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Archive for September, 2011

Where to start? That’s a tough one. His name is Bernhard. I’ll start there, and we’ll see where it finishes.

Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

We’ve established earlier on FB (when I was too tired to put any of this down) that myself and two co-workers are out of the country for business, working on facilities issues for one of our student programs. The plan was to fly out from OKC at noon on Friday, and to arrive at our destination city of Vienna, Austria at around 8:30 local time Saturday morning. That was the plan.

Upon arriving in the OKC airport and getting our passports scanned and our luggage checked, we were informed that the plane out of OKC had a mechanical delay and we were likely to miss our connecting flight from another city in The States to Vienna. After much wrangling over the phone with airline customer service and turning down options that would have us going everywhere from Chicago to London on our way here and take an extra 12 to 24 hours, we finally settled on a re-route thru Switzerland that would get us to Vienna about 3 hours later than originally planned, but it would mean a very tight connection time, and our luggage might not get correctly retagged and moved between planes to make it to Vienna with us. Oh well, they at least promised us good seats in exchange for our trouble, maybe even beds in Business Class. A good sleeping environment over the ocean would be well worth a 3 hour delay and maybe one night without luggage, we thought.

We barely made the connection, and they almost did not let us on the plane due to “confusion with the reservation”, but we did make it onto the flight. And as for the seats? Back two rows of the airplane, which also happened to be completely full, and my seat was middle of the row and away from my two co-workers. As Little Frau texted me to see how good the seats were, I had an unfortunate but to be expected answer for the moment. “Terrible”.

The seat next to me remained open for the last few minutes, along with two across the aisle by a window. Then a family of three came in, all speaking very rapid German, and claimed the seats with no eye contact or acknowledgment between us. I settled in for a very long and seemingly uncomfortable flight.

As we jetted down the runway and into the air, I saw the man reach across the aisle to take his wife’s hand. Hoping for a possible switch to the aisle, I motioned his way. While he did not understand or respond to my intended communication, we did begin to talk. His English was quite good, and he engaged very quickly.

As mentioned before, his name is Bernhard, and he said he is a “Joiner”. I understand that means a carpenter, in his land. Hold that thought.

He talked about his home. He talked about his daughter, a triathelete, and her strong performance in a recent race out west. We talked about his two sets of twins, and my twins, all three being boy/girl combinations.  Quite a coincidence?  We talked about my oldest child currently being in China, and he admirred what he referred to as “my amulet” bracelet that she got me on a mission trip to Mexico.   He talked about his work.   He is 3rd generation in a business begun in 1914 by his grandfather, then continued by his father, and now by him. While he has two sons, neither plan to work in the business, but one of his apprentices from a few years ago took his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage, and the business will likely continue with him. But the name? She took her husband’s  surname, which is not a given in Switzerland, but an option, even moreso than in the US.   The business bears Bernhard’s surname.    How will that work, he wonders?

But another thing is troubling to Bernhard. His new son in law is not a Catholic, as Bernhard has been all his life. He, and now the daughter, are both baptized members of the Free Church in Switzerland. This is different for him, and it became our primary point of conversation.

The hour or so that followed included discussions of Heaven, Hell, what they are, what they are not, and Purgatory (which Bernhard does not believe exists, if Heaven and Hell even do in substance) and all points in between, whether real or perceived, or maintained in the memories of those we all leave behind when we die. We held open a large fold out map of the world from the in-flight magazine, and he showed me all the places he had travelled to as a young man. He wondered aloud about how God should make a way for all people of all nations to get to Heaven, how it was hard for him to think there could be a place such as Hell, but how people like the Nazis and Americans who killed the “Indians”/native Americans could not deserve Heaven. And we talked about how it is easy/easier to be “Good Men” when times are good, but how it is hard not to be “not so good men” when times are hard.

Each of these points was initiated by Bernhard, and at one point, his wife called across the aisle to tell him that he “should let me eat my dinner”. After dinner, we actually made formal name and handshake introductions of ourselves to each other, now four hours into the flight. We had reached a point of non-agreement, but mutual appreciation for the discussion, and after a review of some Bible verses on my iPhone in English and German (thank you, You Version), we agreed it had been a good discussion and was time for sleep.

