"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

May 16, 2012


Jon and I returned from our trip to Germany last Thursday. The long awaited for and talked about trip finally happened; and it was well worth the wait. We had a marvelous time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The town where Jon was working was Celle (pronounced Cella). It was an old town with buildings several hundred years old, and was one of the few places that suffered no bombings or war damage during WWII. Celle was our idyllic dream town, and we absolutely loved it. In fact, we have both missed it since returning home.

Our hotel was located across the street from the old town center, which is where we spent the majority of our time. Buildings (which are now shops) that are 400-500 years old lined the brick streets. There were few cars in the old town area, with the majority of people walking or riding bicycles. Every Wednesday and Saturday there was a Farmers Market, with lots of beautiful flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, potatoes, cheeses, meats, honey, and baked items. Most shops were opened from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM, and were all closed on Sunday. Each evening after dinner, Jon and I took a leisurely stroll through the streets while eating gelato.

We never turned the TV on the entire time we were there. Dinner was a very relaxed, unhurried affair, generally taking at least an hour or so; and we never saw anyone talking on their cell phones during dinner. Our bill was rarely brought to us, until we asked.

And we found the most amazing chocolates and gelato (which is the creamiest, most flavorful, delicious ice cream ever)! Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!!

Few people spoke English. The men Jon worked with did speak English, with a very strong German accent. Many waitresses and shop owners knew enough phrases to get by, but not many were fluent. Communication was not always easy, but it was sure interesting! We had several conversations with us speaking English and the other other person speaking German.

Restaurants all posted menus outside, which were all in German. A few (very few) places did have English subtitles underneath in small letters. Most of our meals consisted of us randomly choosing an item, pointing at it to order, and hoping for the best. We did learn a few words over time so could make an attempted guess at what we might be getting. Funny story; we thought for the first few days that schinken was chicken, after all it sounds like a great guess. Then we noticed that none of the dishes we ordered with schinken had chicken in it. We looked it up and found out that schinken is actually ham. Also, krabben is shrimp, not crab. We also found out that beeren is berries, not something with beer in it, like we had originally guessed.

Surprisingly, in Northern Germany, we found no sauerkraut, bratwursts, sausages, or other foods we often associate with Germany. In fact, we found no restaurants in Celle that served any of those items. The main items were pork, potatoes, white asparagus (much better than the green asparagus we have in the US), and Italian foods. We never really had any bad meals, although some were better than others. We had decided when we got there to eat at a different restaurant each evening, in order to try out as many places as possible. The most odd place was a Mexican restaurant with a German menu and cooked with an Italian flair. I ordered a chimichanga, which was unlike anything I've ever eaten. It looked like a regular chimichanga, but when I cut into it, it was mostly filled with air and had this thin cheese sauce in the bottom of it with some diced carrots and mushrooms in it. The biggest surprise was that the red sauce drizzled over the top was spaghetti sauce. Another surprise was when we ate stroganoff at a Swiss restaurant. The noodles were on one side of our plate, with the sauce and meat next to it. It had a tomato based sauce, unlike the sour cream sauce we normally associate with stroganoff. But the biggest shock was when we saw these thin green slices of something in the sauce, and discovered it was sweet pickles.

A few things we had to get used to was not ever having ice served in our drinks; only having Coca Cola as our only soft drink beverage choice; never getting free drink refills (you had to pay); and most glasses being about the size of a large juice glass. All glasses had a mark on the side saying how many liters it held (have to by law), and a lot of glasses were between .2 to .4 liters, which is the equivalent of approximately 6.76 to 13.5 ounces. So we learned to sip our drinks very slowly with our meals. A few places gave you your Coke in a glass bottle, and a small glass to pour it into. We also discovered that Coca Cola is very good in Germany and has a much better taste than it does in the US. We are normally Pepsi drinkers, so saying that the Coke was very good there and that we liked it, is a big deal.

I'm sure over the next several weeks you will hear more about our Germany experience! Probably more than you really want to!

My very favorite thing in Celle was St. Marien's Church, which was built as a Catholic Church but became Lutheran during the reformation. It was built in 1296! It is hard to comprehend a church being 720 years old. This church was built 200 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to America! The first time we walked inside the church we were awed by the beauty and all the many intricate details. It was amazing! Going around the left side of the balcony were panels with scenes from the Old Testament painted in them, and on the right side were painted panels with New Testament stories. There were statues of the 12 disciples. On the back balcony was a gorgeous old pipe organ. The ceiling was beautiful. Everywhere you looked you could see amazing detailed work. The wooden pews were very straight-backed and old, with narrow seats. The first time we were inside, we were overwhelmed with everything. I posted a picture on Facebook and someone commented that they wouldn't be able to attend church there because they'd be way too distracted. At first, it seemed as if that would be true.

