Tag Archives: Church

Belated Thanksgiving

We celebrated two amazing Thanksgiving celebrations this year, but I have to say that it was the one that was with our small group from church that will really stick with me.  Between the excitement over candied yams, paper hand turkeys, and a never-ending game of mafia, it was a great night.   There is something about celebrating American holidays with people from other cultures that makes it so fun.  Our small group of British students and young adults was no different.

We celebrated Thanksgiving last year, but I think there was even more of a buzz this year about it.  They knew what to expect and embraced it for the wonderful holiday tradition it is.  Each person who came brought some sort of authentic American dish.  I have to say, they did a great job!  Everything was so delicious.  Especially those candied yams…and I don’t even like sweet potatoes!

Before dinner was ready, everyone took a paper cutout of my hand and drew their own turkey.  The winner would be first in line for dessert.  You can imagine how fierce the competition was.  Once dinner was ready, all 18 of us gathered around a huge table and joined hands as Ben prayed a prayer of Thanksgiving.  Knowing this could be the last time we celebrated Thanksgiving with our small group made me a bit more nostalgic than normal.  I love these kids.  Ok, they aren’t really kids at all, but I just love them all so much.  We each loaded our plates full of Thanksgiving tastiness and sat around talking and laughing together.

My end of the table was practically in tears as Ben regaled us with stories from his childhood.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and no one left the table hungry!  When dinner had finally come to an end we had everyone hold up their paper turkeys for review. There were a lot of close contenders, but Rosie’s two artistically drawn turkeys stole the show.  The American flag border really put it over the edge!  Rosie led the way through the dessert line and once everyone was seated back around the table we had everyone say something they were thankful for.  It was wonderful hearing everyone share what was on their heart.  I love that sort of thing.

I finished it off by saying how thankful I was that everyone humored me by getting so into one of my favorite American holidays.  That set off everyone chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”  Ben and I burst out laughing and I couldn’t help but smile.  It was amazing.  After the chanting died down we all cleared the table and headed to the lounge for an entertaining game of charades.  Let’s just say that I don’t think anyone could even come close to Rosie and Colin…they absolutely dominated.  We are going to have to come up with much harder ones next time…

We sat in a huge circle, drank tea, and played games for the next few hours.  It was a perfect night.  As I looked around the room, I couldn’t have been more thankful.  This time of year it isn’t easy to be away from family, but they make it a bit more bearable.  If nothing else, they keep me laughing.  Thank you to all of you who made the night so great, and an even bigger thank you for allowing us to be so much a part of your lives.  You mean the world to us.


Sunday Night Sermon – The Resurrection

Yesterday I got the chance to preach again at our church’s Sunday night service.  I enjoy teaching at our Sunday evening services, though I probably prefer the mornings to the nights.  The evening setting is more intimate than Sunday mornings, but you either have to hold a microphone in your hand or else stand in one place the whole time.  On Sunday mornings I conceive of the message more in terms of a proclamation for both guests and regulars, whereas on Sunday evenings I view the service more as a time of instruction for the committed core of the church.

I was asked to answer the question, ‘What excites you the most about Jesus?’  My response was simple:  the resurrection, the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

I divided my message into two parts:  the question of history and the question of relevance.  What happened, and why does it matter?

When it comes to the question of history, I think a very strong argument can be made for the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  There’s the fact of the empty tomb.  There are the numerous accounts of post-mortem appearances of Jesus to his disciples.  Then there is the growth and proclamation of the early church.  When you add all of these factors together, only the reality of the resurrection can account for the available evidence.  No alternative explanation really measures up.

But the resurrection isn’t just about one man rising from the dead a really long time ago in a far away place.  The resurrection has global, cosmic implications.  If Jesus really rose from the dead, then this world is a fundamentally different place than it was before he came out of the tomb.

The resurrection is the decisive reversal of sin and death in this world, God’s pledge that all of the brokenness and pain and disorder and death in this world will eventually be wiped out.  It’s the promise of total restoration to the harmony that this world had before sin ever came into the picture.  Through the victory of this one man over death, all the world will be made new.  That’s why to me the resurrection is the most exciting thing about Jesus.

