss keeps her from reaching the summit and flourish. Does this sound familiar?
For everyone there is something else that paralyzes us and discourages us from reaching a goal: Fear of failure? Fear of ridicule? Fear of great responsibility? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of being excluded ? Fear of loneliness? Afraid of what others think of me?
God showed me this picture of my femininity huddled together, paralyze by fear, shriveled and half dead sitting in the dark cave. The abyss is called “false femininity” – women whose lives consists of pink ruffles and drinking tea from delicate china cups with outstretched little fingers. Out of fear of falling into these stereotypes, I did not dare to walk the path to flourishing as a woman.
Jesus called “Talitha cumi!” and resurrected me and my femininity to new life. I could only marvel at how many things automatically changed in the months following. They were an expression of my healing and the new life of femininity Jesus had called me to.
Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,”
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Mk 5:41
In this cake filled season, let me add some trivia inspired by a personal experience.
This story started more than three years ago, to be exact on my birthday (at the end of September). A German colleague brought a wonderful cake for coffee break – one that I can eat, namely without sugar and white flour. I thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point I noticed a little discussion among some colleagues, most of them American. The question was whether what we were eating should really be called ‘cake.’ I found this very amusing and decided to do a little research, which later helped me to explain what cognitive anthropology is about.
So what was the problem?
My birthday ‘cake’ was what we call in German ‘Kuchen.’ In school we learn that the English word for ‘Kuchen‘ is ‘cake.’ This is beyond controversy but what most English teachers and dictionaries don’t tell you, is what English speakers consider to be ‘cake’ and what not.
Just look at the two pictures above: On the top one a Banana bread (click on the photo and you will find a recipe), on the bottom one a Black forest cake. I have always wondered why ‘Banana bread’ is called bread, when in my understanding it is a cake. My birthday cake was fairly similar, which is why my German colleagues and me called it cake, while the American and British colleagues considered it to be ‘sweet bread.’ In contrast, the Black forest cake is for me as German speaker not a cake but a ‘Torte.’ Now it gets even more complicated because American English has no equivalent for this category. The Brits use at least a French loan word – gateau. The meaning of the French word is very close to the German word ‘Torte‘ but this does not mean that all people using either of these two words (German speakers, Brits, French) necessarily put the same things in this category.
This is probably more than enough information for most people.
However, for those who know some German or want to know more, the following charts might be interesting. They are based on my conversations with two colleagues – one American, one Brit. I asked them to categorize certain types of cake or bread that they knew, including several Austrian specialties. Below you can see what we discovered.
It was most amusing to realize how different you can categorize everyday items in three cultures that are not so far from each other and even have some common roots.
Germans might be puzzled by the heading ‘Mehlspeise’ which is a typical Austrian word, unknown to most Germans, except maybe in the south of Germany, and often misunderstood because it literally means ‘flour dish’ – which could be all kinds of things for Germans but is reserved for sweet ‘flour dishes’ in Austria. The other deviation from Standard German shows that there are even differences in cake categories between Germany and Austria: ‘Topfentorte‘ – note the word ‘Torte‘ in it – is called ‘Käsekuchen‘ (lit. cheese cake) in Germany. ‘Topfen‘ is the Austrian equivalent of ‘Quark‘ in Germany but in this case the end product has the word cheese in it. Who knows why? I did not research these differences.
Whatever you call the things you baked for Christmas, and no matter whether you celebrate Christmas on the 24th in the evening (German/Austrian tradition), or on the 25th in the morning (British/American tradition) – I wish you a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Isa Al-Masihu. His coming to earth is the greatest miracle and the reason for our eternal hope. Don’t let this get lost in all the other things connected to Christmas.
This is one of my favorite memories from my time in CAR (Central African Republic). I wrote it for Pictures, Poetry & Prose when the theme was “Sharing a meal”. I forgot to check back and discovered only now that my contribution had been chosen, and I received the “Exceptional Writing Reward.” My first blogging reward!
