Sunday, May 31, 2009

Look What's In Season in Macedonia !!!

I am so happy !! The strawberries have come in. I am putting them in the freezer as fast as I can clean them. We are eating strawberries with everything. Just had them in a salad with fresh spinach, walnuts and feta cheese. YUM!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Story from the Castle Hill

From near the castle tower, Arville wrote:

Some time ago, last fall to be precise, I found a place of solitude on the "Castle Hill" in Skopje. Here is how it all came about:

October 2008:

I am beginning a new practice. It is experimental to be sure, because I am not at all sure what the results will be. However, with a compelling sense of “oughtness”, I feel as though I would be remiss if I were not to respond to this kindling of the Spirit.

This experience could be compared, at least in my mind, to that of Phillip (Acts 8:26) when the only instruction he had from the angel was to “Go south to the desert road that leads out of Jerusalem toward Gaza”. Surely, Phillip must have been engulfed simultaneously with anticipation and anxiety, as am I.

My calling, however, is not to a desert road, but to a hilltop in the center of Skopje. From that vantage point, the site of an ancient castle, the whole city is in view. That is where I am being led to await further instruction.

Perhaps, it would seem appropriate to be there on that hilltop early in the morning when things are still and quiet, or at dusk, in that interval between the rush of the day and the unwinding of the evening. But, for some reason, my impulse is to be there at midday, in the middle of all the noise, clamor, and “busy-ness” of daily life in the city.

Will there be a chariot waiting? If so, what will it look like and who will be inside? If I could have precise answers to these questions, maybe I could be better prepared. Nevertheless, I will go with my eyes, my heart, and my hands open to this opportunity of discovery and sensitivity to the voice of God.

Call it praying. Call it listening. Call it a learning experience or all three. Does this have any connection to the reconciliation conference from which I recently returned? At the moment, I have no clear vision, no clear definition or description; only a gentle urging from the Holy Spirit to take this step and see what happens next. I think I will go on Tuesday.

March 2009
What is sustainability?

To live a sustainable life is to care about the generations we will never know and to embrace the future for them.

-By planting a tree, even though we may never enjoy the shade it may someday provide.

-By treasuring our air, water, soil and biological communities and preserving them for
generations to come.

-By being a part of something far, far greater, Bernheim Forest explores sustainable ideas.

After reading those words, I, of course, began to think in terms of what appropriate applications could be made to our particular ministry setting. Now, back in Macedonia, I am face-to-face again with the reality that exploring sustainable ideas is not a high priority for people here whose primary concern is getting through to the end of this month.

From the vantage point of the castle hill in Skopje, I see the mix and flow of people engaged in the process of living. It occurs to me that perhaps “being the presence of Christ” is helping people to understand that they are a part of something “far, far greater,” and helping to bring them into what Desmond Tutu describes as, “a God awareness.”

It is this “God-awareness” that redirects our priorities and awakens us to the calling to become God’s partners in this world’s transfiguration. God loves and cares for each one of us and all of us, which includes the generations yet to come.

So from now on, when I talk to people about preserving natural resources and planting trees (which we are doing as a joint project with a Macedonian church here) these conversations will have a whole new meaning.

May 2009

I had found this place where I could go for a few minutes of thoughtful reflection and for a bit of quiet tranquility. That place was the “castle hill”, overlooking and surrounded by the city of Skopje. Inside the castle walls was a well-kept combination of lawn, flowerbeds, and a spontaneous scattering of trees. Attention was given to maintaining the natural beauty of the site. Shelia had been to make some lovely photos of the place back in the fall last year. This locale had become a sanctuary for me.

But all that has changed now – in a matter of a few weeks. This special place is hardly recognizable anymore, and it is very far removed from the place of tranquility that I knew not so long ago.

Rumor has it that buried beneath the centuries-old layer of silt and sediment is a beautifully preserved Byzantine cathedral, adorned with many rich furnishings from the era. Therefore, to verify the existence of the cathedral or to dispel the rumor, whichever the case may be, these massive excavations have consumed huge amounts of time, energy, and financial resources.

My place of serenity has been ravaged. The natural beauty has been replaced by earth-moving equipment. The sound of the gentle breeze and rustling leaves has been overpowered by the noise and clatter of this invasive machinery. As yet, nothing of significance has been found, but the excavations continue. How deep they will dig is anyone’s guess.

Recalling that scene of devastation, I find myself dealing with feelings of interruption and displacement. I need a place for occasional retreat and refuge, but where will it be found?

As I deal with my grief and make plans for a new journey of discovery, it has occurred to me that sanctuary and tranquility are not necessarily determined by geographical limits. Perhaps this “place” is not confined to one particular setting, but rather multiple settings. Where is the place that I can experience God’s presence, and in turn, live out the reality of God’s Presence.

I am reminded now of that passage in Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Now, here I am, praying another dangerous prayer, “Lord, show me where your Spirit is.” The probability is that the Spirit of God will show up in quite, unexpected places.


Monday, May 25, 2009

My Photography

Many of you have sent me an e-mail - saying that you have enjoyed my photos --especially recently. Some have asked me what I have done to make them so much better.

I have even had a few to want some of them so that they could use them in their own publications (especially to support the ministry of the kindergarten in Skopje). I have e-mailed those photos to individuals (without the watermarks) so that they could be used this way.

So what is different?? I have been taking some photography classes with and learning how to make better photos, post-process them, and make them ready for professional printing. It is all a part of my "life-long learning" with CBF.

So if you would like to see more of my photographs -- here are a few sites that you can visit.

Enjoy and thank you so much for your encouragement and interest.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Habibe's Birthday Celebration at the Kindergarten

Yesterday (May 13) was Habibe's birthday (her 40th - but I will never tell). HA!

Here are some pictures from the day's event. I also took the children's pictures for the Yearbook that we give out at the end of every school year -- it just happened to be Habibe's birthday the same day.

I brought cake for her birthday (enough for all 40 children). Habibe was SO surprised and the children want her to have a birthday every week - because they loved the cake.

Advije (Habibe's sister) brought the cake outside for Habibe to blow out the candles. The children all know "Happy Birthday" in English - and now they know what the words mean -- CAKE!!!

Now, who do you think is enjoying the cake more ---- Habibe (maybe she was thinking about all those calories!!) OR the children??

I loved this photo because of the word "DON'T" above the cake!!

Since yesterday was her birthday, I think I have Habibe fooled into thinking that everyone else just skipped her birthday this year --- NOT TRUE!!
We planned a BIG 40th Birthday party for her tonight. We are going to a great new restaurant we found, I have made another cake and bought her a gift, and her mother, Advije and all of her family, Brane & Margo and their children, Sara and Jehona, and Arville and I are going to the restaurant early.
Agim is going to tell her that he is taking her out to eat for her birthday since he forgot yesterday. Then we will all be there when she comes in!!! SURPRISE !!
I will try to post those pictures tomorrow.