My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Friday, December 24, 2004

Learning from Mary

As a protestant my view of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is kind of difficult to pin down. Mary is special because after all God chose her to be the mother of his son. I mean that's pretty cool! She must have been a special person with a strong faith. But the adoration of Mary in the catholic church in most of its forms and some related doctrines makes me feel uneasy. Really often I get the impression that Mary's position is in the center and Jesus is turned into either a side figure or someone unapproachable. And at least in my view that is not what the bible teaches us. No-one should be more important than Jesus. But anyway, that's not the point of my blog.
But I think we can learn something from Mary - or at least I did. Two days ago I started reading the gospel of Luke (fitting in Christmas season, I thought) which starts with the angel Gabriel visiting Mary and telling her that she will be pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the son of God. Just imagine that young girl, a virgin, betrothed to a carpenter from her town and what getting pregnant in that position would mean for her! Pregnant and unmarried at that time definately wasn't fun - and Joseph might even decline to marry her then. And how does Mary react? She doesn't argue with God (like other heroes of faith in the bible) or the angel, doesn't list all the hard consequences and then politely tell God that she's sorry but really couldn't He find someone else or anything like that. No, Mary says: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1, 38)
That verse really struck me. Who of us can take God's will like that, who tries? I'm sure Mary knew the consequences and I'm sure she was worried or at least had a lot of conflicting emotions. But she trusts in the Lord so much, that she immediately is willing to follow the way he has chosen for her. Her words reveal trust in God's ways and plans. Trust in that his will is the best for his children. And it reminds us of our position. God is God, He is our Lord. We are his friends, but also his servants. When he calls us, we should follow.
When I feel like God shows me part of his plan for me, what he wants me to do with his life, I normally do not react like Mary. I start questioning if it's really from God. And I worry - about how it will come to pass, what will other people say, how about money. And find lots of other seemingly "good" or "relevant" reasons that distract me from God's calling and show how small my trust still is. That makes me sad. And afraid of missing God's plan for me, just because I am too afraid and not trusting my Heavenly Father enough. I wish I had Mary's attitude and Mary's trust. Humbly following God whereever he leads me, knowing that He knows best and will bring it to pass and help me through.
And there is a promise for those who have Mary's attitude or I guess at least a little bit of it: "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1, 45)
Elizabeth said that to Mary. That was the second verse that spoke to me. No matter how much we worry or how hard or difficult it sometimes seems to follow God in what He has shown us - blessings await us if we believe him (and then act on that belief).
For the new year I really hope that God will help me and us to believe Him when He speaks and to make the choices He might ask.

Monday, December 20, 2004


It's feeling like winter here at last! Today it is really cold. But I enjoy the cold, it makes me feel all alive and active. Markus took this pictures last weekend when we visited my parents in Seelscheid. Everything was covered with frost, it was so beautiful. We decided to go on a walk where we saw this frosted flower and scared a deer in the woods :).
This weekend we visited Markus' parents in Paderborn and finally had some real snow! We went for a walk yesterday in newly fallen snow, it was gorgeous! I wish I could feel as peaceful during the whole Christmas season ... I still need to do some Christmas shopping and the city's like crazy!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My favorite house

Posted by: coffeegirl
My favorite house
This is my favorite house in St. Cloud, MI. Everytime Jess and I drove into town I looked out the car window at exactly this place. So of course, I had to get a picture!
I love wooden houses. I guess that's my Norwegian influence due to growing up in Oslo. I just think they look great and they give you a cosy homelike feeling. They make me think of pumpkins on the doorsteps (that's a US influence, just check the pic), candles, cosy rooms, good food with lots of laughter and all the people I love. And they are part of all my childhood memories from Norway, stories of Astid Lindgren (one of my favorite writers) and belong into snowfilled Christmas landscapes...
I'm still dreaming of a white Christmas here...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Speaking of worship

Last sunday the Oasis Christmas special took place at our church. Oasis is a youth worship service led by our new youth worship bands. We actually have two! One by middle school aged youth and one made up by high school students (called Springs of Life). It's great to see how the youth are growing and coming closer to Christ and especially leading us - and it's tons of fun!
And I was the speaker that night ... When Dave asked me to speak I was delighted - and suddenly nervous :). But I especially loved the topic I was supposed to speak about: worship!