1994: Our team of sociolinguistic surveyors arrived in a remote village planning to do a group interview on language use. We were told that the men were all out in the field drinking palm wine. So we had to wait for the next day. In the late afternoon the other female team member and I got the crazy idea to cook a local dish – Gozo (manioc/cassava fufu). Our guide organized all the necessities – Manioc flour, stones for a stove, fire wood, sieve, cooking pot, large wooden spoon. We did not need to pound the flour, but we nearly forgot to sieve it. We had quite a few spectators – two white women cooking on an open fire? Most village women had never seen a white person before. Can white women cook? They did not think so. When the Fufu was nearly ready, we decided to open two tins of lentil soup to accompany it, instead of a local sauce that would have taken a lot more time. Suddenly we had the even crazier idea to ask the village chief (who was present and not drinking palm wine) to eat with us. In an African context a very normal thing and matter of politeness and hospitality – except when you are not even sure how your meal will turn out. To our own surprise he accepted. So our team, our guide and the village chief sat down together and ate as is normal there – from one big bowl with our hands. It tasted quite good but the lentil soup must have been unusual for the village chief.
The next day in the morning we were finally ready to start our group interview. The village chief gave a moving introduction speech concluding it with the words: “Formerly white people came and treated us like monkeys. Today another type of white people has come. They are white people with whom we can put our hands in the same bowl (which is an important sign of friendship).” We were all deeply touched.
Now I really need to make my promise true and share what are my “New Year’s resolutions” before January is half over. Even though I would normally not call them such. As I have mentioned in my last post about this topic:
I rarely decided these on New Year’s eve,
they are most often nothing new, but rather ongoing goals,
most of them are hard to messure, as they are more like guideposts for my spiritual journey.
As mentioned before many of them are like thread of an embroidery – sometimes one is on the surface and then another. I let God guide me on where to focus more. This means that they are never all in focus at the same time, and I might have forgotten some that have not been in focus for some time.
Anyway, I looked at a list of spiritual goals that I had written last September and updated it. At first, it looked rather random. Then I realized that the goals can be grouped in three areas – my relationship with God, with others and with myself. These three areas are no big surprise but rather obvious. Nevertheless, I like it. It makes things more clearly arranged.
The one most in focus in recent months is loving difficult people. The Lord keeps showing me situation after situation what his agape love means in different contexts. And how he wants me to love people I find difficult. For example, people who have hurt me, where I feel tempted to lash out, make them pay and feel the pain they have caused me. Or people who build walls around them, and I feel scared of their cold attitude. Or people whom I just find strange, where I have a hard time finding them loveable or understanding why they act the way they do. Again and again, the Lord reminds me that “there are many different flowers in his garden” and that “he is especially fond of each of them” (The Shack). At the same time, he helps me realize that most of the times I am not able to love this people in my own strength. This makes me more dependent on him, hoping that when I let him live through me, the impossible will happen.
There is one topic that is so old that I do not even remember when I started working on it. Come to think, probably it was in 2000 when I read “A hunger for healing” by J. Keith Miller. Through this I realized that I have a problem with controlling. Much has happened since then but I am still learning to “let go and let God”, trusting God to have things under controll and then relaxing even in difficult situations, this is still one of my goals.
Another theme has to do with what I learned from the Life Model. I want to live more “from the heart Jesus gave me,” discover more and more what it means. What it is that he has put into me as special gift and reflection of his own personality, that unfortunately got buried by all the hurts. The more I discover this, the more I can stop living and reacting from my hurts, but from my heart which he gave me. Another aspect of this is to “live well, not fix others.” This is somewhat related to my tendency to controll. I don’t know if this short phrase makes any sense to those who have not heard it before (please let me know. If it does not make sense, I will need to write another post about it.) One aspect of this is to synchronize with people (put myself in their place), which is something I learning to do more. The third aspect is not to use what the Sheperds’s House calls BEEPS – Behaviors, Events, Experiences, People, Substances that fool the attachment center of our brain. Or more simply put – comforting ourselves with any of these when things don’t work like we would like them to.
Closely related is the goal to “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31. Even though God healed me from COE a few years ago, this is still a weak spot.
And then there is the hodgpodge of other things. Some of them closely linked with living more out of God’s love and acceptance and therefore being more gracious towards others: be less judgmental, be less competitive, stop comparing myself with others, stop complaining and arguing (Phil 2:14), let go of my self-protection, be more vulnerable, etc.
Maybe now you no longer wonder, why I don’t feel like these are “New Year’s resolutions” – valid only for the next 12 months. It will take me longer than 12 months to reach these goals. 😉
Obviously, I could not keep all of them in focus at the same time. Thankfully, the Lord is in charge of bringing the different themes to the forefront at different times. He is the Lord of my life and in charge of my overall transformation. May it be all to his glory!
Every since Coffeegirl wrote about New Year’s resolutions I kept thinking about it. I commented on her blog:
“I am one of those who don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I am more likely to do resolutions some time during the year when prompted by the Lord. The same applies to “fresh starts” – they are more likely to happen and in my view are more genuine when it’s a God moment, some kind of work of God in my life, even if it is just a day of prayer and fasting. New Year’s eve never rarely seems to fit this definition as there are usually so many other things going on.”
Then I posted some comics about New Year’s resolutions and got some interesting comments. I really liked Ellie’s comment and thought, that’s what I am doing too. So why do I have such an aversion against New Year’s resolutions?
I came across a few blogs who also reflected on New Year’s resolutions. Obviously there are many different approaches to it, and the spectrum is huge. The following is the humorous definition according to Sandysays which I found through a comment on Dave W’s blog:
“New Years’ Resolutions are what we humans do to delude our conscience into believing we will make changes in our lives we have no intention of completing.” He hesitated, blinked his eyes, and got one of those ’I’d better come clean’ looks on his mug. “That’s overstating a little, Sandy. There are a few of us that really will follow through and keep them.”
This definition, some of the blogs I read and some of the comics that I had posted, made it obvious that this kind of resolution is just not my thing. On the other hand I am quite used to looking back and ahead, like Ellie said. This puzzled me over the last days.
To make a long story short, here is what I realized little by little:
I have done “quiet days” around New Year’s eve in the past, looking back and deciding on priorities for the months ahead, according to how I felt the Lord was leading me. I just don’t feel obliged to do those days every year.
More often than not this kind of days of listening to the Lord do not happen around the turn of the year.
Most of my goals are steps by faith, pointers in which direction I want to move. They are rarely things that I can achieve in this life for certain. Nothing as concise and practical as @ngie‘s goals. 😉
“Resolution” sounds awfully definite, like something I can decide and accomplish. Apart from my working goals there are very few things in my life, that I can plan for sure. Even my working goals are depending on so many variables that I often hesitate to state when they will be accomplished.
Is something a New Year’s resolution when I have aimed at it before? Many of my goals are ongoing, nothing completely new, more like variations of a theme.
I don’t like huge dramatic resolutions. They often result in a yo-yo effect similar to a crash diet. I am more aiming on small changes and a continued transformation through daily walking with the Lord.
I come from a family of perfectionists and was very strict with myself in the past, putting myself under a lot of pressure. Therefore I often felt like a failure when I did not accomplish my goals. Knowing myself that I tend to get easily perfectionist with goals or overdo it, I try to handle goals more flexible, accepting that circumstances can change.
It also feels wrong to constrict the Lord in how he will guide me during the year. Who can say what he will do tomorrow? (James 4:14) Even if the Lord puts something on my heart on New Year’s eve, I cannot be for sure that this has to be the goal for the next 12 months. In my experience the Lord brings up different themes at different times. They often seem like different threads that take their turns in coming to the surface in an embroidery. I think I am learning more and more to go with the flow of His guidance, listening to which thread comes up.
