Tag Archives: faith

Filling the Spirit in Limoges

(And why, one wonders, is worshiping spelled with one ‘p,’ but shipping is spelled with two?)

But anyway, the end of March was blessed with a ladies’ retreat of the AECM community of churches, in French. I was privileged and delighted to be a part of this, and encouraged that I was able to participate and follow a significant percentage without the printed notes this time. It is wonderful to sing and worship with so many different Christian women from all parts of France.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Friends, some of whom I carpooled with.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Our group from the Toulouse area.

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Making a joyful noise to the Lord!

Creating prayer calendars

Creating prayer calendars

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Sunday lunch, after worshiping at the church in Limoge.

Before returning to Toulouse, our carpool chose to make a visit to the ceramics museum. I get to add yet another museum to my list! I really need to make a page to collect my museum visits. I enjoy going back and remembering them.

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

The Museum of Limoges Porcelain, March 2014

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

My friend Dita in a porcelain sculpture outside the museum.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

The museum, decorated with enameling.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

Limoges is also known for its stained glass manufacture.

More detail of the museum.

More detail of the museum.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

One of many giant platters decorating the exterior wall.

You can see a few of my favorite displays here. Continue reading

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Interrupting the Tour of Italy…

to bring you a glimpse of my Ladies’ Retreat! Last weekend, our church organization sponsored a spiritual retreat for the French churches of South France with the theme of Free to Serve Him. Aside from an interest in the topic, I loved the idea of learning and worshiping alongside my sisters in Christ here. The one big hesitation I held was, well, it would be a French retreat in French. I’ve been working on this language for 10 months, but I still can’t say I speak it. One of my French friends who was attending, though, and who translates, offered to let me ride with her and the pastor’s wife, and she would make sure I understood the teaching. YES!

One of the joys of being a part of the family of God is that, where ever you go, regardless of cultural or language differences, the Holy Spirit in each of you is able to communicate a bond that transcends these barriers. Poor tribal women in the mountains of Mexico who know the Savior lit up at meeting a white, clueless English believer in Christ (and vice versa), and it is the same in France. I sang songs in French, whose lyrics I could only mostly comprehend, but some I knew in English, and what a joy! I prayed with women in French, and enjoyed 3-course French meals preceded by lovely songs that were benedictions, like we used to do in camp! And I was able to follow French Scripture readings in my English Bible.

Good food and conversation at a French retreat is a given, I guess.

Good food and conversation at a French retreat is a given, I guess.

We gather to practice a song for the host church's worship service Sunday. It was the French version of "Open My Eyes, Lord."

We gather to practice a song for the host church’s worship service Sunday. It was the French version of “Open My Eyes, Lord.”

And folks, the liberating grace and mercy of God is the same in every language! It was a first for the women of the region, and I pray it will double in size next year.

It was a mercy and a delight, though, to find that a third of the ladies in attendance, while speaking French for the retreat, were yet native English-speakers. And additionally, the matron who was caretaker of the retreat location was an  American missionary who had come to France long ago to minister to lovely French people. The world of the family of God is small indeed! I had an abundance of help with the material, and people who were ready to talk about Jesus in my own heart language, too. I did sometimes grow weary of all the foreign-ness. It is hard work and a constant alertness to focus on a foreign language, and it wasn’t just a few hours with French class. It was definitely a weekend that helped my language listening skills, though.

The location was a retreat in itself, too, though. Maubourguet is a quaint ville, and this building the retreat met at was right on the market square. Looking at the solid wall facade that faces the square, you’d never guess all the courtyard and home behind them.

The courtyard, with bedrooms, the kitchen, and a meeting room facing it.

The courtyard, with bedrooms, the kitchen, and a meeting room facing it.

This is a lovely canal that runs behind most of the building, and actually UNDER parts of it. Very cool, and the babble of the water was refreshing.

This is a lovely canal that runs behind most of the building, and actually UNDER parts of it. Very cool, and the babble of the water was refreshing.

I definitely hope I have the privilege of attending again next year!

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Churches in Florence

My one great regret in Florence occurred at the end of Sunday, walking back to our hotel after a long day on our feet. It was growing dark, and singing was wafting from a recessed doorway. Suddenly Theo realized the tune was familiar. I stopped dead, recognizing an often-sung praise tune. Oh joy! Brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping here, in Italy! I know this should not be a surprise to me, but I wasn’t looking for it here, in this non-descript stone building. My legs almost carried me up the dark stairs to the low light inside, but my tired guys had only paused. I was torn, knowing I would not be unwelcome in that body even if none spoke English (highly unlikely from my experience), but I followed my exhausted fellows. Only later did I realize that I could have gone in and let my traveling companions proceed without me. I really think I could have found my way back to the hotel myself. It is the one thing I did not do that haunts me. But what a reminder that the true Church is not these massive towers and domes of stone or brick. All of the houses of worship we visited house that Body; they are NOT that Body!