As the flight crew began to stir us a short time later with lights and breakfast, I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 PM Friday in Oklahoma, but the sun was coming up on Saturday as we moved across France and further into Europe. I adjusted my watch, “Dialing Up” for the new day that we were already experiencing. And, I was “dialing in” with Bernhard, or as my coworkers called him, “my new friend”. He reached across the aisle just before we landed and took a pad of paper and a pencil from his wife, and he began to write. He then handed me the a slip of paper. (I’ve not included it all in the picture above, for hopefully obvious reasons).

Bernhard invited me, and my family, if we ever come to Switzerland, to spend several days and nights with his family in their small village near the Swiss/German border. He carefully explained every character of his handwritting, from the name, to the address, to the phone number, to the email address. I gave him a business card and told him the same if he is “ever in Oklahoma”. I should be prepared, as his daughter may very well find a triathalon near our home before we fly anywhere near theirs.

Now, back to the beginning.   Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Our flight was delayed, and our plans were changed, but I can’t help but think about how God wanted someone to be there to listen to and engage with Bernhard, for clearly he was ready to talk.

As we worshipped this morning with our OC students and the students from Lipscomb University, one of them shared how this verse meant so much to them and their experience here in another land and another culture, and it further fed my thinking about this “chance” encounter in row 38, seat E. It was a better seat than I ever expected, and I’m humbled by the experience. I’m also challenged, as I feel Bernhard’s invitation to visit can’t be left to collect dust when things like email and the web are right at our fingertips.

Another person was talking to me later tonight, totally out of context, about how he “sees how God is working right now” in a small local church that we visited tonight. I think God was working on the plane Friday night. How many other times is he working and expecting me to pick up the task, but I fail to see or respond because the environment is different or I’m somehow inconvenienced?

I know another carpenter. He too is a “Joiner”. And, I think he wants me to not drop the ball with “my new friend”.

And, by the way, our luggage was right there for us when we got to Vienna. It’s hard to believe, but it should’nt be. After all, I’m not the one doing the planning here.

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…cause I eats me spinach…

Whenever our friend Popeye got into trouble, sometimes seemingly at death’s door, he would always eat his spinach and live (and love) to fight another day. He almost always had it on him, ready for the moment, but in times of extreme duress, others answered the call, providing it just when he needed it the most.

What a great analogy for God’s Word. It is always with us, standing at the ready, poised to strengthen us for the fight. And, when we can’t muster enough within us to retrieve more sustenance, others stand ready to provide.

I confess that I don’t eat enough spinach. I don’t feast on the Word, enough, either. Here’s a commitment to do more of both. And, may I be at the ready to offer some to you, hopefully just when you need it the most, and you do the same for me. Sound like a deal?

Isaiah 40:7-9

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

Have a blessed Sunday, America, and friends around the globe. I know some of you already have, and I’ve been blessed to be in the room with a few of you. Auf weidersehen.

Yes, and in case you were wondering, these episodes of Popeye the Sailor Man were in fact pre-recorded, but not in front of a live studio audience. The audience was all safely asleep in their beds.

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…my Bonnie lies over the “C”.

I have a divided progeny. A few weeks ago, one member flew west on her way to the Ear East. She is over 6,000 miles from home. And yet, as we speak, I am only 5,000 miles or so away from her, as I flew east to do business in “the West”. Accordingly, I am thousands of miles away from the rest of my brood. I’m stuck in the middle, somewhere between those over the sea in Oklahoma, and she who lies over “the C”. C, as in China, that is.

As a child, I loved watching “Popeye the Sailor Man” cartoons, and our title track today was one of his favorite songs. When he would eat his spinach and fight the bad guys, he would often punch them so hard that they would end up in China. Little did I know that one day, someone of my clan would punch her own ticket that direction.

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Unbeknownst to us at the time, moving to Oklahoma over a decade ago has imprinted a stamp of the world on the Bing’s hearts. As Texans (it’s a whole other country, you know), we used to start each meal with “Guten Apetite”. Yes, that’s Guten (good), not Gluten (bad), but I digress.

Since coming to Oklahoma, three out of five family members have been to places like Mexico, Canada, Europe, and Asia. A forth member plans to take her drumming skills to Italy and Jolly Old England before the sun sets on 2011. The fifth member talks of plying the trade of Basketball on the Old Continent one day. Hopefully, the current NBA players won’t still be locked out at that point and shooting threes from Serbia, but I digress.