Unfortunately we don’t record the evening services, so there’s no link to the message.  Maybe next time!


Update on Church

I don’t think we’ve talked about this much on our blog, but one of the biggest parts of our life this past year has been our involvement with youth and university-age students at our church.  It seems crazy that we haven’t done a post about this, but life has been busy and for whatever reason it has slipped our minds.  Here’s a quick update.

We host a weekly home group for the university-age folks at our church, and we’ve had a great time studying God’s word together with this amazing group of people.  Over the past couple months, we’ve been tracing out the big story of the Bible.  We’ve tracked all the way from Genesis to the time of Jesus, just in time for the celebration of Easter.  It has been a privilege to get to know the different personalities in our group.  We have a great bunch of dedicated, thoughtful students, and leading this group has definitely been one of the highlights of our second year here.  We have lots of laughs, always manage to eat plenty of sweet stuff, and enjoy some very good discussions about life and faith and the Bible.

We also help out occasionally with the younger crowd at our church, and not too long ago we went along as chaperones on a weekend retreat to the lovely little seaside town of Sheringham.  The beach wasn’t quite as nice as Orange County, but the town did have a quaint charm to it.  We stayed in a big house and had a blast discussing the Bible, playing lots of games, and hosting a talent show while speaking with twangy southern accents.

Becoming actively involved in the life of our church has been one of the best ways for us to transition into life in the UK.  Our home group gives us weekly lessons on British culture and customs, and the friendships we’ve made through the group have enriched our lives immensely.


Girls Night In

What do you do when your husband is out-of-town, you miss him like crazy, and you still have four days to go?  Yep, you guessed it, you have a good old-fashioned slumber party!  I couldn’t bear the idea of spending my entire weekend alone so I made sure to kick it off the best way I know how.  Girlfriends, chocolate, music, and movies.  Oh and did I mention chocolate?  I invited a few girls over from our church and I have to say, we had the most amazing night.  Well at least I did!

The girls started showing up right about the time the pizza arrived so things definitely got started off on the right foot.  Over dinner we got down to business and started talking about the three things that inevitably always come up, boys, God, and makeovers.  I don’t know why, but those are just essentials in successful sleepovers.  After we polished most of the pizza, it became clear that dancing was the next stage of the evening.  I had created a bit of dance mix so we pushed back the tables, couches and chairs and started shakin it.  You should have seen our moves.  We looked awesome.  Oh, and did I mention our amazing outfits?  I think the general ensemble was a mixture of Christmas bottoms, flannel pajama sets, and of course a snowflake onesie.  I am sure the neighbors loved the show.

After watching a lot of one-hit-wonders from back in the day on YouTube, things started to settle down a bit.  Naturally we had to take a chocolate break so that lead to another great time of girltalk.  You can never have too much of that if you ask me.  It was then that we decided it was time to select a film for the night.  Shockingly, one of our slumberers (is that even a word?) hadn’t seen Beauty and the Beast.  It therefore became a unanimous decision that this would be the film we watched.  It was the right choice.  We all quoted and sang, laughed and cried.  Well, ok we didn’t cry, but we did cringe at how unattractive the actual prince is at the end of the movie.  Not exactly a looker, but I guess the point of the movie is to look beyond what meets the eye, so I guess it’s ok.

At this point it is was 4:30 in the morning, we had eaten an appalling amount of chocolate and pizza and we were all starting to feel a bit on the sleepy side.  Though we weren’t overly tired, we thought it would be best to probably get at least a few hours of sleep.  We slowly got ready for bed and of course made an insanely huge bed in the middle of the living room which consisted of a mattress, a mattress pad and lots of blankets and sleeping bags.  It was truly a proper sleepover.  I had such a great time, and I just have to thank each of the girls for such a wonderful night.  This was the highlight of my week and I am really thankful for each of you.  I apologize again for pressuring you into flossing.  But really, don’t forget to floss.

 

 


In Case You Didn’t Know, We Miss You

There are a lot of emotions that come with moving half way across the world.  We have experienced excitement, nervousness, frustration, joy, confusion, and most recently, sadness.  I suppose sadness isn’t really the appropriate word.  We feel melancholy.  Very, very melancholy.

