Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Vacation in ... Lviv

I had some vacation days that I didn't get around to using, but I really didn't feel like traveling - so I am taking a "staycation."  A staycation is one of those words coined to make being poor incredibly cool - the way shabby-chic is used to explain away the fact that all of your furniture is old and in poor condition.

It just so happens that I live in the most incredible city for a vacation, or a staycation.  Or ... whatever.

I love this city.  It is just teeming with things to do, places to see, coffee to drink, and amazing cafes to visit.  Oddly, my idea of a perfect vacation is to buy a cheap detective novel (or three), sit in a comfy chair and read for a week.  I decided to at least mix the two a bit, and have been testing out the comfyness factor of chairs in various cafes around the city.

I found a thick crime-novel at the book-market (in English!) for only 5 UAH - about 65 cents.  The only problem is that it is British English and not American English.  Other than spending five minutes trying to figure out what a kerb is (a curb for those keeping score at home), the biggest challenge has been trying to figure out the names of each unit within the police system in England, and the differing importance of rank for officers.  Apparently, rank is unbelievably important in their system ... and apparently I don't understand the order at all.  The author keeps making big references to rank and it is quite confusing.  This has given me a greater understanding of non-native speakers as they try to navigate all of the various meanings we have given to words and actions in the English language.

I have also spent a good deal of time working on translations.  My co-translator and I discovered a Ukrainian poet who wrote the most mesmerizing verses.  We've translated two of his poems into English so far, and hope to keep working on some of his other writings.  We hope to start publishing in 2013.  

I've also spent a great deal of time just walking around.  The weather has jumped above zero this week, and the snow and ice are melting.  Usually it's too cold for a long walk, so it has been nice to be able to enjoy this small comfort as well.

I hope that your Christmas vacations have been nice and that you have been able to enjoy your time of rest as much as I have.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Newsletter

Hi friends.

Here is a link to my Christmas Newsletter.

I hope that your Christmas is perfect in every way, and that you are filled with peace, joy, and hope.

Love, Michael

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Thoughts of Thanks

My great aunt Mabel wrote a Christmas poem decades ago, and each year we read it together as a family.  The third stanza reads:
Now is the time to prepare our hearts,
Sweep every corner clean,
Dust out the cobwebs of fear and doubt,
Mop stains of sin when seen.
Make room for the Babe of Bethlehem;
Invite our Lord Christ in;
Give first place to him who died
To save us all from sin. 

Our Advent season here in Ukraine lasts for about six weeks.  Many of our students celebrate a fast during this time, giving up sweets or something more precious.  We wait together for this blessed holy day.  At the Youth to Jesus student center, our lives are filled with waiting.  We wait the return of our beloved friends David and Shannon and their exuberant boys.  We wait on government institutions and construction firms for the completion of our new student center.  We wait for some students to be led by God back into the fold of this ministry.  We wait for that sense of peace that only Christ can bring after an enormous tragedy.

My great aunt Mabel kept a small, ceramic, light-up Christmas tree in her living room year round.  In childhood amusement, I wrongly assumed that she was too lazy to put it away in January.  As the words of her poem ring through my ears, I understand her need of a constant reminder of the King's coming.  At the Christmas eve candlelight services of my childhood, I would stand on the pew and snuggle up against her wool jacket as we sang "Joy to the World."  Her arm around my torso, she would whisper-sing each word into my ear - each note a quiet prayer for me.  

As our students prepare their hearts for the coming King, we believe the words of that famous hymn: He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove,The glories of His righteousness,And wonders of His love!  During these last few months, we felt God's truth and grace as we faced each challenge.  We felt your prayers and received the glory of God's righteousness through your loving kindness. 

Thank you for being a part of this ministry.  Thank you for lifting us up in prayer, giving above and beyond for this ministry, and thinking of our students during this time.  We wait together this Advent season, knowing that as Christ showed up in the manger, God's love and grace for us will show up in the most unusual places and unexpected ways.