from the heart of sighisoara

clock_tower

The clock tower in the center of the Citadel, Sighisoara

Sighisoara is full of tourists this time of year. Dark haired, Italian beauties leaning against ancient Draculesque walls in paparazzi poses. Germans out for a brisk walk.  The Brits snapping photos. It seems that you can find all of Europe snuggled into the arms of this very old, very quaint, quite unassuming Saxon citadel on the cusp of the new year. And, yes, we took a touristy New Year’s stroll after watching the midnight fireworks display in the shadow of the clock tower. #touristy

But our friend, Oanna, points out that for those who live here, Sighisoara is just ‘home’. That sounds so obvious and yet, her words are simply insightful. You never really know a place by visiting its iconic stops.

And that makes me think about God in this new year.

sighi_streets

On the ancient streets of Sighisoara

Our Book is full of iconic stops in the history of our Christianity. From a garden in Eden to a garden in Gethsemene to a garden in a new, redeemed Earth; these are points where we glimpse the very heart of God. In our creation, in our salvation, and in our redemption; we come to appreciate our worth to the creator and sustainer of all of history. But stopping by to take a photo of these important places is much different than nestling in and making a home.

Do you think that we Christians get lost in the tourism of our journey? What I mean is, reading this amazing narrative of God’s relationship with mankind, from beginning to end, it is just that, a relationship. And regardless of how you read the first three chapters of our Beginning or the last book of our New Understanding, all of us must agree that the pivotal point is relationship. God’s relentless, eternal, uncompromising endeavor to gather us into the safety of his heartbeat. So, if relationship is that important to the one who designed our DNA, it would seem logical to suppose that we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him. Relationship with each other. Not tourism. Incarnation; which is God becoming present with and dwelling with us. The creation of mankind was not simply an iconic stop for God. He came. He dwelt. He lived amongst us. Do we endeavor to live, truly live, to nestle, to build our home in Him?

Sighi_rooftops

Looking over the city of Sighisoara.

Nestled into the quietly pleasant goodness of Oanna and Relu’s home last night, it is easy to see that there is something that surpasses culture and language. With 6 girls snuggled onto a couch watching a princess and singing along, over warm bowls of Romanian Chorba (traditional Romanian meatball soup), the heart of a pastor, the ache of parenting, the challenges of ministry, the grind of daily living, the relentlessness of cold winters and hot summers are common denominators in our human sojourn. And, the Eastern European understanding of relationship brings me so much closer to the heart of God.

To talk of God, to delve deeper than tourism in Sighisoara is to understand that relationship with God always means missioning. By that, I mean that we cannot fully understand the iconic stops in our Book without recognizing that our Creator and our Sustainer is always relational and always missional. He is always coming to us. He is always pursuing us. He is always moving toward us. He is always making a way for us. There is always, within the heart and the being of God, a constant motion toward us, His creation. And, if I could be bold for a moment, I would propose that He inserted that same DNA into us. He calls us to Himself and he sends us to others. Constantly. If we are to understand this dynamic properly, it means that we live our lives poured out for others. Relationally. Missionally. In God’s perfect plan, there are no iconic stops. There is no tourism. There is life. Abundant. Warm. Rich. Peaceful. Honest. Welcoming. Just like Roberta’s kitchen in Sighisoara on a cold January morning.

fireworks

Fireworks in the heart of the citadel. 2014

It is one of the reasons we like to come to the Citadel in the winter. Chances are good that sometime tucked in between the cornbread and the clanging of the church bell, we can get Roberta talking. We will hear her stories about outer space and science, and astronauts, and moon dust in Arkansas accents. It is a great conversation to have with Roberta, if you ever get a chance to taste her cornbread. But above all else, one has the feeling that God is honored here, not as a guest but as the host.

keyhole view

A view from the ruins

The morning sun is spreading its warmth across the terra-cotta roofs and the city, residents and tourists alike, are waking up. Funny thing, it seems that here on the Citadel, everybody knows Dorothy and Roberta, two women, one from Arkansas and one from Edinburgh, who made their home here in the heart of the Citadel in order to serve the people of Sighisoara.

Thank you, ladies, for your living example of incarnation.

no tourists please

church_tourism_vaci

A view of the famous Vaci Utca, Budapest.

Paradox: I am a tourist in a city where I live. Today with camera attached to my arm, I have chosen to drink coffee on Vaci Utca with other tourists. Snapping photos, gazing at the 18th century architectural wonders, dodging baby carriages, and sniffing forbidden Hungarian spiced wine, I am blending. The city with its Euro-vintage, old-world charm takes the breath away and I find myself wishing for a simpler time when tourism was not the focus.  Continue reading

extravagant

20131003-232728.jpgAfter all of the excitement of Poland and a prayer of thanks because airplanes really can stay in the air and then miraculously and safely land on solid ground, we are home.