Any European city seems to be riddled with churches, most of notable beauty. Florence was no different.

A beautiful church door.

A beautiful church door.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Many of them have these cool domes along with the bell towers.

Ornate carcing on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Ornate carving on a church otherwise much covered, in the process of being refurbished.

Pretty much all the churches we saw charge to come in and look around, and considering the serious brand names of the contributing artists in the churches of Florence, I can see why. You have to pay for wear and tear after all that foot traffic somehow. But as a result, we only went in one…

The ? cathedral.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, opposite the train station.

I’ll save all my Basilica di SMN photos for another post. My favorite church we only stumbled upon accidentally, returning from our iffy bus ride, and never even got inside its gate. It was a tiny little Byzantine-style Orthodox church.

I'm pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

I’m pretty sure this is the Chiesa Russa.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn't really bring out the vivid colors.

The onion dome spires were distinctive, and this rainy day doesn’t really bring out the vivid colors.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

Beautiful entry! It shimmers and glows even in the rain.

So next time, I’ll share with you our tour of the Basilica di SMN.

 

 

 

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Easter in France

Our first Easter in France has been interesting. It is noticeably more low-key than in the States, with the exception of the chocolate. The section for Easter chocolate is at least as big as the Christmas chocolate, and definitely more artistic and creative. Sure, there are your bunnies and your eggs; but the chickens and roosters were a little surprising. I love the hens ON eggs! But why all the other farm animals? And why the FISH? I was so mystified, I went looking online for an answer…

I found some here… but also asked my Thursday French teacher, who explained the link to Lent and the fishes. But she also confirmed the strange April Fool’s prank of the paper fish on the back of an adult, with much giggling and calling of “poisson d’avril!”

Theodore’s Easter chocolate:

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

These are his chocolates from us. Notice the chocolate pig is atop a pile of fish.

The piggie with his fish collection.

The piggie with his fish collection.

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

When the neighbors came for dinner, they brought us these bells. (See the website for why bells.)

Inside Theo's little bell...surprise!

Inside Theo’s little bell…surprise!

Our bell had a surprise, too!

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

The Lindt bunny is from the grocery, but the bells were from a chocolaterie in our ville.

I like the quieter Easter. The yards of the homes in our neighborhood ring with the sounds of children playing, as friends and family gather together. I only wish we could marry the simplicity and relationship-orientation of the French observation with the purpose and depth of the true purpose of the holiday I experience at home. In the States, there is a clamor of opposing observances, and even sincere followers can become distracted.

This holiday, this holy day, is a measured walk from death to life, from dark to light, and from hopelessness to hope and joy realized. Our church had set up a stations of prayer for Friday and Saturday, with guided reflections on the hands of Christ. It wsas profound and beautiful. It would be a perfect marriage with our Kansas church’s Good Friday service, worshipping and reflecting through song and Scripture from light to dark. Without the garish circus surrounding this day, I really got to grow in my gratitude. Thank you again, my Jesus, for taking my place.

 

 

 

 

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The Palpable Presence of God

Back to my awesome weekend BSF retreat…

The overall theme was “Eradicating Biblical Poverty.” We studied II Timothy together, noting how Paul mentored Timothy. It was a very encouraging study, but the breakout sessions (a first for a BSF retreat) felt most useful, leaving me with practical, immediate things I could DO. My favorite experience was at the breakout on emergency prayer. According to the speaker, the second part of an emergency prayer is to bring God in; refocus the person on the Person. She called for us to call out character traits of God that we could lift up in praise in a hypothetical situation. Words rose like graceful bubbles all throughout the room, thicker and faster…sovereign…all-knowing…compassionate, ever-present, merciful. And as the praise filled the room, the atmosphere grew thicker, and a weight of comfort and peace pressed in upon me. And then she stopped us.

“Do you feel it?” she asked. “Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit?” And I did, of course, but I was in awe. I had never had someone else publicly acknowledge the corporate, palpable Presence of God. It was so affirming and exciting to realize that all Believers in that room experienced the same thing I did! And empowering to also realize that in praising God for who He is in a crisis situation, I can usher the calming Presence of our Savior into the storm that has captured the attention of the person in crisis.

I am so grateful for that one session at retreat. That one alone I have had the opportunity to practice a number of times already. What a blessing it was!

 

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The Lover of My Soul

Last weekend I got away from uber-busy life with a bunch of women from my Bible Study Fellowship leader group. I worried it was time I couldn’t spare, really, even though this would knock out another 50 Before 50. I had gotten to where I almost didn’t want to go, leaving my family I don’t see enough of, and my to-do list I make so little progress on. So, recognizing this attitude problem, I began, the week before, asking God each day to refresh me on this retreat. How He did this, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, didn’t matter, just so long as PLEASE would He refresh me? Well, the response left me breathless, and feeling just a bit like He had just been waiting in anticipation to do just that!

