"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!'"
May 23, 2012
Before traveling to Germany, one of the things that Jon and I discussed was that we really wanted to see a castle. There are not a lot of castles in northern Germany, where we were at, but we found a couple online that looked promising. So we decided to figure out how to ride the train and go.
On the last Friday evening that we were there, we made the thirty minute walk to the train station, so we would know exactly where it was located and also to try and find some information on what type of tickets we would need to buy. We found the station without any difficulties and went inside the office to get some information, only to find that neither of the employees knew how to speak english. They had a ticket kiosk, which was very helpful. It had different language options, and we could type in a starting and ending destination and it would print out the train options and routes with all the necessary information of train numbers and what stations to change trains and the times. There was a young man at the kiosk next to us who asked if he could help us. He was able to answer some questions that we had.
We got up early Saturday morning and made the long walk to the train station. When checking ticket options, we found that we could buy a day pass for the two of us where we could ride the entire day and get off and on as many times as we wanted, and it was cheaper than we had thought. We got on our first train and were off for our big adventure!
The first train was fine, then we had to change to another train in Hannover. It was a double decker train and was packed. Of all things, we chose the wrong car to ride in! And we were stuck on it for an hour and a half until we arrived at our next destination. When we got on, we saw probably 5-7 police officers standing in the doorway of that particular train car, so it should be a great choice, right?! NO! The entire train car, both the upper and lower levels, was filled with drunk teenage boys. We guessed that they had been to some type of sporting event and had been up the entire night celebrating, and were continuing the celebrating on board the train. They looked like they were between the ages of 13 and 17. We found two seats and were in for quite the experience. Of course, when we boarded and sat down we didn't realize what was going on, or we would have tried moving to a different car.
Saying that Jon and I were absolutely stunned and horrified at what we witnessed the next hour and a half is an understatement. It was unlike anything we'd ever seen in the U.S. These young boys were already drunk and some were passed out. Others had containers of hard liquor and were openly drinking. They had no respect or concern for the police officers on board, and the police officers had no qualms about the young boys drinking. In fact, there was one time that the police officers walked down the aisle to the front of the car to do something and none of the boys tried to hide their bottles of open liquor. And on the way back down the aisle we could see some of the officers smiling and joking around with some of the boys. Perhaps their thought was, "These boys are going to pay for this later today and will be so sick!" But yet, it was so foreign to what you would see here in the states that we were shocked.
We spent an hour and a half listening to drunk teenage boys singing from the bottom deck of the train car, and were grateful that we couldn't understand the words to their song. The boys on the top deck, where we were, would occasionally try to join in the singing. They were walking the aisles and our biggest fear was that one of them would get sick and throw up on us! The only adult that we saw was one woman, and her main concern seemed to be that the ticket master was headed towards our car checking tickets. I'm not sure if a lot of the boys were riding without purchasing a ticket or what was going on, but right before he got to our car, the majority of the boys scattered and were gone until the ticket master left our car. I saw two boys headed to the bathroom with one of them carrying what looked like a joint; not that I'm an expert. This lag of our journey was spent with loud, obnoxious teenage drunks. Our day had just begun and my thought was, "What in the world have we got ourselves into by riding the trains?!"
Honestly, out of two and a half weeks in Germany, this was our only negative experience; and it only lasted an hour and a half. We changed trains several times throughout the day, and all the other trains we rode on were relatively quiet and uneventful.
Seeing those young boys either drinking or already passed out, and no one seemingly caring, really sickened us and made us sad. But Jon and I seemed to be in the minority feeling that way. When he went back to the job site on Monday he was telling some of the other guys about it, and none of them seemed to think it was a big deal; both the Germans and the Americans he was working with. One of the Americans commented that he started drinking when he was that young and would have been right there in the middle of them at that age. The Germans didn't think it was anything extraordinary or something to be upset about. Jon got the impression that this is how many of them had grown up.
