Journey to Europe

I recently went on a trip to Europe covering ground in Germany, Prague, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.  It wasn’t a mission trip. So, I didn’t build a well, a church, or school.  I didn’t teach peacemaking principles to anyone.  I didn’t evangelize to orphans, widows, and the impoverished. I didn’t help feed the hungry or do skits to empower and change this world. But, was this trip a waste of my time on this earth?  Nope. 

I went to Europe to visit my family. My brother is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot serving with the US Army, stationed in Sanshen, Germany with his wife Sonia and Great Dane, Diesel. I came to see them and the bonus was that my mom and step-dad had planned their trip around the same time so we all got to be together. That doesn’t happen very often. The last time I saw my family was Christmas.

Europe is this place that is exquisite with history, architecture, technology, and fashion. I felt a little behind in my clothing and wealth. I didn’t think it was possible to find a set of countries that appear to be more materialistic, than the United States (but they did). We walked the streets of Venice, Italy to find the most beautiful architecture but we were surrounded by shops and vendors. I was followed by a guy trying to sell me a fake Giorgio Armani purse for at least three blocks. In the midst of this beautiful architecture were billboards galore. They were on buildings and cathedrals. They were everywhere.

The detail in the cathedrals was breathtaking. Sculptures, paintings, and glass that made those places seem like an alternate reality. They were beautiful places of worship but now they are mostly museums. People from around the world come and view them, take photos of them, and some people may even worship their Creator as they walk through the artistic corridors. For .50 Euro I could light a candle, and in one cathedral I could purchase organ music on CD directly from a vending machine. We went into one cathedral where people were participating in mass. Some prayed while the minister lit a candle. They were still surrounded by curious visitors quietly circling the place of worship and taking photos of its breathtaking beauty. Another cathedral in Venice housed modern art, some nude, others just strange.

I found some places more interesting than others. Bavaria was filled with traditionally dressed men and women in their Dirndls and Lederhosen. We found many statues and paintings of Mary on the traditionally styled German store fronts. As Sonia and I walked the streets, I saw a little old lady who was walking her dog. “GruB Gott,” I said to her. Her face lit up, and she grinned wide as she walked past us. Bavaria is one of the few places in Germany where it acceptable to greet someone with “GruB Gott.” The meaning is translated to “God Bless you”.

I enjoyed the morning air, and found that the highlight of the day was to get up early, walk the streets, and explore. I found a bakery in Austria one morning as well as coffee shop that had coffee art. The owner allowed me to sit in his shop before officially opening. I sat and sipped on my tasty cappuccino and watched the sun rise while smiling. I found him watching me and doing the same.

We found a wonderful restaurant in Prague that had chairs and tables facing the water. We snuggled up under orange blankets that were provided for our comfort and warmth. But, I think the best part of being in Europe was being with family. It reminded me of the value of my relationships.  Relationships are what make the journey exciting and enjoyable.  When I allow myself to be the center, I lose sight of the reason for my existence.  I get stressed, worried, and depressed.  But, when I focus my attention on the glorious face of God and the people he has set before me to love, I have peace. 

Thanks to all who covered for me while I was gone.  I am so blessed to work for a ministry that strives to strengthen and re-build relationships. 

Box vs. Baby (round 1)

A few days ago, we sent out the following article as a part of this month’s Reconciled. I had a little fun writing it, and thought I’d share it here. (By the way, my wife is giving away a copy of The Leadership Opportunity on her blog, so stop by for a chance to win it.)

It’s been a momentous summer for me. On July 27, my wife and I welcomed a baby girl into the world. And then a few weeks later, we at Peacemaker Ministries wrapped up the creation and production of our newest resource–The Leadership Opportunity: Living Out the Gospel Where Conflict and Leadership Intersect. They both represent many hours of labor and sleepless nights, and they carried with them a great deal of anticipation. But as the dad and as the project manager–now that they’ve both finally arrived–I couldn’t be prouder.

Obviously, there’s no comparison between a baby and a resource for church leaders, but just for fun, I’m going to compare them anyway.

The Leadership Opportunity

vs.

Ella Marie

The Leadership Opportunity

 

Ella Marie

9/24/2009 
  (unveiled at the 2009 Peacemaker Conference)

Birth Date

7/27/2009

About 6 lbs 

Weight

8 lbs, 8 oz

14 DVD-based lessons, each about 30 minutes long 

Length

20.5 inches

A focus group at the 2007 Peacemaker Conference noted, “We need a resource specifically for our church leaders.” 

Conception

None of your business (though I will say it was more fun than a focus group)

Over 25 years of working with churches, then two years of interviews, focus groups, dry runs, filming, editing, graphic design, writing, more editing, and finally publishing. 

