Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Think on These Things: Four

"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." — William Carey, pioneer missionary to India

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Beautiful Russian Forest

So the other day I went for a walk.
I discovered a beautiful forest.
In that beautiful forest, I discovered an even more beautiful forest of birch trees. They were unending.
Further through the Birch forest I stumbled upon a gorgeous lake. The lake was hand made after digging out peet moss for farmers. The ground around the whole lake is like a giant sponge. Old ladies come here early in the morning to swim, winter through summer.

The Russian forest is astoundingly beautiful, and I have my escapes there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Russian Crab Salad

FINALLY! A Russian salad that I can excitedly recommend. This is so delicious and I just couldnt stop myself. Perfect for a party or just an awesome recipe to share with family and friends. Try it out!

1 cup of dry Basmati or similar type of rice,
4 eggs
250 - 300 gr. of crabmeat or imitation crabmeat,
1 small can of sweet corn
2-3 table spoons of grated cheddar or old gauda cheese  
3-4 table spoons of mayonnaise.

1. Boil the rice, so it remains "friable", not sticky. Do not overcook!
2. Hard boil the eggs.
3. Let rice and eggs to cool down to the room temperature.
4. Cut crabmeat in small cubes,
5. Cut eggs into small cubes,
6. Open corn can, pour out the liquid.
7. Mix rice, corn, cheese, crabmeat and eggs.
8. Add mayonnaise at least 30 min before serving, stir.
9. Put in a big salad bowl, decorate with greens and black olives.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Checkin out Chkalov, Russia

Located approximately 95 miles northwest of Nizhny Novgorod, and situated right on the bank of the Volga River, Chkalov (Russian: Чка́ловск) is a small old fashioned town named for the worl renowned Russian aviator Valery Chkalov.

Mike, Natasha, Me, and Lena

We visited Chkalov on a frigidly cold day, and did not get to really see much of the town. We did however stop by the banks of the Volga River. In the background you can see the banks of Gorodets and Zavolzh'ye.

I would recommend checking out the Cklalov Museum. Its filled with all sorts of awesome things. They have so many historical items from Valery Chkalovs flights and from his life. The museum is housed in the very home where he grew up, and even features a recreation of his bedroom, office, and living space. They have many of his flight uniforms, and show some of the awards and maps from his flights. In a separate warehouse off to the side, see above, there are some of the actual planes that Chkalov flew. The large plane you see above was flown from Moscow to Vancouver, over the North Pole. That was a 63 hour flight. Whoa man.

The town has some good restaurants, and for about 8 bucks (250 rubles) you can get soup, salad, and a main course.

If you are ever traveling through the area, dont make Chkalov a full day stop, but for a quick afternoon, definitely hit it up!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Russia Playlist

In my past, I have often had certain songs or playlists that if I were to listen to know, I would specifically think of that time in my life.

For example, Michelle Branch music reminds me of my whole middle school years. Norah Jones reminds me of my mom. Shaggy reminds me of 6th grade when we would all hang out at my house. Kt Tunstall and Gnarls Barkley remind me of the time after my parents got divorced and we moved in with my grandparents. Chromeo and JayZ remind me of freshmen year in college and hanging out with Alex.

I realized that I have a “Russia playlist.” These songs have been on replay since I’ve gotten here, kicking up their play count at least 40 times per song. I love them all for different reasons. Some just catch with me, or some I can relate to, or they challenge me, or encourage me to pursue God. They are great songs and I recommend you check them out.

• Phil Wickham: Divine Romance
• JJ Heller: Only Love Remains
• JJ Heller: My Saviour’s Love Endures
• Bon Iver: Skinny Love
• Fernando Ortega: I Need Thee Every Hour
• Junior Caldera: What You Get
• Passion Pit: Live to Tell the Tale
• Morandi: Colors
• David Crowder Band: Come Thou Fount

What songs are in your life’s playlists?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unexpected Phone Call

I usually know when my phone is going to ring. Maybe it is Natasha or Pastor Sasha outside, letting me know that I should come out and meet them. Or maybe Anya is calling me to make sure I am safe. Actually, those are the only two reasons my phone rings, and when Im not expecting a call, I dont even bother to keep my phone on me.

