Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The life of every great man is
the cross
and it is also
the way and
guide to
And now that it has begun,
It is not lawful for me to turn my back
upon it or proper for me to abandon it.
Have done, therefore, my well-loved
Let us go forth together.
Jesus will be with us:
For Jesus we have taken this cross,
For Jesus let us persevere and
He who is our guide and leader will be
our help.
So, our King who fights for us will go
before us.
Let us follow Him boldly,
let us fear no perils, but
be ready to die for Him manfully in
so that we place no blot upon our glory
or diminish our reward by fleeing like
cowards away from
The Cross.

-Thomas A. Kempis
being in the czech republic has given me a glimpse into just how big god's kingdom here on earth really is. last year i had the strange experience of coming to the realization that czech people are just like me! ...i just don't understand what they're saying. they have hurts and joys, they want to be loved and valued, to find purpose in life. communication is so important to finding common ground with fellow man, whether that communication be in the same language or not. i can't imagine how much our world would change if we took a step back from one another and remembered that we're really all the same when it comes down to it.

on friday, as i was in slovakia for the weekend, i got to go to martina's christian group. i didn't understand the songs, i didn't understand the dialogue, and when her pastor got up to speak, i didn't understand her either. here are things that i did understand: closed eyes, contented smiles during times of praise, heads bowed together in prayer, laughter, giggles, the intensity and authority with which pastor mima spoke. though i didn't know what she said, i could feel her passion for the word and for the lord and i felt joy because of it.

martina loves the lord with all her heart. she spends time with him everyday, she reads her bible, she surrounds herself with people she can be encouraged by and those she can witness, too. when she talks about god, her face lights up. she's so real - god's not something saved for sundays... he's part of regular conversation. martina speaks some english, i speak some czech (similiar to slovak) and the words we don't speak are filled in by the spirit of christ in both of us. martina's heart beats for her teammates - that they would know the lord as she does. she's my sister in christ and one very cool reminder that god is everywhere and he's not restricted by our small minds or different languages. god is big here and everywhere.

there were so many random things that happened on the trip that were hilarious... here's just one of them. sarah and i were sitting in our cabin on a stop and low and behold, 6 guys in medieval garb hop on the train - complete with shining metal swords! we got a pretty good look at them as they were standing in the aisle right outside our cart. unfortunately, not only did they look medieval but we figured they were really getting into character as they smelled somewhat medieval as well (use your imagination! ;)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

we just got home from our week of training camp in strakonice. the week was definitely a challenge all-around. from stretching sessions, aerobics, practices without pucks, interesting czech cafeteria food, to an hour long team meeting we did not understand the week could hardly be called uneventful. oh ya, and then there was that american style football game we played. coach karel instructed us all to put on our shoulder pads and helmets and we headed over to the soccer field to run laps and then play some football. i don't have my computer now to download some of the video footage/pictures of the event, but lets just say it was hilarious. another interesting thing was the night before we had a game against a boys team, our curfew was lengthened to 11:30pm and lots of the girls went out drinking... some of them coming back in an 'interesting' state.

we were thankful the week came to a close yesterday morning as we made the trek back to prague. the week, though being trying at times, was also a lot of fun. jackie, jeni, arielle and i got to spend some quality time hanging out with each other and also with our czech/slovak teammates.

in other news... a former AIA teammate came to visit me this morning. sarah's here for 10 days from boston/nova scotia and i'm really blessed to have this time with her here! we'll get to hang out, see some of the czech republic and encourage one another. i love the verse in proverbs that says: "as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another" (17:17)... especially because it's a picture of the way the Lord has blessed our friendship. yay!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

that's what you get for being flexible

have you ever seen one of those documentaries on eastern european/russian gymnastics techniques? the ones where they force their bodies into bizarre stretches that look completely unnatural... and PAINFUL? well, lets just say i got to experience a little piece of just that in our training yesterday.

this week we've been training like crazy. we spent an hour with our "trainer", Petra, doing aerobics, stretching and other things that i've never before done when training for hockey. then we spent an hour and fifteen minutes on the ice, with the last 15 minutes spent doing, what i think at least, is purposed to make us all either pass out or throw up. after practice, we run for 10 minutes, then spend another 30 minutes with Petra working on our "briko" (stomach), "zada" (back) and doing "strecink" (streching). it's killer!

so yesterday before practice in our session with Petra, we were doing a bunch of stretches and holding them, and actually bouncing in the stretching position, in order to - i think - be able to stretch our muscles further. next thing i know, i look up and she's standing behind one of my teammates who has her legs spread in a "v" in front of her. Petra then proceeds to push on my teammates back and force her down as LOW TO THE GROUND as my teammate (who's name is also Petra, so I'll call her Petra #2 to keep things somewhat sensical!). once Petra released her, Petra #2 rolled over on her side and began basically wimpering in the fetal position, hands holding her groin area. if you need witnesses to this story, feel free to talk to jeni, jackie or arielle. all 3 can verify it's validity!!

