Vienna Diary


Vienna Diary
October 16

We are contemplating this huge move, an enormous, gargantuan change – packing up our family of five, including the disabled child and moving them to another continent, another culture, another lifestyle, another language.

Last night we had dinner with the director of Vienna Christian School and another couple.  The husband of the “other” couple is a native Austrian and was really there so that we could pick his brain and get in depth info about living in Austria.

Mostly, we discussed the challenges involved in having my son overseas.  At one point it was said of us, but not to us, “They need to be realistic.  This is not America.”  I was later told by several people that this person had spoken in her characteristically blunt fashion, but it was not meant unkindly.  In fact, I knew even at the time that she was concerned that we weigh everything, that she just did not want us to enter into this with stars in our eyes.

Be realistic.

I wonder. 

Realistic would have been Robb staying in a job he didn’t like, working for a company that manufactures products he does not care about in order to provide his family with a comfortable living.

Realistic would have been realizing that our son will never be able to function with any degree of independence or success in this world and putting him in a home and getting on with our lives.

Realistic would have been saying of our adopted daughter, “There are too many obstacles to this adoption.  It’ll never happen.  Let’s not put ourselves out there just to be hurt and disappointed.”

But:

Realistic doesn’t leave room for God to be amazing. 
Realistic stifles creativity. 
Realistic is an enemy of faith. 
Realistic doesn’t let God be God.

Ephesians 3:20 & 21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

(You’re looking at the hall of flags in Vienna Christian School, where flags are flown from each nation that is represented among the student body this year.)

Vienna Diary 
October 18

Today we took a train from Vienna to Salzburg.  It was a three hour train ride.  During the ride, we went through several longish tunnels.  I knew that it was going to go from hilly, to foot-hilly to mountainous during the course of the trip.  So I kept almost expecting to emerge from these tunnels to a radically different terrain.   But that never happened.  The shift was more gradual than that. 

But then, when we were in Salzburg, we took the tram from the city, up the side of the hill to the Fortress of Salzburg and, when I wasn’t expecting it, a dramatic change happened. 

 

All day it had been cloudy and raining and it had been cloudy when we got on the tram, but in the few minutes that we were waiting there, a big patch of sky had cleared and when we emerged at the top, it was dramatically sunny on the buildings, the hills and the mountains.

And I’ve been thinking about tunnels.  I’ve been thinking about how sometimes we get into a tunnel in our lives and we don’t know what to expect on the other end.  Will everything be dramatically different or will there be subtle changes?  Will it be lighter on the other end or will it be so dark that we can barely tell we are no longer in the tunnel?  Will traveling the tunnel bring answers or just more questions?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know some things about tunnels:

*tunnels don’t last forever

*the darkness in the tunnel helps us to better appreciate the light when we have it

*not being able to see gives us opportunity to hone our other senses

*the darkness and solitude of the tunnel can help us see ourselves

*even though the tunnel may take you someplace radically different than you anticipated, that place will have a beauty of its own if you have eyes to see

*God is before the tunnel; God is in the tunnel; God is on the other side

Happy traveling.

Vienna Diary
October 17

When I walked into St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, this was my reaction:

Oh. Wow.

Wikipedia says that St. Stephen’s Cathedral was first built as a parish church in 1147 and rebuilt and enlarged over the centuries, with major new work concluding in 1511.  (And if you read it on Wikipedia, it must be true).

But it wasn’t the age that awed me.  Even though the feat of building such a huge edifice in the 16th century is incredible.

And it wasn’t the centuries old tradition that awed me.  Though that carries it’s own amazing weight.

And it wasn’t thinking about the dozens and hundreds and thousands of worshipers who have loved God over the centuries that awed me.  At least it wasn’t that exactly. 

But what really affected me with reverent joy and grateful awe was the fact of God.  The awesome, incredible, mighty, loving God who is El Shaddai.  On the one hand the Almighty, all powerful, Creator God who, on the other hand, loves us personally and nurtures us individually and gives us each what we need in order to grow and to flourish if we will let Him.

And I had to pray.  I had to sit down, there, in the pew, in the middle of the tourist swirling around me and thank God that no matter how big our buildings get and how weighty our numbers get, He sees us individually and loves us each uniquely and wants each of us personally to know Him and talk with Him and learn from Him.

How cool is that?