Development

Nine months of nursery painting, baby gear sorting, and other preparation (though my wife certainly did all the hard work)

Painful (we stayed drug-free), nerve-wracking, yet exhilarating

Birth Experience

Painful (though drugs helped), nerve-wracking, yet exhilarating

Equipping church leaders through solidly biblical and highly practical help for the conflicts they commonly face 

Abilities

Eating, sleeping, burping, and looking VERY cute

DVDs, 5 detailed Study Guides, Leader’s Guide, 40-day devotional book on shepherd leadership and more… 

Contents

Sugar and spice 
and everything nice

A set of model forms and other documents to help churches implement sound policies in membership, discipline, and risk management 

One Interesting Feature

A sweet little tuft of hair that sticks up on the back of her head

The core leadership team of a church (you know what that looks like for your church) 

Audience

Mom, Dad, Big Sister, dog, grandparents, and pretty much anyone who likes babies

Standard Price: $179
  Special Intro Price: $149 

Price

Priceless (though Blue Cross/Blue Shield has little trouble determining an amount)

Introductory video and more
  detailed info available at
  www.peacemaker.net/leadership
 

For More information

Photos, stories, etc. are on my wife’s website at www.tarabarthel.com

To bring glory to God 

Ultimate Purpose

To bring glory to God

As a ministry, we are pretty excited about The Leadership Opportunity–if there was ever a time to break out the cigars over a stack of books and videos, this is it. Why? While there are all kinds of materials out there for church leaders, there just isn’t much to help them navigate that difficult area where conflict and leadership intersect. You see, even in the healthiest churches, conflict comes with the territory for church leaders–and strong leadership in the midst of conflict is essential. The Leadership Opportunity seeks to change the culture in your church by helping your leaders live out the gospel in the way they exercise leadership when conflicts arise.

Again, there’s much more information available at www.peacemaker.net/leadership (including a wonderful video that tells the story of the resource and includes several sample clips from the teaching sessions). Please be sure to take a look at this page and pass the link along to your pastor or another church leader. You may order this resource from our online bookstore or by calling 800-711-7118.

The hard part is being the first to say “I’m sorry…”

Chris Brauns has a great post on the humility required to be the first to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship:

The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble. Sometimes, being humble means saying “I am sorry” first.

Think about it. Don’t you find it relatively easy to apologize if the other person says, “I am sorry,” first? Saying it first is sometimes hard to swallow.

You would never claim perfection in marriage. You just believe your spouse was more wrong; he or she ought to say “I am sorry first.” Maybe you clattered your bowl into the kitchen sink and shut the door with a grumpy bang on your way to work this morning and left the milk out for good measure. What silly games we play.

Remember Proverbs 3:34 says, “God mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Let your pride go. God mocks mighty mockers, but blesses the broken.

Do you want a special measure of God’s grace? Here is what you do. Flip open your phone and pound speed dial. Follow this script, “I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me.” Do not, I repeat, “do not,” find yourself continuing after the apology with a criticism of the other person.

You may or may not get a corresponding apology in response. But, you can be assured of the grace of God at work in your life. God blesses the broken.

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever read that helps me to tangibly understand how the Gospel empowers me to take that first step of saying “I’m sorry,” is Alfred Poirier’s article The Cross and Criticism.  If you find yourself unable to say that first “I’m sorry,” I hope you’ll take some time to read The Cross and Criticism and to meditate on how devastating the cross is to our pride, and freeing it is to live as sinners who are no longer under condemnation.

Perspectives

Hey everyone, here’s the really cool video that opened our Peacemaker Conference this year.  Many of you have been asking for it and, here it is!

Perspectives from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

If you’d like to download it for your own use, you can do so by registering for an account with vimeo (it’s free, but you have to have an account to download the video).

By the way, I just had occasion to skim through our “Testimonies” section on our website, and it really speaks to this issue of perspectivesIf you have a few minutes today, you might be encouraged by reading through some of those testimonies to see how people, by the power of the Gospel, have experienced a completely new perspective on conflict.

Church Leaders Put Away Detestable Idols

I’ve had this post bookmarked for a while and am finally getting around to linking and commenting on it.  Ray Ortlund did a 4-part series last week on Four Marks of Spiritual Leaders.  I was particularly struck by part 2:

Christian leaders put away the detestable idols from their lives and their churches. It is not enough to add Jesus. We must also subtract our idols. As time goes by, so much accumulates and complicates. We cannot go on adding and adding. We must boldly subtract. This is repentance and reformation.

“Detestable idols” means “abhorrent, monstrous, disgusting idols.” Our hearts do not create nice idols. Oh, how we need the lovely One! How we need to see him so clearly and revere him so tenderly that we get tough on ourselves and throw the idols out!

Christian leaders have a nose for the stench of idolatry, and they confront it, as Asa did. It is not leadership to ignore the smell, perfume the smell. Some churches do. They make room for their idols of tradition, idols of superiority, idols of unconfessed sin, idols of cool. But anything that distracts from Jesus stinks. It stinks to God. It reeks with our arrogance and self-pity and whatever else diminishes Jesus in our experience. Christian leaders are deeply stirred by this. They become restless. They become desperate for the greater glory of Christ, desperate enough to magnify him at all costs.

Read the whole post here.

Great Friday Proverb: Proverbs 27:5

Thanks to Resurgence for the proverb and the graphic!

It’s been a pretty slow week around here as we’ve been recovering from last week’s conference, but we plan to be back in the swing of things next week.  Thanks for your patience and to all of you who participated, either in person or vicariously.  As one person wrote to me, “the conference was a gift.”  All the time that we got to spend with you in such Gospel-soaked fellowship was a gift to us, as well!