Arriving at the Hyatt, I unpacked and realized two things: my late night packing job had left me short a blouse, and my lipstick bag with lip balm for my already painfully chapped lips was missing. Ah well, my mind was on other things. I was desperate for a hair makeover. I had originally thought to grow out my curly graying locks for an updo for the wedding in June, but realize now what a mistake that was. Every time I walked past a mirror at work (and my department store has LOTS of mirrors), I couldn’t help feeling frumpy and droopy and old. So with the couple of hours downtime I’ve got before the retreat started, I decided to see if I could get a walk-in haircut. Surely there’s a Great Clips or something nearby? A directory showed an Aveda Institute (the school!) downtown, so I called and said a prayer. “Might you have an opening before 4?” asked at 2:10. They said they had had a cancellation of a 3:00! I can do 3! What a relief! I went walking, and lo and behold, this school was just across the street and around the corner, so I got there 20 minutes early. And what did I see next door, but a TJMaxx. Well, I had time for a quick browse. And hit PAYDIRT! in the form a of a lovely Cable and Gauge blouse for cheap! Unexpected top shortage alleviated.

I showed up at Aveda right on the dot, and the sweet girl who seated me informed me that a cut begins with a scalp massage with scented oil. Oh my! It was awesome, with refreshing peppermint, and right then I knew God was telling me He was taking care of me. The cut turned out really cute, but at the end, the girl said that as a thank you for using their services, I get a little dollop of lip gloss of my color choice. I couldn’t believe it!! It was like God overlooked NO tiny detail. And the whole experience was $18. You can believe I tipped WELL. I nearly cried, I felt so loved. God knew my needs, and me, and how to truly refresh me. I felt not only ready to receive all that He wanted to give me spiritually for the weekend, I was eagerly expectant!

And the public art in Denver is quirky and prolific. It was fun just to watch for it, no museum necessary. Take the Convention Center, for example:

Isn’t he cute? I’ll share more about the retreat itself in future, but for now, just know my prayer was answered. I am loved, and I was definitely refreshed!

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Creation Art

I showed the beginning of this canvas earlier, here. I finished yesterday. The final product:

commission for a friend

I wish I could get a more accurate photo. It is really hard to photograph a dark canvas. If I darken it in my photo software, the light letters gray out. Oh well.

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Overflowing Grace

I got to spend my birthday doing whatever I wanted. So I painted.

I am blessed. My children love me, and love Jesus. My husband thinks I’m sexy. God lets me help Him. I have friends. I have central heat and air, and flush toilets, indoors. I don’t know what hunger really is. I am more healthy than not. I get to participate in a church that wants to serve God. My husband and I both have work, and the means to get there. We can help our children get a higher education. My cup overflows.

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More ladies’ tables

These are so fun!

Healing Waters Revelation 7:17
Healing Waters Revelation 7:17

 

fruit of the spirit

fruit of the spirit

 

Matt 28:19-20 (scarf and bag on each chair were the favors!)

Matt 28:19-20 (scarf and bag on each chair were the favors!)

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Checking in and jumping up and down

Oh Joy!

Oh Joy!

Too bad I can’t count that as Activity Points.

Woot! I have a 5 pound star! I actually lost 1.2 pounds, for a total of 6.1 pounds lost in five weeks. This is a phenomenal rate of weight loss for me: about twice my Texas Weight Watchers loss rate, and easily 4-5 times what I lose without Weight Watchers. See my joyous Snoopy dance? However, I did learn that my jeans weigh TWO WHOLE POUNDS. I weighed at home with and without, and believe you me, I will never weigh in my jeans again. I ditched them for the lightest weight pants I could find.

Points consumed for the week, which included Valentine’s Day: 208 points out of a possible weekly 210 + 33 activity points.

Also, beyond the five pound star, I also crossed my 180 pound threshold, at 179.8 pounds. This is glorious news!! And WHY is it glorious news? Because if I maintain a weight below 180 pounds next weigh-in, I get to treat myself to a FULL BODY MASSAGE!! Woo-hoo! Hallelujah! Because that will mean I have genuinely lost 10 pounds since May. I really hope Coach does a body fat test again in March, because I would love to know how many actual fat pounds are gone now.

OK, enough with the physical. I am a spiritual creature, too, and how is that going? Well, just as I suspected, taking on leadership in BSF has definitely kicked everything up a notch. I’m having a great time, and God is helping me order my time so that it is not too burdensome (at times it’s positively joyful) praying for another 15 women in my life. And I am getting SO MUCH out of the leaders’ meeting. Who knew the Books of the Law would have so much applicable learning?

Now if Spring would just spring my joy would just bubble over! This interminable winter looks to be wrapping up a bit. I have crocus blooming in my garden. 🙂

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