You see, our one year anniversary of moving here occured about a month ago.  Since that time, it has been like a switch was flipped.  The miss home like crazy switch.  Throughout our time here, we have missed things like food and driving, large grocery stores, and customer service, but those aren’t the things we are missing right now.  Those are all great things, but right now we miss people.  Friends from church, Talbot, work, Oklahoma, and Colorado consume our conversations.  God has blessed us with so many amazing friends and mentors and it has been hard to be so far away from all of them.  We miss dinner dates with our friends the Van Schoicks, brunch sunday at Grace, family night with the Klinks, praying with our small group, and so many other people and experiences.

I miss shopping with Ashley (even though we never had any money to spend!), my Esther Bible study girls, starbucks runs with Dani on breaks we weren’t supposed to take, Talbot Wives prayer groups and ALL of the amazing friends I met there, eating hot dogs and burgers on the patio with the Polks, and coffee dates with my mentor, Teri.  There are so many more people we could mention that have impacted and blessed our lives, but this is a blog, not a book (though I know some of my posts could make one think I don’t know the difference).

At the end of the day, Chick-Fil-A and real milk shakes just don’t fill the void that we feel right now.  When you miss people, everything else just kind of fades in comparison.  And when those people are your family, the comparison is even more stark.  I woke up this morning and read a facebook messge from Ben’s sister, and I just started crying.  The message was nothing more than a simple question about something, but I was just overwhelmed with sadness.

I miss my mom’s amazing chocolate fudge and the way she makes every holiday and every visit so special.  I miss my dad and all his crazy childhood stories and the constant sound of a bass that accompanies him.  I miss my brother who is always bursting with energy and drumming his fingers on every surface.  I miss his beautiful new wife Stephanie who always seeks to serve others and her love for Zach just touches my heart.  I miss Ben’s mom and her fits of giggles when she is with her sisters and the way she dotes on her beloved Oscar (her dachshund).  I miss Ben’s dad and his wonderful smile that blesses your heart because it is so sincere in its love.  I miss Ben’s sister and the way she is always itching to go on walks and just spend quality time with people.  I miss her husband Alex and his witty comments and excitement over amazing books we all equally love.  I wish I could wrap my arms around each of them right now.

It isn’t that we miss America all that much right now, beause we love it here.  We just miss connecting with people that have meant so much to us.  It feels like we are living over here in this kind of pretend world because we haven’t really gotten to share it with anyone from home (minus Cassie of course).  We have come to realize that if you can’t share your world with people, it just lacks the fullness that it would otherwise have.  This exeperience isn’t just something for me and Ben, it is something we want to share with those we love (and even those we barely know would be ok at this point!).  We want to build precious memories with friends from home even now.  We don’t want to wait two years to continue to do that.

I don’t mean for any of this to make anyone feel guilty or sad for us, but along with the exciting and new things that we encounter here, I also want to document the difficult times we face.  Right now is one of those times.  We love people.  We have spent the last six years of our marriage meeting incredible people and building the kind of friendships that just warm your soul.  You don’t leave those people and not feel the loss.  Our hearts are a little heavy right now, but just know that to all of our friends and family out there scattered across the US, we think of you all the time. We love you.  We cherish you. We miss you.  xox

 


9/11 – Ten Years Later

Today of course marks the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  Before church this morning, I was reading some of the coverage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and as I read the stories of so many people whose lives were affected in so many different ways, I thought a bit about my own recollection of the day.

I had just started my senior year of high-school.  Since I listened to cd’s during my drive to school, I first found out about the attacks when I went to my psychology class that morning.  I remember that there was a lot of confusion about what exactly had happened.  As the day went on, we went from class to class.  We didn’t really do any normal school work.  I particularly remember my French teacher, Mr. Duhon, an Air Force veteran, sitting on a stool in the middle of the classroom, talking for the entire class period about his thoughts on the tragedy.  He was processing the event out loud, in front of all of us.  We may have gotten out of school early.  I don’t really remember, nor do I really remember anything about what I did with my family when I got home from school.