But what was I gonna say??? There's so much to be said about worship, there're tons of books out there and an immense number of songs! But as I thought through it and talked to God about it, some ideas formed. (I always think God can give me ideas really well when I'm walking through the city and sing/pray in my head, maybe I'm the most open then??). So I decided to share some parts of my teaching here:

There are lots of verses in the bible that say something about or at least mention „worship“. In the New International Version the word „worship“ alone is used 251 times. So it seems to be a really important topic! Personally I love to worship God, I can do it for hours J and there is so much to say about worship that I could keep you for days – which I won’t!
So I will just focus on a few things tonight. I want to talk a bit about worship in general and then about worship and adoration now as Christmas is drawing near.

Why are we here tonight?
We’re here to listen to our youth worship bands and to support them, we’re here cause we love singing, we’re here to have fun BUT most importantly we’re here to worship Jesus. We are here because we are called! The bible calls us to worship God, in Deuteronomy 6.13 it is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. Jesus tells us in John 4, 23 that God seeks true worshippers. God tells the angels to worship his son Jesus, you will find that in Hebrews 1, 6, and we are called to do the same! Revelation again and again tells us that the elders fall on their faces and worship the one on the throne as do the four living creatures and the angels. Psalm 95, 6 calls out to us: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! God wants our worship. Isn’t it great to know that tonight we’re not just having a great time together, but that we are here doing what God wants us to. He wants us to worship!

Why do we worship? What is worship?
According to several dictionaries to worship means to love intensely, to love to the highest degree and to regard with utmost esteem. Our worship should be fuelled by our love for Jesus. When we worship, we express our love for God whom we should love with all of our heart, of our mind, of our spirit and our strength. Worship is our response to all that God is and to all that he has done for us. The psalms tell us again and again to worship God because of his holiness and because of his splendour. When we worship, we acknowledge who God is; we acknowledge his majesty, his holiness, his might and power and we respond to his love! We respond to Jesus for saving us, for loving us so incredable much that he died for us. For being our friend, the best one we could ever imagine. For his grace and mercy, for forgiving us again and again.
Worship is our response to God, an expression of all our feelings towards him, love, awe, brokenness, wonder. Worship is like praying, it is talking to God, opening us for him, so he can work in us.
And that is really important in my view. Worship is intimate. It is great to sing together and to dance or jump together. But in ist essence worship is about your relationship tp Jesus. You are talking to Jesus, you are expressing your love and opening your heart for him to come and love you back, to teach you and to minister to you. At the retreat last weekend, we sang a song that espressed that very clearly. One line went: It is just you and me here now. And that just captures it. When you worship, it is about you and Jesus. Not about making a good impression, not about what your friends might think about you, your parents, your pastor, or anybody else in the room – it is about you and Jesus! When you worship, you have a date with the one person who knows you best and who loves you most!

This is the Oasis Christmas special and we’re right in the Christmas season already, so in preparing this, I’ve thought about connections between worship and Christmas. It’s not „just“ that we worship Jesus for coming down to earth to save us. I think Christmas can teach us something about worship and encourage all of us. Just think about all those different people who came to Bethlehem after Jesus was born and worshipped him. Of course there are his parents, Mary and Joseph, and there are the heavenly hosts, praising God – of course they worship, if anyone knew what was going on, it was them, God told them to worship his son after his birth as Hebrews 1, 6 tells us! And then we have the shepards and the three magis. And I think those two can teach us something. What a comparison. Just imagine the manger with the son of God and worshipping before it three wise man, maybe kings, from far away, really rich guys, bringing gifts to the baby – at the same spot where just days before shepards were kneeling, poor, raggard, maybe criminals, social outkasts, people who didn't fit in and with nothing to give. Now I don’t want to say that some of us are exactly like those shepards! But maybe some of us feel poor and insignificant sometimes. We want to show our love to God, to worship him, but we feel like we have nothing to give. We might think to much about only being able to sing off key, about the mess in our live, about some sin this week, maybe this day, about being an outsider in school, at the job – how could we come and really worship God? We have nothing to bring like the three magi.
The Christmas story got good news for all of us, just like for the shepards. God wants you to come and worship him, no matter what you did or how you feel. Worship is about loving the Lord, it’s just a response to his love and his forgiveness and grace! It’s not about bringing gifts – it is wonderful if you have something to give – but you do not have to bring something special to be allowed intimate time with God. God wants you just as you are – no matter if you feel like a magi or like a shepard tonight or any other day!