Petra then goes to each girl on the team, pushing on our backs as we're sitting with our legs in the "v" position, bracing ourselves for the pain to come. when she got to me, i wasn't intending to stretch to the max, but being the pretty flexible person that i am, with petra's help i was able to touch my FOREHEAD to the ground. not even kidding. of course, she's so excited that i'm able to do this that she yells for everyone to look, holding me down there even longer so everyone can get a look. suddenly i hear this "pop" and something in my inner thigh/lower buttocks/upper leg feels terribly wrong. Petra moves on, everyone gives me a congratulatory call or salute for my flexibility and i put on a tough-girl-i'm-so-flexible face... all the while coming to the sad realization that something is SO not right - with that stretching technique and with my now aching buttock!

post-practice: my uber flexibility is gone. i now cannot touch my right foot with my right hand. looks like the european method of flexiblity is not such a good idea after all. next time you're watching one of those documentaries, i hope you think of me. ;) i'll keep you posted on my recovery!

Monday, August 4, 2008

after our long journey to prague finally ended yesterday, we walked out into the prague airport to see mr. kott (team president), mr. nemec (team manager) and michal (our agent) with big smiles on their faces and a rose for each of us! talk about a warm welcome. i think arielle was pretty impressed. they were super organized with maps and public transportation tickets. one vehicle whisked our bags to the rink in kralupy while mr. kott and michal took us and all our luggage to our new and old flats... the only not so great news of the day was that it looks like we'll be splitting up into two flats instead of living all together in one (as we originally requested and were told would happen). the new flat has just been reconstructed and is as beautiful as the "old" flat, so that's nice. it's relatively close (a 10 minute tram ride) but not as close as we'd like it to be! apparently we'll get to reevaluate in about a month and if we're really unhappy living separately, management will see what can be done.

our flight was seemless in contrast to poor jeni, who missed her connection from paris to prague and then missed two other flights after that - none of which were her own fault or a product of her falling asleep in the airport! needless to say, when she arrived last night at 11pm after hanging out in paris for 12 hours, she was quite ready to go to bed or get on a plane back to canada. we're quite thankful she stayed!

this morning in my insomnia (aka jetlag) i sat out on the balcony and got to thank the lord for his goodness. it really feels so great to be back in prague... it feels a bit like home, to be honest!

lately i've been reading the writings of st. augustine... a guy who lived from 354-430AD and who was passionate about the lord. one of his entries i read a few days ago keeps drawing me to read it again and again:

oh! that i might repose on Thee! oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that i may forget my ills, and embrance Thee, my sole good? what art Thou to me? in Thy pity, teach me to utter it. or what am i to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if i give it not, are wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous woes? is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? oh! for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, o Lord my God, what Thou art unto me. say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. so speak, that i may hear. behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. after this voice let me haste, and take hold on Thee. hide not Thy face from me. let me die - lest i die - only let me see Thy face.

i was curious to read some of his writing when i listened to a podcast that included some of his quotes. it was this line that got me intriged "i have had such delicious thoughts about the Lord" that made me giggle and want to know what this guy was all about. he's one of the passionate guys of old that just couldn't get enough of jesus. what a cool guy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

the big day has finally arrived! tomorrow morning i head to the czech republic along with 3 fellow canadians: jackie, jeni and arielle. i'll be gone for the next 10 months, with a possible trip home at christmas. it seems like a long time when i look forward now, but i know that time somehow always seems to pass quicker than i think it will.

my summer at home has been a huge blessing! i am overwhelmed by the body of christ and the support i've received from family and friends. my thoughts about this keep coming back to ephesians 4:15-16 which says:

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

i love the picture of the body of christ being one. we are all called to be different and to walk the path god has called us to - using our gifts, passions and opportunities accordingly - but we all fit together as one through christ. as we grow in christ we work together to share his love with the world and to build each other up. i've felt so encouraged through the ways i've been able to share about the ministry in the czech republic with people at home... and also learn about what god is doing in your lives as well.

as i leave tomorrow, i can't help but be bursting with joy and thankfulness for all god has done in me this summer, for relationships with so many special people at home, for new friends and for reacquainting with old ones, too.

everyday the call is to follow jesus. to know him and love him more. one way we do that is through loving each other. thank you for loving on me this summer! i'm excited to see what god has in store in prague, but i'm also excited to hear about the works he is doing and will be doing in the year ahead here at home through all of you.

much love and blessings... we'd appreciate your prayers for travel safety for the four of us tomorrow! we fly out at 10am.

talk to you soon from the other side of the ocean.

ps - praises to the big guy for finished visas! jackie and i received our visas in the mail along with our passports - in time, if you can believe it! :)