Tonight, my phone started ringing unexpectedly. Even though numbers of key people are programmed into my phone, every number always shows up as unknown. As I looked at this unknown number, thought began racng through my head, who is this? is there an emergency somewhere? did I do something wrong?

I picked it up, and Pastor Sasha urgently greeted me. "Alissa, I need you to listen. I have to tell you important information."

Oh lord, I thought to myself. Am I getting deported? Do they not need me at the English Club anymore?

He continued, "Do you understand that you must listen?"

"Da, ya paneemiyo."  (Yes, I Understand)

"Ok, tomorrow at English Club you have an important task. A beautiful girl will come. Her name is Marta. She is 15. You must be her friend. This is important. Work hard to be her friend."

A wave of relief and slight comedy came over me. I was ok, and I was up to this task. And no one is dying.

"She might invite you to her home. She might invite you to visit with her. Work hard to be her friend. We need her to come to church. Her mom said she doesnt have many friends. She is depressed. But she is interested in English. She is interested in being your friend."

Oh wow. The pressure is on. I told Sasha that I understood, and that I was ready to work hard to be friends.

"Ok. Alissa. This is important. Good bye." Typical Sasha communication: Abrupt, intense, and careful, yet slightly funny as he was being intentionally dramatic. I love it.

Sometimes unexpected phone calls can bring terrible news, but sometimes they can bring a bit of humor and a challenge. This one brought a challenge of prayer and friendship. Tomorrow I will aim to make friends with a beautiful girl named Marta.

Lets hope it works out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Married or Single: For Better or Worse

Married or Single: For Better or Worse By John Piper, May 2007

Following this weekend’s sermon entitled “Single in Christ: A Better Name Than Sons and Daughters,” Pastor John received a letter asking, “If what you say about the blessing of singleness is true, then why would one even want to be married?” Here is his response.

Dear Friend, You ask: “What is at all compelling about marriage? Why would we even want to be married?"

  The “compelling” comes only from the right combination of internal realities and objective truths about God’s design for marriage. When the right combination is not there, marriage is not compelling and should not be. I would say the same thing about singleness.

The objective truths about marriage are primarily God’s design: 

1. To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church,
2. To sanctify the couple with the peculiar pains and pleasures of marriage,
3. To beget and rear a generation of white-hot worshippers, and
4. And to channel good sexual desire into holy paths and transpose it into worshipful foretastes of heaven’s pleasures.

 That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs.

The objective truths about singleness are also primarily God’s design: 

1. To display the spiritual nature of God’s family that grows from regeneration and faith, not procreation and sex,
2. To sanctify the single with the peculiar pains and pleasures of singleness,
3. To capture more of the single’s life for non-domestic ministry that is so desperately needed in the world,
4. And to magnify the all-satisfying worth of Christ that sustains life-long chastity.

 That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs. 

I encourage you to check out the full article:  Desiring God Resources

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Typical Day?

Some of you have been asking what my typical day is like. So in this post I will aim to answer that question.

First of all, every day is different.  

But, keeping that in mind, lets explore.

I wake up every morning feeling like p.diddy.  (no not really)

Most mornings I wake up between 8:30-10:30. The first thing I do every morning is open the window and take a breathe of fresh air, embracing the coolness. After a sweaty night of heat, it is refreshing. I groggily walk to the kitchen, light a match, turn on the stovetop, and boil some hot water. 
While the water boils I wander around, hook up the internet, brush my teeth, and try not to fall back asleep. The pot whistles and I make coffee, which I then stick in the freezer. 
During my ice-coffee making time, I jump in the shower for a refreshing, cold water experience. 