I'm sure that Jon and I were looked upon as being an old fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud couple. One of the men from the US had told Jon, prior to them traveling to Germany, that his goal was to try drinking all the different kinds of beers while there. One evening, we were invited out to dinner by the men Jon worked with. They told Jon to have me come, so we thought that meant some of the other wives would be there. Not so! It was me, Jon, the three American men, and six German men. It was an experience! They all ordered beer, with most of them getting refills, and Jon and I sat there with our cups of Coca Cola. The man sitting next to me was pleasant and did speak English, with an extremely thick German accent, and he visited with us and never acted inappropriately. But from what was said, he had already had 2-3 beers before coming, then had 3-4 more during dinner. And I could smell it quite strongly on him. Drinking seemed to be very common place and acceptable to them all, with Jon and I being the oddballs.
There were a couple times when one of the German men had a barbecue at his home and invited the three guys who had traveled from the US to work with Jon, but Jon and I were not invited. That was fine with us, but Jon felt that the reason was because they wanted to drink and go to bars afterwards and knew that we would be not want to do that. The three Americans had also rented a van and went to various places sight-seeing on weekends and never once asked if we would want to join them. Once again, that was fine, but Jon felt that it was due to us not wanting to stop at bars or drink, and that was something they enjoyed doing.
On one day trip the other three Americans took, they passed asparagus fields and saw vans parked on the roads surrounding the field. They really didn't think much about it at first, thinking that it was immigrants from Poland who come to help during harvest. When they drove passed one of the vans they noticed a girl dressed in a bikini inside the van, and there were red and green lights on the outside of the van. They asked the native men about it at work that Monday and were told that those were prostitute vans. Prostitution is illegal inside Celle, so they have mobile prostitution vans that drive around outside the city where it is legal. The red and green lights are indicators on whether the girl is free or not at the moment. They saw cars pulled up right behind the van, so that the license plate was hidden. During one discussion, they told one of the younger German men that prostitution was illegal in the United States. He thought this was an outrage and his comment was, "What kind of hell state is this?!"
There are no "no smoking" laws in Germany. It was probably a lot like the US back in the 1970's, where everywhere you looked people were smoking. In fact, our hotel had no ice machines or vending machines for snacks or soft drinks, but it had a cigarette vending machine by the elevators. In fact, about the only type of vending machines we saw were for cigarettes. Walking down the street, sitting at outdoor cafes, etc. there were always people of all ages smoking.
We also constantly saw people carrying open containers of liquor with them; and it wasn't always just beer. In Germany, the drinking laws are that at age 14 you can drink wine and beer if your parents are present; at age 16 you can drink them without any adult supervision; at age 18 you are considered an adult and can buy any type of liquor and drink it. On some of the trains (not just the one with the kids) we saw a lot of adults carrying bottles and cans with them and drinking. There were no brown paper bags wrapped around them, like we see here, either. It was very open and acceptable. On some of the tours we did, I could smell the stench of liquor on people.
We drank Coca Cola while there, and it generally cost between 2.00 to 2.80 euros for a very small glass; with absolutely no free refills. But we noticed that the beer came in huge tall glasses, that were probably 10 times bigger than what we got.
Often Christians are looked upon as being judgmental or intolerant because we take a stand against sin. If we say anything about drinking alcohol being wrong, then we're just being closed-minded. If we speak out against gays or lesbians or same-sex marriages, we're labeled as being people haters. If we speak out against abortion, we're against women's rights. If we try to have high morals and standards, we're hoity-toity and think we're better than everyone else.
So it seems as if the easy road is to compromise by keeping our mouths shut and not speaking out against things that the Bible clearly states as being sin. We are so afraid of being labeled as being judgmental that we have stopped taking a stand for anything, then complain in private about loose morals or new laws granting liberties to sinful lifestyles. We want everyone to feel comfortable in our churches, so we design them as casual meeting places with coffee shops and cafes and spend more time fellowshipping than worshipping. Pastors and teachers want to make sure the gospel doesn't offend anyone, so they preach love and topics that make people have a warm fuzzy feeling, not wanting anyone to feel convicted of their sins or uncomfortable. And when someone does feel convicted and makes statements about needing to make changes in their lives, we pacify them by saying, "Oh it's okay; everyone has bad habits. Don't worry about it."
