Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone. 
Hope you found time in your busy schedule to remember the reason for the season.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Guitar Blessing!

So most of you know that I was not able to bring my guitar to Portugal.

I have certainly missed playing and worshipping with it.

Recently our pastor here decided to purchase a guitar for the church. This means I will once again be able to play and even lead worship once a month.

Total blessing, but pray for my fingers as I haven't played in six months!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snowman...sort of

Europe has been hit with lots of snow lately, which has resulted in airports closing, people stranded and general chaos. 

Being in Southern Europe, we have missed most of that. Although it does snow in Northern Portugal, we do not get any here.

Unless, of course, you let the fridge go too long without a defrosting! 

Perhaps we'll get the chance to go up north to see some real snow...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emi Turns 6

Emi celebrated her 6th birthday today!

We went downtown to see Christmas decorations and get some dessert.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Program

Our school's Christmas Program was Friday night. Although it was a lot of work, I think everyone had a good time. More importantly, they definitely heard about the true reasons for celebrating Christmas.

Emi and Mika's Kindergarten class had a fun presentation.

They were singing in English, Japanese, Greek and Portuguese.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Takako's Visit

Our good friend Takako came for a visit!

The girls were so excited to eat such yummy Japanese food again (as we all were).

It was so good to have long talks with such a wise, spiritual woman of God.
We have been much encouraged!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Book Review: On this Day in Christian History, by Robert J. Morgan

On this day in Christian History by Robert J Morgan is a book with an interesting approach. Each day of the year you can read about an important event in Christian history. Naturally, the book is arranged by date, with one page for each day. While this would not be an appropriate replacement for daily Bible study, it does give some fascinating episodes in Christian history. Morgan chooses some interesting people to include, although not all would be considered “heroes” of the faith.

However, while the events included are significant, one is left wondering what was left out. As there is only one event listed per day, surely other important events were not included. In fact, in most cases the “Day it happened” is totally irrelevant. Also, while there is an index arranged by subject, it would have been better to have an index of persons. I will likely remember an event, even a name, but surely I will not be able to remember the day that it happened making it difficult to find later. Still, even with these minor annoyances, Morgan has done an admirable job of presenting a variety of incidents in a brief, interesting manner.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Countdown

Well, we've done this for the past couple years; we like to countdown the days of December as we approach Christmas. We try to keep the focus on Christ, so we will read a Bible verse each day and talk about one of the many symbols of the season.

This was a cool display at the local mall: it is the town of Bethlehem. At the top of the village is the manger. Not sure how often you get to see a public display in the U.S. these days, but they are quite common here.

Of course, on the other side of the tree was the fat guy in the red suit...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for?

Most people spend the majority of their time complaining about what they don't have. We ought to, especially as Christians, focus more on the many blessings that we do have. 
  • If you have a place to sleep and food to eat, then you have more than 75% of the world.
  • If you can freely worship God, you are more blessed than the 3 billion people who cannot.
  • If you for certain where you will spend eternity when you die, then remember that this life is very short. Let's not waste time complaining, but by being a blessing to others!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anyone Thirsty?

One of the, uh, joys of living in a foreign land is figuring out the language.  As we are both ministering so much at the school, we have really appreciated the grocery delivery service.  You put your order in online and for a modest fee they bring it to your door.  As we do not have a vehicle, the fee (about $3.50) is cheaper than the taxi would cost, so it makes sense.

However, in my rush to get the order in last week, I inadvertently misordered.  Instead of ordering "24 bottles of water", I ordered "24 6 packs of water."

We now have enough water for the rest of the year.

I almost feel like Jesus when He said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me..."

(and yes, I know He was talking about Spiritual thirst).

Well, if anyone needs a drink, please do not hesitate to stop on by!

Our friends from Romania

A couple that attend our church hail from Romania.  Robert drives one of the buses for the school, while Christina is a hair dresser.  We talked her into coming over for lunch and cutting the girls hair.  We were definitely blessed by the fellowship!  And the girls were much more comfortable at home.  Thanks Christina!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chestnut Day

If you are not familiar with "Chestnut Day", well perhaps you aren't Portuguese.  It is a day to honor not only chestnuts, but "Saint Martin."  As the story/legend goes, Martin was riding along in the rain and came across a beggar getting drenched.  He gave the beggar his own tunic and rode off.  Miraculously, the sun came out.  What this has to do with chestnuts, I have no idea.