So, as I close these thoughts, I just want to say how I miss my lassies and laddie, and their patron saint Mutter. In the mean time, please pass the spinach.

Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me. Bring me back, as well. Let’s meet in the middle, whadda ya say, some place like Oklahoma?

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They call her "Gitzen Girl". More on that in a moment.

Yes, it is that time of year, again. It's Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. It's been a year since the writing about Suffering in the Shadows, and Spoons, and such like. As I mentioned it earlier today, Little Frau said she was ignoring it, but admitted she could not escape it's influence. It's just something you can't ignore. And we should not try.

What a difference a year makes; and not. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. How ironic.

Shingles are more than just those things that cover your roof. Meth(o) is not just something cooked up in backwoods locals.

"R.A.S." has passed on. "Warm Socks" entered the hospital just this week. And Gitzen Girl is Looking Homeward.

20110915-090819.jpg. She is 29, and suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis. This week, she's learned the end is near. I've never met her, and I've only read her blog a time or two, but her words and her spirit mean so much to many who share her pain, and Little Frau is but one of the many who are saddened as she is preparing to move beyond, to reunite with the father who gave her the nickname GG.

My objective was not to depress with this post, but I admit that could be one effect. The true hope is to share a level of awareness that I confess even I often lack living under an "RA framed" house with a "shingled roof".

Denial is more than a river in Egypt, or so they say, and it sometimes flows right thru my subconscious plain.

"They" are all around us. Friends. Family. Co-workers. People with chronic illness; Invisible chronic illness. And they look so good. And, truthfully, all they want is someone to understand, or at least to try. No assuming. Just caring.

Lest I leave things on a total down note, I would hope to say it almost as good as Gitzen Girl might. Read her blog and see if you agree. Live life, embrace it, and don't be afraid to laugh, even at the painful or the uncomfortable realities around us, however invisible they may be...


http://warmsocks.wordpress.com/

https://jbinghamoc.wordpress.com/category/invisible-chronic-illness-awareness-week/

https://jbinghamoc.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/you-wanna-spoon/

https://jbinghamoc.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/suffering-in-the-shadows/

http://gitzengirl.blogspot.com/2011/09/looking-homeward.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2Fgitzengirl+%28Gitz%29

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As a few acquaintances of mine already know, I am leaving on a business trip soon, and it takes me across some water, and a border or two. Accordingly, those with
loved ones across the same borders have asked me to deliver a package. Make that, two packages. Actually, it is now three packages, and counting.

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So go ahead. I can take it. You know you want to. Just say it. Just call me “the mule”. It likely won’t be the worst thing I’ve ever been called. 🙂

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God Bless America

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On the evening of September 11, 2001, Congress stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building and sang God Bless America. We sang it together at the close of our morning worship service today on September 11, 2011.

At the end of that tragic day where so many lives were lost, and at the end of a trying decade where many more lives have been lost for the causes begun on that day, the sentiments expressed by Irving Berlin’s tune could not remain any more appropriate and stirring.

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless america, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless america,
My home sweet home.

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Love is Near

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Thoughts discussed on a full and emotional Sunday:

Isaiah 55: 1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.

The musical group 10th Avenue North put this message into lyrical form as well:

Come to the waters, you who thirst and you’ll thirst no more.
Come to the father, you who work and you’ll work no more.
And all you who labor in vain and to the broken and shamed:

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from his brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from his side.
Love is here.

Come to the treasure, you who search and you’ll search no more.
Come to the lover you who want and you’ll want no more, no.
And all you who labor in vain and to the broken and shamed,

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from his hands, from his brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from his side.

And to the bruised and fallen,
Captives, bound, and broken hearted.

He is the lord
He is the lord,

By his stripes he’s paid our ransom
From his wounds we drink salvation

He is the lord
He is the lord

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from his hands, from his brows.
Love is near,
It satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from his side.
Love is here.

Hayley Fisher is an aspiring photographer and Sophomore studying in Vienna, Austria with Oklahoma Christian University. Thanks for the admittedly unauthorized use of your great picture for this post!

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