What has happened to the Christians in the church standing up for right and wrong, preaching the whole Bible as truth and not only the feel-good passages, declaring sin as sin and the need for repentance, and raising a standard of righteousness? Are we so timid and afraid of offending that we have let our guard down and have grown contented with having a lukewarm relationship with God? Are we so afraid of upsetting someone or hurting their feelings that we excuse their sinful behavior and have become tolerant? Does sin no longer bother us, and we've grown accustomed to it and find it acceptable?
Perhaps blame for the decline in America's morals cannot be cast solely upon politics or government or the legal system, but it's largely the fault of the church. I know that it is easy for me to become focused on everything around me, and I only give God any time I may have leftover. It's as if He is an afterthought. At times, I go to church because it's how I was raised and has become a habit; I don't go because I have a desire to worship God and hear a sermon from His word. Other times, I read my Bible and have devotions if I think of it, after first checking Facebook and emails and doing household chores. What about you? It is easy to become complacent in our relationship with God and take Him for granted. When that happens, we become more tolerant of sin and the world around us. We lower our standards and slowly begin finding things that we used to view as sin as perfectly acceptable and "not so bad". It's so easy to excuse our behavior and attitudes by saying, "The world is a different place than it used to be, so I've just had to adapt." But are we adapting by taking on the world's viewpoints and acceptability of sinful acts and behavior?
Maybe it's a different culture that we have here in America than in Germany. Things that we've grown accustomed to and now find perfectly acceptable may be completely different from what the Germans find acceptable. But the common thread we share is that we have the same tolerant attitude. The situation Jon and I had on the train opened my eyes to the fact that when we were confronted with behavior that was shocking to us and out of the ordinary, we reacted with a saddened and sickened heart. Yet every day in our lives here in Oklahoma we are faced with sinful acts and have grown so accustomed to it that it no longer bothers us. We think much as the German men did when Jon shared what we had witnessed on that train: "What's the big deal?"
Revelation 3:15, 16 says, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Definitions for the word lukewarm are: half-hearted, apathetic, unenthusiastic, unenthused, indifferent. That's not the type of Christians God wants; in fact, those type of people sicken Him and He will spit them out. We need to make a full commitment to God and stop worrying about the world so much. Think about it!
Wow! Preach it, Honey!
One thing Loretta didn't mention was the graffiti almost everywhere. Some of it was pretty vulgar. There were several cool things we didn't photograph just because they were covered in gang symbols. Race-hate gangs are getting pretty common in Germany.
I've heard a lot of people argue that it's fine to drink heavily because Jesus made wine from water. But they are confusing drinking a little wine with getting drunk. There are many verses in both the New and Old Testament that tell us not to drink to excess.
Loretta and I don't drink at all, and won't even eat food with alcohol on purpose (we're sure a lot of German food and chocolates had rum or other alcohol). That's our choice, and we feel convicted that it's the right choice for us. But we also believe the scriptures that say not to be given to strong drink.
I've also heard people say that drugs are fine, too. "God made marijuana, so it must be for us to enjoy." Hmm. He also made rattlesnakes. Is it also good to get bitten by them?
Most things people like to do can be justified one way or another. After all, if we couldn't justify doing them, we probably wouldn't. But once we make a commitment to God to follow Him, it's time to stop doing the things we know in our hearts aren't pleasing to Him. There are plenty of things we can do that are fun and perfectly fine.
(My sister has been making this recipe and says that it has become her new favorite vegetable.)
1 bunch fresh Asparagus, trimmed
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat oven to 400. Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray; season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until tender. Watch closely. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until slightly brown. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Pour over the baked asparagus. Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese over the top, if desired.
More church bloopers:
"Wise up, o men of God." Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.
The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus
The agenda was adopted.... the minutes approved... the financial secretary gave a grief report.
Barbara C. remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
The 'Over 60's Choir' will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church.
(Missionary from Africa speaking at Calvary Memorial Church in Racine. Name: Bertha Belch.) Announcement read: Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
Jean will be leading a weight-management series Wednesday nights. She's used the program herself and has been growing like crazy!
Doing right is never wrong.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon