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Showing posts from August, 2010

Making progress

Thank goodness for good friends! Some girls from church came over and helped me with priming and spackling.

No need to judge, we're only amateurs...:)

Home sweet home?

I think my room needs a little more work...

The truth about taking offense

Only a friend can betray a friend
A stranger has nothing to gain
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain

-Michael Card, “Why?”
This isn’t meant to be a sad post, just some reflections on conflict in relationships.
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Jesus was betrayed by Judas, a friend. Anyone could have done it; He had plenty of enemies. But God chose a friend.

It’s painful to reflect upon, and yet at the same time, an indicator of how Christ lived his life. Knowing He would be betrayed, knowing His time was short, He still sought deep, meaningful friendships.

Only people close to us may betray us, yet there is a positive side to the vulnerability, for it means that we have truly loved. They will not all betray us, but they may hurt us in a number of ways during the process of getting to know each other.

There are times when seemingly harmful words from friends can be upsetting, and we wonder what it was that made us so sensitive. But the fact is that the same words from someone on the s…


This is a message from the Lord through Ezekiel to the false prophets. It compels me to test my heart and my witness. Do I speak the whole truth, or do I gloss over serious situations? Do I offer advice that is rooted in this world rather than eternity? How will I be able to face the people I led astray? And how will I be able to face the Lord?
" 'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, "Where is the whitewash you covered it with?" -Ezekiel 13:10-12


Sometime last week I got a call to go sit in a friend's room until some guys came to deliver new furniture.

I've never ordered furniture in the U.S., so I'm not sure how the timing of the delivery usually works out. Here, you sometimes get a specific time and sometimes just a general window, like 10-2 or 2-6. This can apply to deliveries, doctors' house-calls, maintenance jobs, etc.

My friend kept calling and calling until she got a more specific time from them. Then she called me,"They'll be there in an hour." I was still at home.
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She had drawn a map, and luckily it was accurate, because I had very little time to spare. I found her room in the communal apartment and made myself "at home."

The callbox rang and I answered it.

"Something something furniture." (I can't always understand Russian by phone or intercom). I let them in.

It was just one guy, with pieces in boxes. He left them and then I left, too.

A week later, t…

You said you were looking for a job?

This is what a job posting in St. Petersburg looks like:

What it says:

Salesclerk needed! In this neighborhood!

-not on the street (in a building)

-female, 25-55 yrs of age

-1 yr experience in retail

-work schedule: 2 days on, 2 days off

-salary: 15,000 rubles/month (about $470)

-official salary; employee benefits

Shock and other emotions

When you experience life in another country, you lose your innocence.

A lot of times people say to me, "I would like to visit America....just to see what it's like." A voice in my head screams silently "Don't do it!" as I try to change the subject.

I know, it sounds hypocritical since I go back and forth myself. But it's like a Pandora's Box. You can't go back after you've seen it; made the comparison. The emotions either prompt you to act, or ruin you for life, or maybe both. The contrasts in wealth and poverty; the different levels of caring and not caring; the different political systems; the ways people rejoice or despair in life. They use the word "shock" for a reason.

I met with one of my adult English students. She returned recently from her first trip to America; an orphanage counselor with a meager salary.


But there was something negative, too. She sniffed at my large (relatively) 2-rm (shared) apartment…

Theories-more specific

Sometimes I grumble about overanalyzing and then go and....analyze something. :) Sorry!

A visitor left a comment which let me to an article which was not only insightful, but hit on the word I was looking for:


I was thinking about this question today, with regards to both domestic and overseas ministry:

In preaching the Gospel, should we try to put the message in a specific cultural context?continue/-

Sermons and marketing

A tough point in cross-cultural preaching is that the Gospel must be presented as relevant to everyday life, yet lifestyle among the congregants is more likely to be a variable and not a constant. The biggest worry on a listener's mind might be a completely strange notion to the minister if he is from another country or even a different generation.

Admittedly, I'm more conservative when it comes to using a lot of "modern" examples in sermons. I don't know if illustrations ought to include references to current TV shows, polit…

You know it's hot when...

One thing Americans and Russians have in common is that they both like to complain about the weather, hot or cold. I have a friend from the extreme north of Russia, and she’s always cold. However, when I was in Congo, I didn’t hear any of the locals complain about the heat. But then again, I didn’t understand most of what was said. :) I would say it’s characteristic of all humans to worry about physical comfort, but I haven’t polled everyone yet…

As you know, it’s been a warm summer in Russia. While we often wish for “real summer” in St. Petersburg, we forget that hot weather is only fun if you can hang out on a beach and jump in the lake, not if you are required to go to work, do remont (home renovations), cook anything that requires heat, get a good night’s sleep, ride the public transportation, go outside at all, wear anything long-sleeved…

It’s been interesting observing how the extreme weather uniquely affects life in northern Russia. If in Massachusetts the warmer temperat…


I like the Russian word "remont," which can cover anything from redoing your bathroom to fixing a hole in your shoe.

If you are trying to describe your current life to someone and you say "We're doing remont," then they know exactly what is going on at your house. I even use this term with my ex-pat friends because it is just so hard to sum up the situation in one word in English.