But there was something about that old church that drew me and captured my heart. It was open every day from 10:00 till 6:00. I found myself, almost daily, going inside and just sitting there for 10-15 minutes. As I sat in different pews I'd wonder who the people were who had sat in that exact same spot (not sure if the pews are original) over the past 720 years. I began thinking of all the prayers that had been prayed, tears that had been cried, rejoicing over answered prayers, weddings, funerals, etc. that had taken place inside that church for over seven hundred years. I thought of the people who attended there during WWII, and their prayers of desperation and weeping as they heard the news stories of the bombings of surrounding cities and the concentration camps (one of the largest camps was located just outside of Celle), not knowing if their town or their lives would be spared. They didn't know from one week to the next if their church would be there the following Sunday for them to attend. In fact, they didn't know if their town would be bombed that very afternoon. I'm sure many of them lost family members and dear friends.

I know this fact, but it became very clear to me in a very real way as I sat in that church; the very same God who heard all of those thousands of prayers that have been prayed inside that church over the past 720 years, is the very same God who hears my prayers today. As I sat in that German church and prayed, God understood my prayers in English just as He has understood those prayed in German, or any other language. And someday in heaven, I will have the opportunity to sit down and visit with those christians who have attended St. Mariens over the past 720 years.

As I sat inside that church, my heart would become so overwhelmed with emotion that I would find tears rolling down my cheeks. The presence of the Lord was very real to me. I no longer focused on the detailed splendor of the building, and was not distracted by what I saw with my eyes. What I felt inside my heart far outweighed what surrounded me.

This is a very basic, simple example. But I somehow think on a much larger scale that is how it will be upon our arrival in heaven. While here on earth, we think of the biblical description of what it will be like; streets of gold, gates of precious stone, river of life, there not being any need for the sun for Jesus will illuminate and be the light. How overwhelmingly beautiful it sounds -- and perhaps a bit distracting. Upon our arrival we may be awed by the beauty and splendor of heaven, for it will far exceed any beauty our eyes have ever seen. But I think that when we see Jesus and are reunited with loved ones, that the beauty will be secondary. Our love for God and our desire to bow at His feet to worship Him will far outweigh our desire to tour heaven and "sightsee". For the first million years we may just be content to be in the presence of God.

Secondly, it's easy sometimes to become distracted by what our eyes behold, both the good and the bad. If we're not careful, we can become so focused on we see or what we think we know, that we forget to take the time to get to the heart of a matter. Had I only went inside that church each time with the intention of taking in its beauty, I would have missed out on some revelations and insight that God revealed to my heart. Yes, I would have seen some awesome architecture, but I would have missed the times of prayer and meditation.

We need to be careful that we don't get weighted down by our daily life and whatever it may bring, that we miss out on those moments when God would want to speak to our hearts. It's not only in those times of hardship or sickness or despair that we tend to allow those things to be the center of our thoughts and get our full attention, but many times we also tend to get distracted by the blessings and good things in our life.

May we all take time each day to allow God to speak to our heart. Distractions will always surround us, but it's up to us to purpose in our heart to look beyond what our eyes see and deepen our relationship with God.


Another thing I was impressed by in Germany is that every town we saw, no matter how small, had a church with a tall steeple. Even from miles away, it was always easy to tell where the church was, and to see that Christ is welcome in the town.

There aren't so many churches like that here. Sure, we have lots of churches. A few are obviously a church from miles away. And most are obviously churches when you get to see them closer up. And a few don't even look like churches from the door.

It makes me wonder: do people spot me as a Christian from a mile away? Do they have to get up close to find out? Do they have to really get to know me first?


Lemonade Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting


1 lemon Duncan Hines cake mix

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. Lemonade from concentrate

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking/baking spray. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat on low for 30 seconds and then on medium for 2 minutes. Keep the remaining lemonade concentrate in the freezer -- you will need it again. Bake according to package directions until cake is set and toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in pan -- about an hour. Do not remove from pan. When the cakes are cooled, level them off so they are flat on top. Poke holes in cake that wasn't cut using a fork. Next make your glaze.


2 Tbsp. Lemonade concentrate

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. water

In a medium bowl combine ingredients. Stir until smooth. Pour equally over both cakes that are still in the cake pans. Cover and let sit for at least an hour, but overnight is best in the refrigerator.


8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened

1 stick butter, softened at room temperature

3 Tbsp. Lemonade from concentrate

1/2 tsp. Vanilla

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream cream cheese and butter together until smooth. With mixer on low, add lemonade and vanilla. Slowly add in powdered sugar and beat on medium for 1-2 minutes until smooth. When ready to frost, remove cakes from refrigerator. Loosen cake around the edges of the pan with a butter knife so they will release easily. Put one cake on a platter and frost the top, then layer second cake on top of the first. Frost top and sides. Refrigerate any leftovers.


My nephew's wife recently shared this true story about her kids:

"We have had to memorize verses about tempers. Proverbs 14:29 in the CEV (Contemporary English Version) says, 'It is smart to be patient but it's stupid to lose your temper.' The kids have done a great job memorizing, and Winston can't believe the Bible says stupid!! This morning on the way to school, this was Lillian's prayer: 'Lord, help us to not have bad feelings or bad dreams; and help our tempers not to lose, help our tempers to win!'"


Don't be a link in a chain of rumors. - unknown


We love you!

Loretta & Jon