Monday, July 13, 2009

Thoughts on Hope

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.  There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.  The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy….there was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in reality….something has evaded us.”              ~C.S. Lewis,  Mere Christianity

IMG_1409I recently started reading through Mere Christianity again. I marked it up in college and now find myself pouring over my old notes. I’m reminded of the wisdom Lewis has to give on a variety of topics- including where we find our hope.

The above passage has always resonated with me. How many of us have longed for something…really longed for something…and then when we get it, it’s not quite what we thought we wanted?  You could call this materialism or consumerism – something society has developed in us. Or could it be part of our design?  Simply put, nothing on this earth will ever quite satisfy- because we were created for something more.

Hope is an interesting concept. Some say it is a crutch that Christians cling to— to get through life in order to reach an afterlife.  But hope is more than a future concept- or at least it should be. It should be a daily reality.  A living hope.  If that hope was our reality I think our daily lives would look a little different…that more of Jesus would shine through us.

It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” 

Where is your aim?  Are most of your days aimed at heaven or aimed at earth? I know mine aren’t always heaven focused.  Like Lewis mentions, I think we  become ineffective when we lose sight of what’s to come – when we forget to think about Heaven and get so caught up in the trials of today—our current realities. 

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts.  Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”                  Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

It’s a beautiful thing to think about- our real lives being hidden with Christ!  This hope keeps me pressing on- and reminds me that when earth’s joys fail to bring the full satisfaction that they promised, I should take that as my reminder that I was created for something more.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Return to Russia- part 2: St. Petersburg

IMG_4336The retracing of my steps continued up north to St. Pete- where I got to enjoy 3 evenings of 11:30 pm sunsets! Talk about spectacular!!  I spent the month of August in ‘03 living in St. Pete with my team from SPU and serving with the ministry Sunergos- which had then just been started by a young SPU grad, Tanya.  During our time with Tanya we served in 2 orphanages and studied the culture and history in which we were living.  Tanya and I have kept in touch since that time, so it was a privilege to get to return to St. Pete and see her still working in the same awesome ministry to orphans and now happily married and the mama to a beautiful baby girl!

IMG_4244Tanya and her husband Misha facilitate a variety of different ministries with orphanages and transitional centers in St. Pete and host summer ministry teams wanting to serve orphans, widows and the poor.  It felt very ‘full circle’ being back in the very same apartment where my team stayed 6 years ago, this timeIMG_4381 sitting around the table with Tanya’s family and speaking about our ministries and goals—in Russian no less!  Something I never anticipated for my future when I was there that first time!   Funny what time will do.

IMG_4311Since I’d seen pretty much all the major sites of Petersburg before, there wasn’t as great a need to be a “tourist” on this trip- but Tanya and I did have the opportunity to stroll the beautiful streets and canals as we caught up on one another’s lives. And a beautiful city it is! St. Pete is known as being the “Venice of the North” with the way it was designed around a canal system. Though I can’t say it compares to Venice on many other levels- it does have it’s own unique Russian charm!  IMG_4303We also did the brief blitz through the Hermitage and just so happened to be there on the first Thursday of the month—which is free- go figure! It makes you feel better about quickly running through a museum when you know you didn’t pay anything to be there!

IMG_4283Like I mentioned in my post about Moscow- it was really just a gift to be back in the places where God first placed on my heart a burden for the fatherless.  I don’t think we always take the time to really sit down and reflect on the roads which we have traveled between different seasons of our lives- but suddenly when we are given the opportunity to retrace our steps and see things in a new light, we’re given new perspective and also just an appreciation for the past. 

Perhaps I can go back in another 6 years!  :)IMG_4440

St. Isaac's Cathedral


Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Return to Russia- part 1: Moscow


I first visited Russia in the summer of 2003 for 6 weeks with the summer missions program at Seattle Pacific University.  It is so hard to believe that a full 6 years have passed since my first exposure to this part of the world.  I’ve been meaning to get back to Russia for some time -to see it with new eyes.  My trip in 2003 was my first cross Atlantic adventure and I was overwhelmed by all the things I saw, heard (and didn’t understand) and smelled for the first time!  Little did I know that trip would be the first chapter of  the life I would begin a little over a year later.  Looking back, that first trip seems like ages ago. IMG_4191If anything this opportunity getting to go back was a gift from God- a gift to be able to reflect on all that has happened in the last 6 years- the places I’ve been, the people  I’ve met, the fact that I can now speak and comprehend the Russian language!  I stand back amazed at how the Lord has been at work in my life the past 6 years- and for some reason going back to Russia seemed to bring that all to the forefront of my mind. It reminded me of his faithfulness- of the immense blessings he has poured out in my life!

IMG_4134 My dear friend and former roommate Lena, is now living with her husband in Moscow- so thus the impetus of the trip!  It was wonderful getting to stroll the crazy streets of this larger than life city with Lena and Denis and see also how my sweet friend is so much in love and enjoying married life.  When I was in Moscow in ‘03, Red Square had been blocked off because of terrorist threats- so I made sure to have several moments of glory standing in the center of it on this trip! 

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IMG_4158 It was also fun to introduce Lena and Denis to Starbucks!! No, it hasn’t made it to Kiev- but Starbucks opened a little over a year ago in Moscow. Lena had seen all my coffee cupsIMG_4161 in our apartment when we lived together- so was excited to have her first Starbucks experience with a girl from Seattle!  On average all the drinks were about $2 more than you’d pay in the US—but oh well- we all thoroughly enjoyed our over priced Frappachinos! :)

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It was a sweet time with sweet friends…from Moscow it was up to St. Petersburg to do some more reconnecting!

Village Life…

The 10 day camp that we recently had was in Kolinenska, Ukraine—an isolated village of about 1,500 people.  IMG_3470 After living in a city of about 5 million it was just a slight change of pace!!   There were 15 people on our team and for the duration of the camp we stayed in the home of 2 local Ukrainian missionary girls- in their 3 room house!  Yes, 15 people in a 3 room house.  Did I mention that there was no running water either?  :)

IMG_3750 We got to experience the village joys of getting water from the well!  What amazed me was that I actually got used to it.  I gained a ton of respect for these two young women who work and serve in this village and I’m humbled by the amount of effort that goes into just living day to day life.  Whether getting their own water from a well, getting milk from the neighbor’s cow, or having to wait for the water to heat up before you can take a bucket shower—I was truly humbled by their day to day life and all that they’ve given up to serve the kids in the 2 orphanages there.IMG_3842 IMG_3453

I do have to say the peacefulness was refreshing. After all, everyone loves to see ducks, cows, goats and geese while out on their morning walk!