Friday, 19 December 2014

Christmas Around the World

Thanks to two trips to Europe and electronic connections, I have friends in many different places around the world. Some of you I've met and spent a fair bit of time with, for example my Hannover, Germany classmates, and people who've visited me or who I have visited in their homes. Some, I've never met in person, but know through email, my Blog, Facebook or Twitter. Still, in some way you've touched my life, even though we've never touched shoulders. Perhaps one day we will. 

One of my favourite Christmas memories is about a time many years ago when I spent Christmas at the Deer Spring Bruderhof in Connecticut, USA. It was the only Christmas I've ever been away from home. I loved everything about that Yuletide season: the children's plays and songs, the Community Orchestra, and special times with my host family, the Warehams... 

What stands out the most for me was on Christmas morning when I was still in bed and heard music. I soon realized that it came from outside. I was staying on the second level of my host family's home. I went to the window, yes, opened it, despite the cold. There, right below my window the community's brass group stood playing We Wish You A Merry Christmas. The air was clear and crisp which made their music extra beautiful, like it was echoing through the valley. This moment was the best gift I received that year - being serenaded early on Christmas morning by angels with brass instruments was very, very special. Every time I hear a brass group, I'm taken back to my window in Deer Spring, when I was blessed by brass. 

On that note here's some Canadian Brass playing Ding Dong Merrily on High:

For some Christmas-around-the-world fun, I'd really appreciate if you'd leave a comment telling all my readers how you say Merry Christmas in your language. Let's see how many different Christmas we can get on this page!! (Yes, do come back a few times and receive Joy and love from many corners of the world.) Just write your country's name and the Christmas greeting. According to my Flag Counter, people in 135 countries read my blog - that in itself is worth celebrating! And it's OK if you see your language already, just say it again. One can never hear this special greeting often enough. Of course you can always leave your own personal thoughts in your comment as well. 

I'm looking forward to reading your greetings!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

School-Made Christmas Gifts

Second last day of school before our two week Christmas break. We had our school program last evening - we started our German and English songs, recitations, reader's theaters, and boom whackers and tone chime selections at five.Than had supper at the school right after. Lovely, lovely evening!

Today we finished our pine cone decorations - gifts for every family on our colony. They too, turned out very nicely, if I do say so myself. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself:


Thank you for providing us with pine cones, Serena!!

Wishing all my Blog, Twitter and Facebook followers, 
a Blessed Christmas and New Year!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Bethlehem Live

Our school went to Bethlehem yesterday - no extensive travel plans, no expensive air fair tickets, no hotel bookings. Just a short bus trip to Gateway Covenent Church in Winnipeg, where they have been offering 'trips to Bethlehem' for eight years. 400 volunteers have been busy for months, planning, building, sewing, practicing for this interactive Bethlehem experience. And they do a superb job of making this experience realistic and enjoyable.

Roman soldiers and tax collectors, ready to put people who don't pay their taxes behind bars.

Turned out one of our own, a German teacher no less had to serve some time.

We visited a school where the teacher and students taught us a Hebrew song, and blessed us before we continued our journey.

We were granted an audience with King Herod.

While we were there some very important visitors from the east showed up. A somewhat flustered scribe helped them sort out where to find the newborn King.

There happened to be a wedding in Bethlehem while we were there. 
Here they're practicing some wedding music.

We celebrated with the couple for a little bit, but then we were shuffled
away from there by Roman soldiers.

The Bethlehem market place was a bustle of activities, where merchants were trying to sell us
everything from smelly fish to woven baskets.

Animals added their own aroma to the smells of Bethlehem.

We met a rather tired innkeeper and his family. The little girls excitedly told us
about the new baby born in their stable that night.

The stable, with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus

The angels bringing the good news to the shepherds.

A leper thanked us for telling him about Jesus, who would help both the sick in body and spirit.

We'd never seen anything like this before and highly recommend it

Saturday, 6 December 2014

"It is More Blessed to Give, than Receive."

 "Once in our world, a stable had something in it 
that was bigger than our whole world." 
- C.S. Lewis

It was that ultimate gift that still prompts the world today to give gifts. Or at least it should be everybody, "the world that God so loved" who is inspired to celebrate Christmas, to spread love, joy and peace. Too often, we fall short. While we gather around festive tables or a Christmas tree with mounds of presents underneath, we sometimes forget the people whose table is empty and for whom a richly decked tree is but a dream, something they see through the windows of rich people's homes.

I'm not saying to stop giving presents or enjoying celebrations with loved ones. Far from it. I'm merely suggesting to be mindful of the less fortunate and seek ways to share with them, so that their Christmas too, may be merry. Even when buying gifts we could be mindful of that, and buy from someone who really needs the support. (Walmart, along with many other shopping centres don't - they'll still be there after Christmas, when you bring your unwanted gifts back to them on Boxing Day.)