Being at church in England for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was an interesting experience.  Rachael and I just started working with the young people in our church, and today was our first Sunday getting introduced to the group.  There was a time during the morning when students were asked to share their memories of 9/11.  It was striking to me how similar in some ways the experience apparently was for people here.  People were sent home early from work.  Everyone sat watching the news coverage of the events.  The world stopped.

I don’t know why, but I think I expected that as an American, 9/11 would have been very different for me than it was for people here.  I suppose that at an emotional level perhaps it was, but after church this morning I am left with the impression that actually 9/11 was a uniquely global event.  Literally the whole world was watching, and of course the whole world was forever changed in that day.  September 11th wasn’t just an attack on America.  More fundamentally it was a direct challenge to the values which undergird Western society, such that the terrorist attacks of that day were a declaration of war not merely against the USA but against the free world at large.

Today is a good opportunity to reflect back to that day.  My prayers are with those who lives were most directly affected by the tragedies, and I am moved by the stories of so many who have met unspeakable tragedy with unwavering courage, perseverance, and ingenuity.  Their resilience is an inspiration and a witness to the ultimate triumph of faith, hope, and love over every earthly expression of satanic hate and fear.  It is also a reminder of the scriptural certainty that wars will one day cease, and the King of Kings will one day reign over a new and glorious creation.


A Tourist In My Own City

The transition from America back to Cambridge can be a difficult one.  Not only do you experience crazy jet lag, but you feel the absence of your family and all things familiar.  That is why Ben and I came up with a great plan this time…bring a little bit of America back with us.  No, I am not talking about smuggling bags of chocolate chips or chick-fil-a.  We went much bigger.   We couldn’t fit this in our suitcase…and trust me…mine is H-UGE!  Our little bit of America came in the form of my dear, dear friend Cassie.

Cassie and I met during my first year of college when I attended Oklahoma Baptist University.  We lived down the hall from each other and from the time we met, we were great friends.  Even after I transferred to OU (Boomer Sooner baby!!), we remained great friends.  I would go back to OBU and spend the weekend with her making music videos (that no one besides Ben will EVER see), talking about spiritual warfare, taking pictures everywhere we went, and just talking about how God was moving in our lives.  Our friendship has been so precious to me.  Cassie is full of life and always bubbling with energy.  She keeps me laughing but she also knows how to talk about issues and topics of substance and depth.  She is truly one of the most Godly women I know.  So, now that you know my friend Cassie a bit better, let me skip forward and tell you about our adventures!

Cassie literally arrived in England 15 minutes before us.  She had never been here, so to keep it simple, we scheduled our flights as closely as we could.  We had told Cassie to wait for us outside immigration and we would go through with her since this could be a little intimidating.  Our flight was a little late so I was already worried when we landed.  Thankfully we were able to make it to immigration fairly quickly.  We arrived about 30 minutes after her flight had landed, but Cassie was nowhere to be found.  This was problematic since she had no way of calling us.  She had my cell phone number but no money in which to make the call (my fault since I told her not to exchange her money until she got to Cambridge).  So, she had no money, no phone, and was who knows where in Heathrow.

We waited around just in case, but eventually we asked about her flight.  She had apparently come through another terminal.  NOOOO!!!!  We needed to go through immigration in this terminal because our luggage was being delivered here.  We couldn’t go to the other terminals once we passed through immigration.  What to do?!  Finally Ben said we had to split up.  He went through immigration and retrieved our luggage while I went in search of Cassie.  I have never been so nervous.  What if I lost her?!!!  Two trams, five escalators, and twenty minutes later, I rounded the corner at terminal three.  There sat Cassie on the floor, all by herself.  There was no one else around.  I nearly crushed her as I hugged her close.  I was so grateful to see her sitting there.  It had been over an hour since we landed and I finally felt myself start to relax.

Well, we eventually made it through immigration, met up with Ben, and meandered back to Cambridge.  We spent the next several days showing Cassie around our lovely city.  It was nice to be back.  The weather was beautiful and the city alive with tourists.  Seriously, it was crazy.  There were kids from Spain, France, Germany, China, Italy, Korea…and the list goes on.  I have never seen so many school aged kids on holiday.  Despite the crowds we had a great time.