10am Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Fridays. Masha, an 18 year old, stylish, energetic, college student comes over to my apartment. Both our 2nd language skills are terrible, so we have to use the computer translator to talk to each other. But we work on some vocab, listen to some Christian songs in English, and just repeat some phrases. She leaves around 11am.

Afternoons. I am free to do as I please. Most afternoons are made up of studying.  I typically read my bible, do some journaling, read one of the books I brought with me. And I surf the web. Not mindlessly, mind you, but I look for information regarding ESL teaching tools, teacher resources, topics for the week for the English Club, help from other ESL teachers, etc. I also browse christian websites like TheGospelCoalition, DesiringGod, and Boundless as a means of growth. 

Random times, I will head to the grocery store to pick up food for that day, some produce, cereal, cheese, and ORANGE JUICE. I live off orange juice. Today I tried some tuna though, and it wasnt bad. During these random times I will also go for a walk around town- to the forest, take some pictures, or take a nap, or catch up on emails and whatnot. I try to schedule visits with people during these random times as well. Even if its just going on a walk with a young mom from the English Club.

The English Language Club meets Tuesday and Thursday from 6-7:30pm, and Saturdays from 11-12:30am. I head to the church an hour and a half early to set up all the equipment. The members come, we have conversations and practice our English, read from the bible, following up with a movie in English. This week we watched some clips from the Tennessee River Aquarium, pretty cool stuff.

Meetings, hanging out, all the rest. Saturday Nights are a weekly Chidlren's "Good News" Club with 5 or 6 kids from the neighborhood. They are adorable and its one of my favorite parts of the week. They learn about God and get some snacks! Sunday's are always the busiest day. Church the morning, followed up with a visit to someone's home or to a nearby city for some walking, and then Youth Club in the evenning. I usually dont get home until late. Other free time is spent intentionally hanging out with someone who isnt from the church. Building relationships is an important tool in evangelism.

And then I sleep. Thank God for sleep.  


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Moscow Out: Russian Cuisine

On this week's Moscow Out, Martyn Andrews and his crew explore the history and ingredients of Russia's most popular dishes. From tasty solyanka soup to delicious beef stroganoff - we meet local chefs, find out secret recipes and visit a range of restaurants that serve mouth-watering Russian Cuisine. Is Russian food healthy or not? How does the climate effect what people eat - we find out! Knives and forks at the ready!

Original program found here

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Their souls have shrunk to the level of their concerns."

Check out this video by John Piper. I thought it was interesting.

"'When you pray 'hallowed be they name, thy kingdom come.' Thats meant to take your heart and make it as big as history, and as big as the globe."

Im guilty of my soul sometimes shrinking to the level of my own selfish concerns and not wondering what Gods desires are.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Soul of Russia: Fascinating Look Into Russian Orthodoxy

This article from National Geographic is literally the most fascinating article I have ever read on the Russian Orthodox Church pre- and post Soviet Union. The article chronicles an introspective man’s journey and observations about the battle that the church has faced in the past 80 years. It goes on to tell of some of the victories that the Orthodox church has experienced, as well as short comings and failures.

This article slightly touches on the friction between western denominations, or “sects,” and the people of Russia, as well as the perceived desire for the Orthodox church to become the state church.

 I recommend that you check it out. click the title below.

Soul of Russia By Serge Schmemann 

Interesting tidbit:
"The Soviet regime was the product of faithlessness, but at least it allowed real believers to live the flame of faith," he says. "Today we are more concerned with fighting sects and 'enemies' than with repentance. These forces are tearing the church from within."

According to Nikolai Mitrokhin, a historian and critic of the church, about 60 percent of Russians today identify themselves as Orthodox—they may be baptized, married, and buried in the church—but less than one percent actually enter a church at least once a month. Other sources put the figure closer to 10 percent. One reason for the sparse attendance may be that the Orthodox Church is not entirely friendly to people who are casual or clueless about its hallowed traditions."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taking the "If" of "If I Get Married," Seriously

(orignally written 2/20/10) 

I stumbled upon this blog post the other day, and it really struck me. Here are some excerpts, for the whole post, please click here.