[Most of my journeling in Vienna was accomplished pen to paper (how retro, I know) but I am finally getting around to putting them up as posts.  I will be doling them out over the next few days (because I don’t think many of you love me enough to read them all at once).  They are in no particular order.]

Vienna Diary
October 15 

Robb and I are in Vienna finding out more about an opportunity for him to teach at an American school here.  We were talking to the director last night and he was explaining his heart and vision for the school.  One of the pillars of that vision is that it be a “caring community” first among staff and their families and then reaching out to the students and their families. 

Caring Community is a phrase that more and more churches and Christian organizations are throwing around and assuming that everyone else knows what they are talking about.  But … what are we talking about?  Sometimes it is used to describe a program, sometimes a vision for what a group or organization would like to become and sometimes a description of what they believe they have achieved.

As he was sharing his heart with us and letting us know what we would be getting ourselves into if we end up coming to teach in his school in Vienna, I had an overwhelming desire to return the favor; to let him know what he would be getting into by taking our family into his community.  I said to him, “I know that you already know that when a family comes here, they leave behind their entire support system and those within the ministry have to become one another’s support, the caring community.  I want you to know that it’s going to be harder with my family.  Because of our situation  with an adolescent with special needs, there are going to be challenges that you haven’t anticipated.  I want to make sure that you are as informed and willing to take us on as we are to take you on.”

It gave him pause, let me tell you.  And he appreciated that I brought it up.  And it was the subject of much discussion throughout the week.  Mostly, I think, I was trying to say, don’t forget about us; don’t forget about me.

And I think that’s as good a definition of Caring Community as any – not forgetting about each other.  It means noticing one another and taking the time to find out what’s underneath the facade.  And then doing something about it, rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn.  It means encouraging the faint hearted and taking courage from others when you need it yourself.  It means laying down your life for your friend – most of us will never have to do that literally – but when was the last time you set yourself aside, put your agenda and your needs on hold and let someone else’s need dictate your time for an hour, an afternoon or a day?

Do you have this kind of support system in your life?  Are you this kind of support for others?  What did I miss in my definition of caring community?

Vienna Diary
October 16

I realized today that in the last couple days I’ve met over 20 new people.  I have a pretty good memory, but I’m not particularly good with names.  If I meet you once, there is a good chance that next time I see you I will have to ask your name again (most people don’t mind this if you are polite and have a big smile).  But I will remember, and will ask, if your mother was in the hospital or if you were having work done on your house or contemplating a career change.

But, names are important.  And I would like to learn to be better at remembering them.

Realizing how badly I was remembering the names of those I had met (remember the jet lag and have some grace for me), made me think about the names of God.  One of the names I’ve heard about over and over since I’ve been in Austria is Jehovah Jireh, God the provider.  If you want to learn about Jehovah Jireh, spend a few days hanging out with missionaries.  Missionaries know about God the provider.  And this week we’ve spent a LOT of time listening to the miraculous ways that God has provided not only needs, but immeasurably more than all that was asked or imagined.

But, for me, to really cool thing was the ways that God does this.  Sometimes, God sends a check out of the blue and you don’t know where it comes from.  But often, God uses his people to be part of the immeasurable.  We get to, when we listen to God, be part of God being amazing.  We get to participate in blessing others extravagantly.

Is God urging you to share something, your time, your finances, your home, with others?  Do it.  And embrace the opportunity to be part of our amazing, wonderful Jehovah Jireh.

Vienna Diary
October 14

On Saturday morning, we boarded a plane in Chicago for an eight hour flight to Vienna.  As we boarded, Robb remarked that 100 years ago this journey would have taken a couple weeks, 200 years ago, it would have taken a couple months and 300 years ago may have taken up to a year.

But I’ve been thinking, that although the physical journey from middle America to Vienna, Austria only took 14 hours, (including driving time from northern Indiana to Chicago) the real journey has taken half a lifetime.

In 14 hours, we drove …, flew… and drove…, but that only represents physical distance.  Metaphysical distance is quite another thing.

How do yo measure the journey from I can’t to I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me; the journey from It’s impossible to With God all things are possible; from It’s too much to ask to Here am I, Lord, send me; from Do I dare dream it to Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Half a lifetime and counting…

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that the steps of this journey will not have been taken in vain.

How about you?  Where are you going? And what heart miles do you still need to travel to get there?