Our neighbor Derek punts for one of the local companies and so he treated us one night to a long lazy boat ride along the backs of the colleges.  It was so relaxing.  Cassie loves to try new things so naturally she had to try punting.  It was pretty comical.  We mostly went in circles but eventually she got the hang of it.  I finally consented to try, and I have to say, it was no easy task.  Nothing about it feels natural.  I managed to do loops around this one part of the river…which was of course the part overlooked by three outdoor eating areas.  Needless to say, everyone had a good laugh at my non-existent punting skills.

During our time in Cambridge, we walked through the colleges, toured the gardens, took a run through the small villages surrounding Cambridge, and last but not least, had the much anticipated, afternoon tea.  This was probably Cassie’s favorite activity.  To say that she liked tea by the end of the trip, is to under-play the addiction that ensued.  Once she had tasted the warmth and sweetness that comes from a delightful cup of tea, she was hooked.  She made it every day in our house and it was her hot drink of choice at most coffee shops.  You know those small coffee pots with assorted teas and coffees that go unused in hotel rooms?  Well, Cassie’s was drained of tea, sugar and milk by check out the following day.  All I will say in regards to her love for scones is that she already tried to bake them once in the states and has since enrolled in a cooking class on scones!  She left England a changed woman.

While on her trip, we tried to give her a real taste for British life, and what kind of hosts would we be if we didn’t give her an authentic fish and chips experience?  Poor ones I tell you.  We took Cassie to our favorite chip shop in Cambridge and after a mouth-watering good meal (which doesn’t happen often here), Cassie gave us her opinion.  She said it was tasty but that she could never eat it again.  I am sorry, but can you repeat yourself?!  Did you just say you can’t eat fish fried to a perfect golden brown again?  How can we remain friends after this kind of pronouncement?  Cassie proceeded to explain that though it was tasty, it sickened her to eat something so greasy (and let me just say this is the least greasy one we have found!) and could not bring herself to do it again.  My heart grieved for her.  I will just have to pick up the mantle that she could not bear and carry on for her.  I will not be deterred.

Cambridge is amazing and I love its quaintness, but you can’t come to England without seeing London.  We ventured to London two different times; one day trip and one overnight stay.  Our day trip will never be remembered without thinking about rain.  Never-ending, soak-you-to-the-bone, torrents of rain.  Oh yeah, and who could forget our perfectly un-weatherproofed umbrella-less selves?  Yeah, I am not sure how on earth we forgot the umbrellas, but it is a mistake that won’t ever happen again.  Until it happens again of course.

Despite the pouring rain, we had a blast.  We saw most of the major outdoor sites that day.  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, Parliament, the Globe Theatre, a quick tour through one art museum (whose name I cannot think of at present), and the mews at Buckingham Palace.  I have to say, we had so looked forward to going to see Buckingham Palace and even more so once we saw that the rain had no intention of stopping.  So you can imagine our disappointment when we found out that the Palace was closed and all we could see where the Mew (where they keep the carriages).  Don’t get me wrong, I loved getting to see all these amazing carriages, but it was really cold, and we were really, really wet.  I did get to see a carriage made of gold though.

Cassie was incredibly laid back the whole trip and went along with everything.  She asked us to show her the sights and the only thing she personally requested in London was the Globe Theatre which was fantastic.  I had never really cared to see that, and I am so glad we went.  It was really fun and just a great exhibit overall.  Very informative while also entertaining.  Aside from sight-seeing, we also got the opportunity to show Cassie what life was like for us here in Cambridge.  We took her to our beautiful little church, went grocery shopping every few days, and I even got to introduce her to several of my girlfriends at one of our book club meetings.  It was so nice to share our lives with someone else.  I love living life with people, and it is so special to get to share the ins and outs of ones life with those you love.

We had an amazing time with Cassie here in England, but it was our next adventure that I will never forget.  Mon cœur est toujours à Paris…my heart is still in Paris…