"Lately, I have really been questioning whether God even has it in His plan for me to be married someday—but I haven’t been praying about it seriously. This hasn’t changed my desire for a boyfriend, or heck, a date next Friday. But I have been learning a few things about myself that have made me question if I’m supposed to be married someday... 
...Some people know that they will get married someday, it’s just the when or to whom that remains to be seen. Other people, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 7, know that they are called to a life of celibacy and singleness. I’m in a strange state of limbo and could see myself going either way. Hence the need for serious prayer about this issue. In the past, when I said “IF I get married,” or “IF I find someone,” it was followed by a wistful sigh of self-pity. Now I use “if” seriously, genuinely not knowing that marriage is in my future. Sadly, some people, who have been conditioned to do so, jump at the chance to say things like, “Of COURSE you’ll find someone! Don’t be silly! Guys are just stupid and don’t know what they’re missing.” Then I have to correct them and say, “No, really. I really don’t know if I’m going to get married!”

Wow, I have been having the same internal conversations lately.

Ive been praying, “God, if its in your will for me to get married, thats cool, but I am totally up for your plans, and my purpose on this earth is to bring glory to you, so whatever way will allow that to happen best, is best.”

After making a bunch of mistakes in the "love" department, and God teaching me a lot of things about finding my joy and satisfaction in Him, I am currently single, and truly content. Thanks to my local church and many amazing people in my life, its been a grace filled journey.

Whether or not I would date if given the opportunity, hard to say at the moment, but I'm not interested in just putzing around. God has shown me incredible grace and redeeming love, and I’m interested in serving Him to my fullest capacity. If someone else came along that shared my passion, (and liked me?) I’d be all about it. Haha.

A lot to think about though, and like the conclusion from the blog, its time to take the "if" of "if I get married," seriously.

What do you think? Should we be taking the "if" more seriously? If you are not married, do you know for sure that you will get married one day? How do you pray about this kind of thing?

God Bless.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Above All, My Hope Is In You

Above All, My Hope Is In You
by Alissa M Graham 

Above all, You are my Sustainer
My hope is in your goodness
When I crave what will die
Lord revive me in your satisfaction

Above all, You are my Guide
My hope is in your sovereignty
When I lack faith
Lord, reconcile me with your wisdom

Above all, You are my refuge
My hope is in your comfort
When I face loneliness
Lord, rekindle my desire for your love

Above all, You are my defender
My hope is in your mighty Fortress
When I run in fear
Lord, reinforce me in your strength.

Above all, You are my teacher
My hope is in your counsel
When my ignorance is rampant
Lord, reform me in your truth

Above all, You are my Perseverance
My hope is in your eternity
When I start to lose endurance
Lord, refute my fleeting ways with your everlasting attributes

Above all, You, Jesus Christ, are my Saviour
My hope is in your resurrection
When my sin seems overbearing
Lord, remind me of your salvation.

Psalms 71:14, 19-21
 But as for me, I will always have hope;
  I will praise you more and more.
Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,
  You who have done great things.
  Who, O God, is like you?
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
  You will restore my life again;
  from the depths of the earth
  You will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
  and comfort me once again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Today I...

  • Woke up at a desireable time... with no help from an alarm clock except my internal one
  •  Wore all clean clothes.... come Monday its time for a washing by hand session
  •  Took a drive to Nizhny Novgorod with Misha, Lena, Natasha, Mike... and observed new things
  • Sufficiently picked out my own Russian food at restuaruant.... even if the broccoli was a little salty
  • Refused to partake in weird Korean New Agey Medical treatments even though I really wanted to practice my Korean... and then I found out there were no Koreans running the show anyways.
  • Communicated with some Russian friends and found some really cool things out... like I need to find them a Bible asap!
  • Watched a ballet called Giselle, that I didnt understand at all... but decently enjoyed it
  • Went the whole day without wearing a coat... and loved every second! 
  • Learned some new things about myself.. that probably werent that new