On November 11, it is Portuguese custom to remember this saint by downing large quantities of roasted chestnuts and an alcoholic beverage.  At our school celebration we of course did not have any alcohol, but we did roast chestnuts and the students sang a song in Portuguese.

Mika is wearing a traditional Portuguese outfit.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Pumpkin Prayer

We are not into celebrating Halloween.
It has become a day focused on the macabre and dwelling on darkness is not something we feel we should do.

However, we do enjoy this time of year, especially the foods.  We were pleased to find pumpkins available (they are green in Japan).  We also came across this neat "Pumpkin Prayer":

Pumpkin Carving Prayer

Dear God,
As I carve my pumpkin help me say this prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about You;
(Cut the top of the pumpkin)

Take away all my sin and forgive me for the wrong things I do.
(Clean out the inside)

Open my eyes so Your love I will see;
(Cut the eyes out)

I'm so sorry for turning up my nose to all you've given me.
(Cut a nose in the shape of a cross)

Open my ears so your word I will hear.
(Cut the ears)

Open my mouth so I can tell others You're near
(cut the mouth)

Let Your light shine in all I say and do! Amen.
(Place a candle inside and light it)

The kiddos enjoyed this a lot!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rice Cakes!

This was hilarious!  In Portugal they enjoy "Rice Cakes." 

Now these are not like the rice cakes in the U.S. (the hard, inedible, lacking totally in taste puffed rice).

These rice cakes tasted like muffins made with mochi.  Delicious!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Fire Station

Debe's class is learning about "Community Helpers."  This would be the Police & Fire departments, Hospitals, that sort of thing.  As a "Field Trip", they went to the local Fire Station.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Park Blessing

Okay, so we were really missing the parks in Japan.  They are plentiful and cool and unique.  

We were lamenting how the nearest park was not so close and did not offer much.  I remember talking with Emi about how God knows our needs and desires and how it pleases Him to give us the things we ask for.  Well, after praying for, well something better than what we had, I "happened" to come across this lovely little park!

It's even fenced in, so you don't have to worry about traffic.
And the best part is, it is only 5 minutes from our apartment!  God is good!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Beyond Opinion, edited by Ravi Zacharias

Those familiar with the work of Ravi Zacharias know that he is one of the leading Christian apologists today.  This book is edited by Ravi, but most of the chapters are written by other Christian apologists.  Ravi did write two of the chapters, and we can assume he "okayed" the others.  However, this book is does a good job of addressing the leading assaults against the Bible and the Truth.

The chapters are divided into different challenges: i.e. "Challenges from Youth", "Challenges from Islam", etc.  This is helpful as a reference. 

This is not a light read, of course, as it does deal with apologetics.  This is such an important area for Christians to know, however for those not familiar with apologetics, this might be a difficult book to get through.

Of course having a different author for each chapter has its advantages and disadvantages.  Each chapter is penned by someone with extensive experience in that area.  The disadvantage is that the writing style is not consistent due to differing writing styles.  I think I would have preferred the consistency; still, there was a ton of great answers and challenges to those that belittle or attack the gospel.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an unbiased review. 
The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in any way. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School has begun!

As of September 1st, we all attend school on a daily basis.

Here Emi is modeling the school uniform.  It is kind of nice that we all can walk to the school together-- I used to drive off by myself and not see the fam for 8-10 hours. Now we can see each other a little during the day.

The girls are doing okay in school. They really like their teacher (Ms. C), and so do we.  They also like their Phonics teacher (Debe).

Being a small school, you can really get to know everyone.  Please pray that we will shine the light of Jesus here in Cascais, Portugal.  God is definitely using this school and church and we feel privileged to be a part of it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Book Review: The Boy who Changed the World

I received this gem in the mail the other day.  Andy Andrews', The boy who changed the world, is a children's story.  It is the true story of Norman Borlaug, who was the man who developed "Super plants" which saved an estimated 2 billion lives.  However, the book goes on to describe the man who influenced Borlaug: Henry Wallace.  Henry was influenced by inventor George Washington Carver, who was influenced by Moses Carver.

The moral is spelled out quite clear: your actions matter.  The choices you make will have an impact on the world.  The story is told in a simple enough way that my 3 and 5 year old enjoyed it until the end.  The rich, detailed drawings only enhanced the overall product.  This book will is enjoyable for adults as well.

I found that the book did a great job of showing how one life can affect another.  The message was strong morally, although not necessarily religious.  I appreciated the challenge at the end: "decide now to change the world."

