Category Archives: Christmas

Pray for Germany

Yesterday I took some time to make a Lebkuchenhaus with my little boys.

We have summer holidays here in South Africa. Nevertheless I want them to grow up with some of the German Christmas traditions I so cherish.

While the English do have something they call gingerbread it is not even close to true Lebkuchen. And we don’t really enjoy that burning ginger taste. Lebkuchen dough is made with honey and many spices and has to rest a few days before baking.

So yesterday we took the dough I prepared earlier from the fridge and started baking, decorating and assembling this little house.

While I go through length to preserve some true German Christmas tradition, Germany this year shocked me with throwing out these reminders of Christ in order to not offend Muslim migrants. Schools and Kindergartens were asked to refrain from singing Christmas carols and some Christmas markets were renamed into Winter market.

Last night there was an attack on a German Christmas market. 12 people were killed and 48 injured.

Why is Christmas, the story of a little baby boy being born as Gods promise for the salvation of mankind, so offensive to some? Why are Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere persecuted and killed for their faith?

Why do a nations leaders opt to repurpose Christmas instead of sharing this story of Gods humble decision to dwell amongst us as a child?

christmasThe forces of darkness can’t tolerate the messengers of light. Christmas always came at a price. We can ignore the persecution of Christians in the middle east until persecution is at our own doorstep or chose to help answer protest.

While Muslim nations forbid Christmas celebrations, German officials have congratulated Muslim immigrants to their religious holidays and then proceeded to repurpose Christmas markets as oriental bazaars and winter markets. Instead of teaching immigrants about Christianity and the values that made the European countries so attractive to migrants in the first place, German kids had to endure compulsory visits to mosques this year. There was very little resistance from churches, in fact leaders of state financed churches rose up to claim Allah and the God of the bible are the same. Christian refugees who often flee serious persecution in Muslim nations are being assaulted in Germany, the country they came to for safety. By Muslims, who are treated with utter cultural sensibility.

But there are many strong believers in Germany. Intercede for them to rise up, unashamed. There are pastors who are warning against Islamisation and face severe disciplinary actions against them.

Read more on how you can intercede for Germany here>

Pray for Germany: Intercession

Jesus came as a baby in the middle of persecution. Romans where pressing His people hard for taxes, the religious clergy had no answers, the Edomite king Herod slaughtered thousands of babies trying to kill Jesus and only angelic visitations provided Joseph with the necessary insight to bring his family into safety.

Since then, Christians have always been on the receiving end of persecution for what they believe. Although the message is one of love.

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His kingdom is not one of Earthly power and manipulation. Those who seek earthly fame will always hate those who proclaim eternal life.

God is just. I pray that Germany will reach out and preach the gospel to all those seeking shelter and refuge from the pain they tried to escape. I also pray that the country will not throw its pearls down the drain but conserve their Christian heritage and not tolerate persecution of Christianity within their borders.

‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?” Acts 7:49

Prepare your heart as a dwelling place for the Lord.

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Our Lebkuchenhaus.

 

 

 

 

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015

wishesI want to thank all of my readers and subscribers for your support during this challenging, wonderful year.

I am thankful for the wonderful impact our court care boxes had on the work of the court staff and young survivors.

I am happy for a year of preparing preschoolers for “big school”. What a privilege.

I am thankful for my church being a beacon of light in the community.

Thanks for your interest in not only the easy and beautiful but also the trying and plain sad realities of life.

I trust that we were able to bring relief to a lot of suffering children here in South Africa and to be of encouragement to every one who is using their life to bring encouragement and add love and hope to others.

Have a great time “between the years” as we say in Germany.

Love, Christiane

wpid-wpid-91im2p9hj5l-_sl720_.jpgPS If you are interested in learning more about my spiritual background and want to read some 60+ amazing testimonies of God’s supernatural interference in our life I recommend you get a copy of our ebook or paperback on amazon.com. This would also support us for future projects as we are always operating on a very tight budget and the needs greatly exceed the available funds – as everyone experiences who wants to make a difference! :-)))

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Inspirational words for 2015

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Words for your nation.

Christmas baking with the kids

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My baby turned 3 and had a fun clown themed party! Although we had power cuts all day we had a lot of fun with the little friends.

Yippeh,

in between moving classes and preparing for next year’s new students and publishing a new book we managed to get some Christmas activities going.

Although it’s very very hot and humid right now in South Africa and we constantly had power cuts we had fun baking German Christmas cookies and making fudge. I never made fudge before and just loved it! I simply followed the instructions of a great blogger at http://www.wineandglue.com/2014/02/mint-chocolate-fudge.html that someone had posted on facebook and voila, here is my own home made mint and chocolate fudge:

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With my cell phone I quickly snapped and edited some pics of what we made and printed them as handy gift tags for our confectionery.