Maybe our apartment isn't exactly "under construction" as it is currently livable, but there is a lot of "remont" that needs to be done.

A guy from our church has come over twice now at 10pm (after work) to work on our leaky/clogged faucets. The kitchen faucet broke off, so we're doing dishes in the bathtub. continue/-

I've been slowly working away at the old wallpaper in my room, removing sections at a time.

But we can't put the new wallpaper up until the new windows are put in. And to put new windows in, we have to call around to a few different co…


Yesterday I got a "taste" of what people in other parts of Russia have been experiencing.

I was coming home from church and noticed that my street was sort of misty, and it smelled like something was burning. This wasn't your typical house or car on was something bigger!

So apparently the winds had blown some forest/peat bog fires to certain areas of St. Petersburg. I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but those buildings in the background are usually much clearer!

Next photo/-

This is what they look like on a normal day.

It didn't seem like the smoky air was going away anytime soon, so I had to close all the windows, much to my chagrin, as it was over 80 F inside.

I checked the weather page incessantly for signs of rain or a drop in temperature. It seemed hopeful that the wind might change again. For the moment, I sat as if a sauna, watching a breeze tantalizingly rustle the trees outside my closed windows.

In the morning, I awoke, gingerly ope…

Sunday pastimes

I'm reading "Little Men" (Louisa May Alcott) for the first time, and was struck by this simple description of Sunday afternoon relaxation:

" 'This is my Sunday closet,' she said, showing him shelves filled with picture-books, paint-boxes, architectural blocks, little diaries, and materials for letter-writing. 'I want my boys to love Sunday, to find it a peaceful, pleasant day, when they can rest from common study and play, yet enjoy quiet pleasures, and learn, in simple ways, lessons more important than any taught in school.' "Continue/-

What a great list of peaceful, uplifting recreational activities. Okay, I realize that someone might be more inclined to outdoorsy pastimes, but you get the idea. Sunday isn't the day when you're NOT allowed to do certain things, it's the day when you finally have the privilege of attending to some of those forgotten interests that bring you joy.

On Sundays I like studying something for fun, doing an …

Russian flora and fauna

In the park we visited today, we saw lots of snails.

What else was lurking in these woods? A squirrel. Just one...

In Russia, the parallel universe, a common type of squirrel is red-haired, with rather pointy ears. Very cute, but different!

Foreign retail in the cultural capital

There is nothing like visiting IKEA in Russia.

Actually, I'll be honest. It reminds me of the scene from Veggie Tales' "Madame Blueberry" when the new store appears and the veggies hop along a trail through the woods, until they get to a clearing where a chorus of voices trills "Stuffmart!" and a billboard rises into the clouds.

Since IKEA St. Petersburg is a bit off the beaten trail, there are buses that go there. FREE buses. And we all know that if something's free you have to take it, right? So even though there are some route taxis that go there, everyone squeezes into the free bus. If they don't have a car, that is. Continue/-

If you're stuck without anything to hold on to, you might fly around the bus a bit during those final curves. Then, over the tree/building tops, the tall billboards emerge...IKEA and the MEGA mall. And I can hear the Veggie Tales tune cueing in my head as everyone starts to drool with anticipation of the shopping expe…

Christ vs. Christianity it possible to remain faithful to Christ while turning your back on "Christianity"?

A quote from a certain well-known author has been popping up in the media this week.

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." -Facebook announcement, Anne Rice
My thoughts/-

In general, I see two sides to the issue. The first is that perhaps it is good to flee Pharisaic movements within Christianity. Sometimes it is helpful to distance ourselves from what we consider to be false teaching/falling short of Christ's message.

Another side to the issue is that we sometimes don&…

Technology: Cyrillic problems and solutions (those exasperating question marks)

The software for my Russian Internet connection was coming up all ??????. I only got it to work because the word "PIN" was in European characters so I knew when to type in my number.

The most obvious solution was to install Cyrillic fonts, but I had already done that long ago in the regional/language settings.

The ?????? came up when browsing, or when I'd installed certain software.

I finally found quite a simple solution at the website maintained by the Slavic Languages department at GWU. All you have to do is choose "Russian" as the default for non-unicode languages. I had always avoided doing that because I thought it would mess up the English. Well, it might mess up Spanish or French, but English and Russian are both working like a charm at this point.

I just have to praise their website a little. They put up screenshots showing the exact problem and then describe the exact step-by-step solution. Way to go!


Is it possible to theorize on how to love? Are there methods that work and don't work?

I was pondering some different theories on how to "do" cross-cultural ministry. There are certain words that rub me the wrong way, like "effectiveness," "productivity," "results;" even seemingly fancy terms like "cultural sensitivity" and "going native."

And then I realized that the problem isn't that people sit around talking and analyzing missions, since some observations do hit the nail on the head. The Apostle Paul certainly did a lot of meditating and writing on the subject.

The problem is when you try to fit it into a system of doing "A" for "B" to occur. Take a simple concept like conforming to the local dress. If you wear the native costume, then you will be more readily accepted by "them" and will be able to get better access in order to preach the Gospel, and will produce more RESULT…