For many years, my family has drawn names or did a Chinese auction for Christmas. That way, everybody gets a gift and we don't have to spend a lot of money everybody buying for everybody. Especially when everybody already has everything and more than they need, including many wants. 

For a few years now, I've had this dream of doing our Christmas gift exchange differently, with more meaning. We'd still draw names, but instead of giving something to that person whose name you drew, make a charitable donation in that persons name instead. That way someone who is more in need than we are would be blessed, and we'd experience on a deeper level "It is more blessed to give, than receive." I've already strongly suggested a number of times we do this, and come Christmas Eve, I will really push for that. And the donation, or act of kindness, doesn't have to wait till next Christmas; we can do something in that person's name throughout the year. I hope my family sees this as "the best gift" as well. As for this Christmas, may I humbly ask, if I'm on your gift list, consider blessing someone less fortunate instead. Not that I don't appreciate gifts. I really do, I love them, in fact! However, I also find joy in seeing someone with less, having a happy Christmas as well.

Another gift suggestion I have for those of you who still have shopping to do: Stop by Siloam Mission and buy a beautiful work of art by one of the patrons. There really are some talented people in their art program! Earlier this year, I bought a painting there. It was done by a homeless man. I've said before how much I love the quote "Our fingerprints remain on the lives of those we touch." Which of course means when we help those in need. I can say though, that the fingers of this homeless man have touched me deeply, even though I don't even know who he is - maybe I will one day. I'd really like that! I framed this painting and have it proudly hanging on my wall - a constant reminder that "homeless does not mean hopeless". Especially if we actively take part in touching the lives of these people. The art program or anything else at Siloam Mission would not be possible, were it not for people with kind and giving hearts. 

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Acts 20:35

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Hutterites Honour CMU Professor with $10,000 Donation and Artwork

I've known Dr. John Friesen, (professor at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba) for many years and have also taken some of his church history courses. I always found it mind boggling how he could rattle off the dates of events that happened centuries ago, just as if it all occurred a few years ago. He's certainly helped me understand not only Hutterite History better, but Church History as well.

I was in attendance when Dr. Friesen was honoured and people were given the chance to thank him for all he'd done for Hutterites over the years. It was a very touching event and very well deserved. You can read more about it here:

Hutterites honour CMU professor with $10,000 donation, artwork

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Heute ist der erste Advent

Our little advent wreath is ready and waiting. My dream still is, one day to have a wreath with real evergreen branches, but this year, it didn't happen. One day... So this one will have to do. I first started observing Advent with my K-2 class year last, and everybody enjoyed it, never mind that our wobbly wreath practically fell apart before the third week. This year I decided, because I didn't have a wreath, I wouldn't mention Advent, in the hopes the children wouldn't remember our little advent morning ritual from last year either. It didn't work out that way. For whatever reason, I brought up a German poem we did last year. As soon as I did I realized my mistake...or maybe it wasn't a mistake at all.

Anyway, the poem was about four Advent candles. Yes, my students wanted to know if we'll have an Advent wreath this year. With their faces aglow with hope and excitement, how could I say no? But that didn't solve my wreath problem. I knew I wasn't going to be home on Saturday, when I would have time to maybe make one, hopefully with my sister, Sonia's help. Both of us, along with a group of nine had signed up to volunteer at Siloam Mission for a few hours. We had a lovely time sorting clothes and bedding...I almost forgot about the wreath that I still didn't have.

Since we were in the city anyway, we decided to do a bit of shopping. We started out a Value Village - they actually have some very nice Christmas stuff, but I didn't find what I was looking for in the first one. Good thing we went to another one, where I found the one you see in the picture above. Small, but cute and it will make my students very happy. I can't wait to see their faces tomorrow morning.

Now I'll have to go look for some Advent songs, preferably German ones. If you have any, please do let me know. I like to have a number of them, because, beside our morning song, we sing an advent one as well everyday.

From Advent 2013

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Patmos Deception - Davis Bunn

About the Book: 

An Ancient Island Holds an Ancient Secret . . .

Nick Hennessy, a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe--his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities. Nick has the credentials--and cover ID--to unearth the truth. And he knows just the researcher to help him...

Carey Mathers, fresh from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestigious Athens Institute for Antiquities--a dream come true, really, particularly when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, for whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business. But his country's economic chaos isn't the only thing that has turned his world on its head...

My Review:

I've never read anything by this author before, but this book has me convinced I want to read more. It's a wonderful mix of Greek culture, suspense, history and the European economic crisis. I got the impression a lot of research must have gone into this work. 

This story has an intriguing plot, enchanting setting, and interesting, well developed characters, all woven together with suspense that compelled me to keep turning pages. I really enjoyed Greece through the eyes of Carey, who soaked it all up with a wide eyed wonder and delight, unlike Nick, who was so focused on the task at hand, that he didn't seem to care about all the history and Greek culture he was surrounded. I was somewhat disappointed with the end though; I felt that it was rather abrupt and left a few loose ends.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.