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I changed the recipe slightly and crushed some dinner mints (those that moms have hand bags full of) in a plastic bag and slightly melted them then added them to the white chocolate mix. Yumm!

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ready to go cookie and fudge parcels for friends and relatives
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our Christmas kitchen!
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our Christmas kitchen!

How was your Christmas, really?

threeThoughts AFTER christmas.

Wow, as a recently resurrected blogger I got a lot of invitations to read people’s blogs before Christmas that were deep thoughts ABOUT Christmas.

Seems there is a lot of COMPETITION out there these days, like: I got more twitter followers (or fllwrs) than you do, more google+ friends in my circle, more likes on my awesome blog. I liked my own post once and WordPress promptly responded with “you’re so vain, I guess you think this post is about you”. Hahaha I love it. Unfortunately, I also am a sucker for a good competition. I would never ever in my life go bungee jumping plainly because I love my body and do not want to tear ligaments and have lasting back pain. But if you would come along and just dare me the right way … I would do it blindfolded down a volcano. Probably. I am chuckling a lot because some people really thrive on competition and if you tell people a funny story, albeit it might not be totally true, they even go along with your game. Best ways for pastors to really get to know people, and to quickly spot strengths and weaknesses in team members or couples: Go play a board game like “the big Taboo (combination of pictionary, charades, balderdash and other favorites) and have a ball watching the emerging competitiveness make or break the bond!

So now I would love to ask all the amazing deep “keep the true meaning of Christmas” bloggers how their ACTUAL Christmas went. You know, the one where the turkey nigeriafield2lwas too long in the oven, you forgot that aunt Jenna actually gave you that dreadful Rose Soap Basket that you are now recycling back to aunty Tilda who sits right next to aunt Jenna sipping Passion fruit and lemonade, and the kids are just not performing the way they should … when you are alone they recite Shakespeare and play Mozart on tiny violins but today they were just all “Huuuuaaa, I am a scary vampire”. And those that kept informing us that Christmas is a pagan holiday and that we offend God if we put up a Christmas tree, and anyway it was a holiday where people were sacrificed –I am curious if they sat out the date in front of their TVs having no fun at all???

If I read my bible right, God actually has a lot of fun with festivals and holidays. Getting together and feasting is part of His plan for His people. The evergreen pine tree was used by God himself as a symbol of fruitfulness (Hosea 14:8) and used to decorate houses in the icy winters in Europe, when nothing else of colour was growing outside. People cherished apples, because they would provide nutrition throughout winter, and used to hang them on those trees. My home in Germany is Thuringia, land of musicians and artisans. If you have heard those gruesome stories some christians tell you before Christmas about bloodthirsty pagan rituals, think again. The mountain sides of my home country have provided the world with Christmas trees and glass ornaments for no other reason as to celebrate Christ’s birth and bring some colour into the drab winter days.  German Christmas Ornaments.

And the date: Yes of course, smartypants we are, we know Jesus was more likely born into the spring season and the early church used the celebration of His birth to override pagan Midwinter -Yule festivities. Which I think is awesome, how better to honour God as to make sure the whole world commemorates Christ’s humble arrival to this world on the date in (northern hemisphere) winter when the short days end and slowly the sunlight is coming back! What an awesome symbolic right there. With Christ’s birth, the light came to us.

The most dramatic thing for me in a German Christmas is really the fact that it falls on the shortest day of the year. As a family we always used to take a long hike in the mountains the day aftMinistryer, often I went by myself on ski. The change in the atmosphere after Christmas is dramatic, there is a new crispness and clarity in the air. On the first of January it always seems as if a layer of grey has been removed and the world emerged freshly polished underneath.

So I am the last person on earth to sympathize with the religious Christmas haters. For Christ’s sake, celebrate HIM! With all you got! Put up the ornaments and lights, bring out the chocolates and roasts and whatever you cherish! And music, let there be lots of music.

(Just please, spare me Michael Buble’ – by the way is he living in the North Pole with Santa? He always seems to appear from nowhere around Christmas)

There is of course Christmas before kids and after. Before kids, it’s all about love, the grown up kind. You do your duty stint at the extended family, have a lot of energy to conduct musicals and church plays, visit the poor, dish out food at the refugee camps and invite the lonely for dinner. Keeping that up with two young boys is not very realistic, unless of course you have a nanny which I don’t. Please, my house feels full enough! So this year, Christmas was centered around making our little angels happy.

And finally going to this awesome African church whose music I used to enjoy on those Sundays when my newborn was still too small to take out or hadn’t slept all night. Then I would sit on my balcony and listen to the amazing harmonies coming from down the street, where the Word of Faith Church is located. They don’t even have a webpage so I can not post a link. AfirstserviceBut I have been asking my husband for a while now if we can’t go there to worship one sunday. And last sunday we did. What a great experience. If you can quickly ignore the fact that you are the only white faces among some hundred Africans who all look at you like you dropped from mars, you will be fine. In fact, I wanted to sit modestly in the back since my boys are very busy and love to dance very expressively with the music. But at least 4 ushers came and urged us to sit right in front. Everyone was very friendly and so happy to see us. I am sure in our church visitors are not even greeted with that much warmth although we really try.

The music. What is it with African music that tugs those heartstrings violently? Before moving to South Africa I was involved in a music ministry that took me around the globe, spending Christmas in Nigeria performing in front of the president. Services would last for up to 9 hours, and there was lots of singing and dancing.

Everytime Andries and I go and minister at an African church, I have to hold back my tears. I am a very realistic, rational person, and get extremely embarrassed if I can’t control my tears. African harmonies do that to me, but you know you learn to smile and wave. When the choir broke into singing “Joy to the world” in Venda, I quickly wiped my eyes … What an awesome African Christmas. My children always make friends real quick, and it was a very happy morning. I definitely go back and talk some more to the pastor and ask them if I could borrow the musicians! On the other hand, I can’t help but want to chat to the computer lady … there are ways to prevent your menus showing up on the big screen you know. Always passionate to teach churches to use their media right.

Decided to put “learning to speak Venda” on my bucket list for 2013.

Most people were gone to see family, my husband had a few emergency counseling with those who chose to have marriage drama at Christmas eve, but then we finally had time for our quiet Bethlehem-style family Christmas. Telling our kids the christmas story with the help of a beautiful nativity scene barn and figurines was such fun. Sam, 12 months, constantly took the cow and went mooh, mooh, while I was telling the rest of the story. This year was the first time we ditched the German habit of opening gifts on the evening of the 24th. In this African heat kids everyonehighare more behaved in the cool of the morning. My parents called, however, sitting cosily together with my siblings and their kids enjoying the German thing. Bridging worlds by telephone again. After years of experience you don’t even have to think about what to say on the phone anymore. In the beginning it always dumbfounded me, the differences in thinking so crystal clear in a few sentences asked on the phone.

Someone told me a while ago that relationships shouldn’t be hard work. Celebrations should’t be either, but let’s be real, they are. You want to eat, you have to cook and clean … But we chose this year not to have to impress anyone and went really along with what makes happy. Surprise surprise, my in laws were really happy with the food I made. I think this year, I learned not to stress so much to do things perfect but rather do them with a naughty giggle. So much easier. It is still a lot of hard work since we chose not to live for ourselves. But it helps a lot to laugh about yourself because hey, who is perfect.

So today, while you are boxing up your Christmases, I hoped that all of you made the most of it, had lots of laughs and shared some special moments. And please nobody use your bathroom scale! To me, Nigella and Catherine Zeta-Jones are so much sexier than some bony ladies looking like skulls on a stick. So please, add some happiness to your looks and be a total fruitcake. You know, the ones with raisins and marzipan and brandy and icing, juicy and just yummy and almost unperishable.

This year is almost done, and I am DONE worrying about the next. I am planning on peaking at 50, so I still got time to make those mistakes and be totally underestimated by people. In Germany we say “Feiert die Feste wie sie fallen” which means celebrate at every opportunity. Planing on doing just that. this was such a lovely, calm little Christmas, and we were able to gather our thoughts for the exciting journey to come.

Grateful for all the people in our lives. Always.

All in all: Holidays are there to celebrate and not to have religious discussions about them. No matter where you are.

Travelling in December – Recreating Christmas Memories

December in South Africa  bridge3

It’s summertime, and the living is easy …

The country almost shuts down as many South Africans use the big summer school break to visit relatives and “kuier by die see” – make holiday stevensamsepiaat the sea. As pastors, we usually stay behind to make sure that those less fortunate have somebody looking after them – right as I write my husband is out solving some serious conflicts. The heavily emotion-laden christmas season causes some people to snap, we see it every year.

Staying home for the summer does by no means mean staying put at home. In our region there are many lovely day destinations and I am going to be blogging about them here: Traveller’s Log. So make sure you pop in to read up on what to do in Limpopo, South Africa. I also wrote about the romantic beauty of spending New Year’s in Capetown, so make sure you don’t miss out on that, not to mention beautiful Franschhoek and all the other lovely South African dream destinations.

