I Bought a Memory!

I Bought a Memory!

When my Swedish cousin turned 50, he and his entire family flew to Florida to celebrate his birthday. His wife and children, and his three brothers and their families were all there. I was fortunate to be able to join them at my sister’s beautiful home on the coast. During that time, my cousin Tommy went and had a really nice suit fitted for himself. He had decided that he would purchase a suit while in the US, as the prices were so much cheaper than in Sweden. When he returned from picking it up, I heard him say to his brother, “I bought a suit.” His brother’s reply caught me off guard. He responded with, “I bought a memory.” You see, he had spent the day with his sons at Disney World. What Bosse said has stayed with me for over ten years. Now, I’m not saying that we should never spend our money on material items, as they can and do bring us pleasure. But Bosse’s comment made me realize that spending our money on experiences is just as valuable.

My son and his wife just took our four-year-old granddaughter to Disney for the week. We were able to Skype with them as Naomi described the trip in great detail. We learned that she loves the really scary rides and meeting the Disney characters. Naomi has etched in her mind a week of experiences that she will cherish for the rest of her life. It was worth it for them to “buy a memory.”

This coming week we have the opportunity to “buy a memory” with our families. We will have a week free from the daily routine of going to school. Our kids will have time to enjoy with their parents and their siblings. I encourage you to take time out of your busy schedule in order to “buy a memory.” With the nice weather coming to Vienna so early this year, you could go for a bike ride together. You could visit a museum or take in a movie. There is so much to do right here in Vienna that wouldn’t even cost very much. What’s important is spending time together.

Thanks to the amazingly low airfares, my husband and I will be Wizzing away to Thessaloniki where we can visit some of the places that the Apostle Paul went while on his missionary journeys. We will drive up to Philippi to see that city, as well, and we will also drive down the coast to enjoy some sun and the amazing coastline. The older we get, the more we realize that what really brings us joy is to use our vacation time to “buy a memory.” Maybe you just might want to do the same.
I wish you all a wonderful Energy Break! We will see you in March.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director

Be Still!

For a go-getter like me, it is very hard to follow God’s command to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I often find it difficult to stop thinking about everything that is going on around me and to focus on God alone. I must admit that maybe that’s why I find extended periods of prayer difficult. And yet, “be still” means more than just sitting quietly in God’s presence. Psalm 46 was written during a time of war, so that verse also means to stop frantic activity. It means to lay down your weapons. It means to cease striving. It can even be interpreted as “wake up and acknowledge who your God is!” (Kanoy, 13 August, 2018).

I don’t remember if I’ve ever shared with you about my traumatic move when I was just shy of 16 years old. (If I can’t remember, then maybe you won’t remember either. ☺) I had spent most of my life living in New York where I had a huge group of friends, a school that I loved, and even a boyfriend. I am the youngest of five children, but I was the only one still living at home. Three weeks before my 16th birthday, we moved from a suburban area filled with exciting things to do to New Hampshire, where everything was miles and miles apart. I went from never being at home to not having any place to go. I was miserable. In looking back, I can say that this was God’s way of getting my attention. In New York, I was so involved in frantic activity that I couldn’t hear His voice. By taking me out of the activity of daily life and providing me with a time of solitude, I got to know God in a very special way. I would come home from school and spend hours reading my Bible. I cried out to God and Jesus became my best friend. I was homesick, and God assured me of my eternal home in Heaven. The two years that I lived in New Hampshire alone with my parents changed my life. Why? Because for the first time, I was “still” and that brought me to a place where God could reveal himself to me and say “know that I am God.”

As I write this, today is the International Day of Prayer, so people all over the world are praying. We started the morning with small groups of teachers, staff members, students, and parents praying for ICSV, for Vienna, for Austria, and for the world. We spent 30 minutes in silent prayer, praising God for who He is, bringing our requests to Him, or simply being still in the awesomeness of the Almighty God. I want to encourage you to take some time away from your busy schedules and stop! Lay down whatever is in your hands! Cease striving! And wake up and acknowledge who your God is!

Below is the whole of Psalm 46. Today is very similar to the time when King David wrote this psalm. We are still experiencing wars and natural disasters. And so God reminds us that He, the LORD Almighty, is with us. He is our refuge and strength. What a privilege it is to be still and to talk with God. Even for get-‘er-done people like me. Maybe you can relate.

Because of His Faithfulness,

Sharon Brobst, Director

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Absolute Truth

About 18 months ago I asked a high school student to come to my office so that he could clarify some of his comments in the student survey. One in particular stood out to me. He said that he felt some teachers were shying away from the difficult questions in life and were almost apologizing for some of the Christian beliefs that non-Christians find as offensive. He tapped the top of my cabinet and said, “I’m not a Christian, so I don’t believe this stuff. But if I were, then I would believe ALL of it, and I would not apologize for it.” His words challenged me. Is that what we tend to do? Refrain from saying what we truly believe so that we don’t upset someone? Or do we go even further and apologize for what God has revealed as true? That’s a pretty profound observation, in my opinion.

In today’s culture, holding to the belief that there is absolute truth brings the label of unaccepting, intolerant, prejudiced or even that of being a bigot. That’s hard to hear, especially when Jesus has instructed us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. But there are certain core doctrines in the Bible that are non-negotiables. The first is that God’s Word is “the fully inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God” (ICSV Doctrinal Statement). So, just as this student was pointing out, if I say that I am a Christian, then I need to believe that what the Bible says is true. I can’t pick and choose what I like about it.