Funny; home seems bigger than a house on a street. Places and people easily take root. Though our bodies are in Budapest, a piece of our heart reaches backward to grasp that embrace of belonging found in Sweet Surrender Poznan. This is the very thing that we hope for each time Sweet Surrender’s bell rings over the door and somebody responds ‘Zheen dobray’ to a weary sojourner in need of strong coffee.  Continue reading

shades of gray

IMGP7177‘Csilla, my hair is orange.’

It’s not what you expect to say when the towel comes off for the initial unveiling.

Nor does one anticipate your 7 year old son answering in the affirmative when you question whether his friend just referred to you as the ‘lady with blue hair’If memory serves correctly, my friend and colleague, Betsy living in Croatia came to terms with her color by referencing it as ‘midnight blue’.

Midnight blue. Fuchsia. Okay, electric blue. Yes, even vibrant purple. Shocking orange. All, valid and popular color choices for Eastern European hair. Continue reading

and that is our story

and that is our story

Last night we traveled to distant, much loved lands. We broke bread together and re-told the stories of redemption. It is by design that we see Jesus sitting and talking at table over and again. It is by design that the deepest symbols of love are the bread and the wine. And, that is our story. Break bread with someone today.

when missionaries are weird

When we left for Moscow all those years ago, young and carefree and very American, one of our best friends made us promise we would not morph into weird missionaries.  We have tried our best, Mark, to take your advice. Even so, being back in the States rams home the reality that we have changed, a fact that often becomes evident when we are at dinner.

My best guess is that the average person runs out of things to ask us about 2 minutes into the conversation, right around the time we start to grow multiple eyes and green, scaly skin.  It is an awkward silence around the dinner table at that point.

We basically have two audiences reading this blog:  the scaly, skinned, multi-eyed, half-normals and Mark (the old and new folks that are trying their best to be our friends).  I want to talk to Mark for a minute.

We are different and that is okay – the scaly skin sometimes itches but we are embracing it and we want you to embrace us.  You can poke and pry into our lives a little bit.  We will not be offended.  We want you to ask us questions.  We are dying to share about our lives because we miss it when we are here.  Ask questions.

We still like sports.  Jay is great at trash talk and stats.  We love the Chiefs and Patriots.  Some of us wear their t-shirts and get up at 2:00 AM to watch their games then work the next day.  See … weird.

We have electricity and toilets.  But, go ahead and ask because we have some great and hilarious stories about Turkish toilets.  If you do not know what that is, google it.

We know that you do not know where it is on a map.  That is okay – no offense.  But, we would love to show you some photos and tell you stories of places that you may never get to visit.

We do speak another language and we are in the process of learning. We would love to cry on your shoulder and tell you how difficult it is.  We know that the majority of you have not learned another language and may not even want to.  We could show you ours and explain why it sometimes makes us cry.  All half-normals have reality-show stories of language foibles.  Ask at your own risk and we will be happy to share.

Our children go to school but, like you, there are choices.  This is one of our most passionate topics because it hits at the heart of our struggle.  Please ask us and feel free to offer advice, insight, or a prayer.

We watch t.v., movies, and read books other than the Bible.  You can talk about your favorite show with us and even suggest your favorites.  We keep a list because we like to watch shows as a family.

Yeah, we want to tell you about the hard stuff.  Broken homes, human-trafficking, abuse, homelessness, prejudice are a reality where we live just like they are where you live.  It might be time to send the littles to another room and then ask us.  We have stories we need to share.

We struggle.  Someone said that going to the mission-field is like pouring miracle-grow on all of your weaknesses.  It is true.  We face our insecurities, our failures, our inadequacies.  It would be great if you were willing to hear some of the hard stuff.  You do not need to have answers.

You can support us financially but you do not have to.  We did not come to ask you for money.  We want relationship.  It is an awkward situation, we get it.  The other side of it is that sometimes God lays giving on your hearts and the needs we face might be how God is leading your heart.  Let us figure out together how to address this.  We do not want you to think we are in relationship for money.  We do not want to cheat you out of a chance to give if God is leading you.  It is complicated, true, but we are willing to figure it out if you are.  Regardless, you can pray since it is the best kind of support.

So, there you go – a beginner list:  bathroom conversation, sports talk, and free-time activities.  Not so hard.

Most of the time, you guys do not respond with comments but I am hoping you will this time.  Start the conversation on my facebook page where this posts.  Half-normals, feel free to pipe in.  Mark … what do you think?  Be honest.  Let’s talk.