My blog is called “Bridging Worlds” for a reason. I have been living between worlds all my life. As a child, I was one of three Christian kids in a Communist school in a Communist nation, carefully watched by the secret service.

Later, I started savoring the freedom end of the cold war brought to my side of the world and started traveling many nations. Living in London, I found out with a shock that the British actually really despise Germans, while I grew up in a country that always spoke fondly of the well-mannered Brits and their disability to cook. I used to, in my youthful naivety, assume that Germans would be loved dearly all over the world, since their deepest meaning and purpose in life is to make things more efficient, reliable and successful. I was startled to find that people in the English-speaking world would not appreciate serious punctuality as much as someone being late, but that with a charming smile. Took me a while to let up on the efficiency for the sake of charm. In the meantime I also had to learn that Germans are about as popular in the world as dark chocolate with red chili pieces – an acquired taste for a select elite, but once you love them, you adore them. The average Joe loves Americans, passionate people love Brazilians, business people fly to Japan and the Intellectual gourmet will get absolutely teary eyed reciting German poetry. So there we have it, everybody strives to drive a fast German car (what a waste on South African highways with a speed limit of 120km/h), loves well-thought-through technology but people wise, the Germans are a very misunderstood little nation.

christmas 157I have come to terms with it and learned to adapt. Ditch the punctuality, make small talk, (waste time at the counter by telling jokes and asking unimportant questions), stop caring so much about the matter and more about the soul. All part and parcel of Bridging Worlds.  As is burying Christmas sentimentality.

If you dare to marry into a different culture, you will always find that similar events are emphasised totally different. I am realistic when it comes to snow, sleigh and choral music – when everyone is at the sea, there wont be any spectacular nativity plays in imposing cathedrals.

christmas 011When raising kids, however, you want to somehow reproduce your own treasured childhood memories. Christmas Markets with countless little stalls roasting almonds, selling home-made crafts, Gluehwein andchristmas 010 gingerbread, children’s choirs singing sweet Hallelujah, giant nativity scenes and the snow glistening. The christmas tree being ceremoniously decorated on the 23rd, the night of the 24th the whole family goes to church, comes back with noses red from the frosty cold, eats a light meal and then a little bell rings and the christmas room opens to the wondrous delight of young and old …

That was Christmas for me in Germany, growing up with three younger siblings and parents who insisted we all gather first to sing christmas carols accompanied by my sister on the piano and myself on the violin.

Now how on Gods good earth do you create that in the humidity of the tropics?

I have not found the answer to this. We decided to create our very own magic. Instead of Christmas markets we have some dear neighbours who cared enough to decorate their houses and yards with elaborate christmas lights, reindeer and Santas. christmas 172So every other night we take our bathed boys in their pyjamas on a drive around town to admire the lights. Sam, our 1-year-old, points excitedly at everything including the traffic light and shouts: da, da da!!! Steven will ask why they hang Santa upside down into a fake chimney. All in all, it’s a happy, crazy outing, our own Christmas tradition.

We decorate our trees the first of December. Since you don’t buy real pine trees in Africa, we have a couple of plastic ones around the house which the kids decorated themselves. Germans truly hate all things plastic. I just go with the flow.

Singing “jingle bells” replaces the deeply moving choruses we knew as children – I haven’t given up on that yet, but let’s have fun with it.

christmas 051    christmas 167 About giving gifts – maybe you know the movie “Valentine’s day” The radio guys says that it is those christmas 09224 hours we have to prove our love for each other. I disagree. Birthdays, Christmasses and the like must not be put under that pressure of having to prove one’s affection. I have waited till this special day to present my boys with some items they really want to have, because we celebrate Jesus’s birthday by giving each other gifts. But please do not try to prove anything by giving me something. Have a conversation over a passionfruit and lemonade with me, listen and tell me your true heart. That means so much more than any item you could buy. Relatives and friends do not need to rush and try to find that life-changing gift basket of soaps and showercaps. I do not think men exactly feel the love when given the annual soap-on-a-pope or the “man-kit” from Game store consisting of  a beer bottle christmas 126opener, soap and a face-cloth. What does that mean anyway???

Every year I wish I can take everyone’s stress away: Please can we not buy each other stuff, can we rather do an excursion to somewhere we haven’t been yet?

So we did buy a few things for a few people, but we focus on rather doing nice things with those we love. Yes I got my husband something and after Christmas I tell you what it is.

December in South Africa is the month of summer break. I think every December we spend here, we will create special memories fitting this awesome,vast nation, by traveling with our boys to new places.

The photos show some German Christmas moments my children have never seen. The last time I was with my parents for Christmas is 7 years ago. It might be time … hopefully if we are lucky, we might even travel to Germany next year, Christmas markets and snow and all …