A couple of weeks ago, we again surveyed our high school students to find out their views on some pretty sensitive topics – things like identity and sexuality. We were not overly surprised with their responses, as the students’ views differ as much as they do in any diverse group of people. One of the questions was a real encouragement. When asked if it is possible for people who disagree on these issues to still have good friendships and to be able to work together, 88% said that it is possible.

In today’s world where people are so unaccepting of those with differing views, our students are learning what it is like to live in an extremely diverse community and still get along. It is possible to discuss certain issues because they are not really “issues” at all. They are relationships. They are feelings. They are people who are loved by God, created in His image. Does this mean that we tiptoe around the hot topics? Not at all. It means that we can believe in absolutes and we can believe in the Bible as God’s inerrant Word of God and still love and respect those who don’t. Sprinkle said in his blog called “Grace Unleashed” that “grace is God’s aggressive pursuit of, and stubborn delight in, messed up people. And since we’re all messed up, we are all equally in desperate need of God’s grace.” That’s how we can get along. We can grow in our understanding of grace and in the way that we extend that grace to others.

So, am I saying that everyone is right? That everything is relative? No, not at all. I firmly believe that God’s Word is the absolute truth, and I want nothing more than for others to believe that, as well. What saddens me is the way that many people are going about making their point. They are not speaking in love. They seem more concerned with winning the argument than with winning the soul. Chuck Swindoll has said that “this is no time for a deliberate softening of truth, to make Christianity more palatable to unbelievers” (2002). With all of the pressure today to be culturally-sensitive and politically-correct, I think that is what many Christians believe they have to do – soften the truth. At ICSV we believe that we can discuss sensitive topics, that we can explain what God’s Word says about those topics, and that we can honestly love those who hold to different views. We are not called to change people’s minds. We are called to be faithful to the God who has saved us. We are called to speak truth into their lives. But, above all, we are called to demonstrate God’s profound love by speaking the truth in love. It is my prayer that our students will remember their time at ICSV as one where they were challenged to ask questions, “to engage with issues and ideas,…to seek and evaluate different points of view,… and to be willing to grow from the experience” (IB Learner Profile). But even more than that, I hope that they will remember ICSV as a place where they were loved and respected as valued image-bearers of the Almighty God.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director

Unravelling Ribbons

During the month of January, my circle of friends experienced three deaths. One was a teacher who was only 41 years old. He had an undiagnosed heart condition, so he literally was fine one minute and gone the next. He left behind a wife and two small children. The second was a 66 year old mother who lived away from her children, and she never told them she was dying of cancer, so it was very painful for her children to hear she died alone. The third was a 61 year old woman who had battled cancer for over ten years. She fought good and hard, but ultimately, her strength gave out. Even with the differing circumstances, none of the three deaths was easy for their loved ones.
I’ve spoken of my good friend from Massachusetts on several occasions. She was intimately affected by two of the three deaths, so she wrote to me while pondering the situation. She is a gifted writer, so I’d like to share with you the picture that came to her mind during this time:

It is a little hard to believe how life can unravel simultaneously. I am thinking how I had no control over these events happening at once and it reminds me of the big roll of holiday ribbon that I buy on sale every year after Christmas with the white, red, green and gold all wrapped around it. When the holidays start approaching, I am the type of person who wants to have everything planned and organized. I get my “wrapping station” all set up with the card table out, tape dispenser, scissors, gift bags, tissue, gold or silver pens, hole puncher, and a variety of holiday wrapping paper. Then I put on some Christmas music and start to work. The packages all look so pretty and colorful once they are wrapped in paper, and then I take out the ribbon. I choose the first color to match the right package. As soon as I start to unwind it – boom – all four colors simultaneously unravel. They cross over one another, get tangled, and become a huge mess. So I have to stop and take the time to get it all straightened out by neatly wrapping  each color back around the cardboard roll.
So, this is my imagery for right now.  Life does feel tangled and messy, but it will get sorted out in time. The colors will get rewound and put back in place. Some of them will have less ribbon left on the roll, and one or two colors will be gone and all used up. However, the colors that are gone means that they were purposely used to wrap their ribbon arms around precious gifts that were bought with care, folded neatly, placed in boxes, and surrounded by beautiful tissue paper.

It is hard, sometimes, to be in the midst of sorrow or illness and not be able to see it from God’s vantage point. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the Apostle Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” He admits that while on this earth we don’t always see things clearly, for we cannot see them from God’s point of view. When we get to Heaven, we will finally understand what God was doing all along.

Another way that I’ve heard this explained is by comparing life to a tapestry. I know that when I try and do embroidery, the back part of the cloth is a complete mess. I have knots and threads all tangled together. You wouldn’t even be able to tell what I was making. But if you look at the top, it is a beautiful picture. That’s what God sees. He is the Creator of life and the one completing the tapestry. He knows what it look like from His side, and He also knows what it will look like when complete. Some days, all we can do is trust Him. If we try to understand it all by looking at the tangled mess, we will get discouraged. But when we realize that God is weaving a magnificent tapestry, then we can rest in His promise that when we see Him face to face, we will see things clearly.

So the next time I get my ribbon all tangled up in a mess, I’ll think of Martha and be reminded of the beauty of a perfectly wrapped gift, remembering that sometimes the gift was a person whom God placed in my life for a time.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director