And now as we are in advent season, this is the time to have intimate fellowship with your God! Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time to spend time with God. Worship is not something God wants you to do once in a while here at church, he wants time with you every day! And now is the time. I love the internet and I found this on a blogspot I read (I don’t know the girl, but she sounds like a great person, here's the link
"Are you getting ready for royalty?
Wait inhope for the Lord
He is our help and our shield
Prepare the way for the Lord...
Clean the road, spruce up, get all those rocks out of the way...
Put clean straw in the manger....
Light a candle
Prepare him room
Clear the calendar, make time for the coming king...
Wait patiently
Prepare and wait...
For the once and future king!"

We are called to worship this king. Advent can be the time where we make more room for him in our everyday life instead of getting lost in Christmas stress. Take the time this season and spent time with your Lord and king, just as you are, and worship

So, this is it. Let me know your thoughts about it!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Blogs keep me more and more occupied :). It's actually a lot of fun to check out other people's blogs. Not just your friends' - that's awesome and a good way to keep everyone updated. But it's really fun browsing blogs of whoever ... I've read some that friends linked to their blogs (especially Cheryl, her suggestions are defiantely worth more than one look) and some I found by coincidence or through other links. So many people got cool thoughts and funny random information to share. And maybe it's really a thing for curious persons who love people...

I found this blog "bodeguita" by coincidence and I love having a look there. It's photos accompanied by poems - really cool stuff. Unfortunately it's in portuguese (I guess...). Anyone able to read portuguese?? I'm not, but that doesn't keep from having a look once in a while. It's so beautiful and interesting, it's worth it anyway. So everybody have a look (the link's in the sidebar)!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What a weekend!

Last weekend I was at the AICEMEA youth conference in Burg Stahleck at Bacharrach. Our church is part of AICEMEA (Association of international churches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and this year the APC hosted the yearly conference. The topic was ARMOR, see Eph. 6, 14-17 ("Therefore take up the whole armor of God...").

It was great hanging out with so many people from different countries and churches (Bonn, Frankfurt, Berlin, London, Oslo, Stockholm, Kopenhagen, Madrid, Antwerp and Brussels). We were around 120 people. The weekend (from thursday on) was lots of fun: games (sticking lifesavers on somebody's face, putting haribo up your nose [yuk!], spelling words with your feed), a trip along the Rhine watching out for castles, visiting the Middle Ages Christmas Market in Siegburg, Siedler of Catan, Carcasson, hanging out with coffee and talking, talking, talking ... Cheryl (who had worked in Surrey with Dave and Sarah) came from Florida to lead us in worship. We had a spontaneously put together worship band - and they did an awesome job! The speaker during the five sessions was Jason Santos, the former youth director of our church. He's now attending seminar in Princeton. But he came back for the retreat together with his wife Shannon and his little and extremely cute son Judah. It was wonderful meeting them; I love making new friends!

Jason's teaching included talking about our enemy (the evil one), choosing sides (you can either be on God's side or the enemy's, but not just stand on the fence), the armor of God, preparing for battle (praying, reading the bible, fellowship) and the battle and the return of the King (Jesus' second coming). It was some of the best teaching I've had and it really touched us and the students. He used scenes from the movie "Lord of the Rings" to illustrate some parts - that was cool. I really have to see part 3 now!
The most precious moment for me was on saturday night when Jason, after he taught about the battle and the return of the King, challenged the students to take decisions about following Jesus, taking sides or preparing for battle. Cheryl led us in singing "Jesus you are everything I'm not, everything that I want to be", each one was praying and some students got up to pray with their leaders. It was so intense, you could really feel God's presence, it almost made me cry cause it was so wonderful!