Well, I guess by now it is rather obvious that I have a very ambivalent relationship with New Year’s resolutions. Nevertheless, I do have something akin to them. Surprise, surprise. (To be continued in another post)
Over the last week I pondered what theme I should choose for the worship in our English speaking service this evening. Several songs that the Lord brought to my mind had a similar topic – God as our refuge in times of troubles. When I took another look at the song texts I was surprised to see that basically all of them
use words taken from the Psalms, and
include some kind of imagery, describing God as our shelter, a fortress, a refuge, a safe tower, a high rock, a hiding place, an armor, a shield, – and my favorite one – the shadow of his wings.
This reminded me of something I had heard from Leanne Payne – symbols are the language of our heart. They speak to us in a deep way that no heady teaching can.
No wonder that these songs usually speak to me. Praise the Lord for those Psalm writers who first crafted the words out of their own experience, and for the song writers who used them for these songs!
When I wrote the last entry, I was reminded of a quote that has become very important to me about 10 years ago. Since then I have often quoted it and reflected upon it.
“a significant question, that one of our pastoral advisers placed before us (…) will you concentrate on the pain of this broken world experience and resist it, OR will you permit the pain to become an environment in which God can clearly speak to you about matters he deems of ultimate importance? The choice is yours.
(…) It was not a one-timer choice. We made it again and again as time passed. (…) Would we fight the pain or permit it to be the environment in which God speaks? Usually, we chose the latter.”
(from “Rebuilding Your Broken World” by Gordon MacDonald)
In view of my last entry, I am wondering if this not a similar principle. Only when we face the pain, God can work on the deeper issues, things that we usually try to fight and medicate with addictive behavior, because we don’t like to face them.
Some of us more than others. In a talk with a colleague last week I realized how much I am struggling with my present insecurity, incertitude, lack of clarity about the future. I have a hard time not knowing what exactly will happen after July. Of course, there are considerations and plans beyond July, and at the moment nothing speaks against implementing them. But ever so often, when I want to take practical steps in preparation for these plans, I don’t have the inner freedom to do so. That really unsettles me. Why does God seem to slow me down? What is there that speaks against realizing these plans? I find this really difficult. During the talk with my colleague I realized how much I am tempted to create securities in other areas, by taking long-term decisions for which it is not the right time. My colleague suggested that maybe God wants to teach me to live in the present moment, and find my security in Him alone, not in clear plans for the future or fixed structures. Probably she is right. But it is not at all easy. To not have these human securities gives me almost physical pain.
The other morning I was reminded of a term I had heard recently – “redemptive suffering”. I don’t know where I had heard it, except that it was in the context of addictions. The basic idea is that when we can’t bear a tension / pain / feeling / problem our tendency is to numb it with a substitute, usually a sort of addiction.
Usually we suffer as a consequence from this addiction, e.g., overweight, health problems, hangover, debts, etc. If we refuse to numb our emotions by using these substitutes then we suffer, too. But only this second kind is “redemptive” because it allows God to work at the deeper issues in our lives.
Most likely this is exactly the tension I am experiencing at the moment. I can hardly stand the incertitude. Only when I am ready to endure it with God’s help, will I see God at work in my life and experience the results that God had intended.
So, please pray that I will not avoid this (hopefully redemptive) process.
Since waiting on the Lord is my present “job description” I found the following quote helpful and encouraging:
“While waiting upon God we should continue to gather good data, seek godly counsel, and even begin to take action. God often guides throughout the process as we seek His leadership. As we give God His rightful place in all things He has promised to share His private counsel with us. The Hebrew word sod found in Psalm 25:14 and Proverbs 3:32 can be translated “secret intimate counsel,” and it is for those who fear and seek the Lord.”
One quote that meant a lot to me during the last year:
“The powers of darkness fear the one most who is secure in the love of God.”
(Adela our speaker of last year’s Women’s Retreat)
How true! And how thankful am I for having grown in this area over the last years. I don’t want to even think how much worse the last year would have hit me, had I not had this security in the Lord. God is good! He knows what we can bear and when.
I heard another quote that points in a similar direction:
“Dwelling in the presence of God is spiritual warfare.”
but don’t remember where (possibly from a cassette of Joyce Meyer).