This book was provided to me in exchange for an impartial review. The opinions expressed were in no way influenced by this fact.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Sights Around Town

Until we are able to get a car, we are doing things by foot.  It is good exercise, plus, you get to see things you might miss if you are driving.  Especially if you are driving over 120 km/hr as many here do.

Here are some things in our town within walking distance:

There aren't a lot of parks, but this one is really nice.

It is located in Parque de Carmona, known locally as "Peacock Park."  And yes, there are peacocks roaming around.

This is a Japanese food store.  Probably it supplies the Japanese restaurants.  We can also get Japanese goods at the grocery store.  It's nice to know it is here, although I cannot imagine paying over 6 Euros ($8) for umeboshi!

It's a good thing the local food is delish!

Also, they don't have mugi-cha, so we might need someone to send us some when our supply runs out...

This is "Cascais Villa", a shopping mall.  The shops are a bit high priced as it is located near the tourist stops.  Still, it is free air conditioning!
Right across the street is Jumbo, which is one of our favorite places to get things we need.  It's like a Walmart.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Days

School starts soon (for teachers anyway), so we thought we would check out the beach. 

It's a nice beach (although we've been spoiled by the beaches in Hawaii & Okinawa), but the water was pretty cold!  Still, the girls enjoyed building sand castles and collecting shells.

The sun gets pretty hot here so we didn't stay too long.

In the evening we had some friends over for dinner, so we bought a watermelon.  They are so inexpensive compared to Japan: 1.30 Euros (less than $2)!  Mmmm, sweet watermelon.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Belem (Bethlehem)

Today we decided to visit Belem, about 30 minutes away by train.  Belem is Portuguese for Bethlehem, which tells you something about the rich "religious" heritage of Portugal.

We first walked past the "Discoverer's Monument".  It's hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was huge!  It depicts the many famous explorers from Portugal (Magellan, de Gama, etc.), as well as other prominent people (Francis Xavier).

Then we headed over to Jeronimo's Monastery.

Built in the 1500's, this monastery is also the final resting spot of Vasco de Gama.  Pretty cool, huh?

It was an impressive building and we only saw a portion of it.

Afterwards we tried another famous thing in the area: "Pastel de nata."  These rich custardy partries were created by nuns from the monastery in the 1700's and are now popular all over Portugal.  They were delicious

It was a fun, educational day!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Curry from Scratch

One thing that we miss about Japan is the food.  We used to eat a lot of fresh tofu, goya and curry, but those items are not available here.  Solution: make your own curry roux!

We love curry; Thai, Indian and Japanese.  This was our first attempt at homemade Japanese Curry.

It turned out pretty good-- I'd say a B+ for taste (room for improvement) and an A for effort.

Well, here's the recipe we tried in case you'd like to give it a go.  Or perhaps you have some advice on improving it!

Japanese Curry

1. Cook up your meat and veggies as usual.

3 TBSP Butter
3-4 cloves Garlic (more is okay, too)
1/4 cup flour
2 Tspn Curry Powder (or Garam Masala)
Cayenne Pepper (to taste)
Bit of chocolate
1 TBSP Ketchup
1 Tspn Worster sauce
Black Pepper

2. Fry up crushed garlic in butter.
3. Meanwhile, add just enough water to curry powder to make a thick paste.  In a separate bowl, mix flour with just enough water to make a thick paste.  Add curry paste and flour paste to garlic.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients to your tastes.  We added some chutney to make it sweeter for the kiddos.

Well, if you try it, let me know how it came out!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Debe's Birthday

Thursday was Debe's birthday!  It seems that every year she gets gyped on her birthday -- we're either moving or in need of a new car; something. 

So this year I wanted to do something a little more special, 'cause she deserves it.  We went up to the historic town of Sintra, about 40 minutes away.

There are many historic castles/palaces in Sintra.  This castle was built by the Moors in the 8th-9th century.

The National Palace dates from the 15th Century.  The 2 large "spires" are actually chimneys.

We stayed in the Hotel Lawrence; one of the oldest hotels in the world (it opened in 1764).  Apparently Lord Byron stayed here as well.

And she got to drink coffee at a sidewalk cafe.

Happy Birthday Debe!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Apartment

We were so blessed to have an apartment waiting for us!  Not only is it close to the church and school, but it is a good deal.  Here are a few pics:

 Living Room
All the rooms were furnished which was a huge blessing, since we didn't bring any furniture.

Please note that the sofa turns into a bed, which is useful in case we get any visitors (hint).



The kitchen: one of our favorites places.  The table is a little rickety, but everything works well.  We had to get our own rice cooker, though.


Kids Bedroom
The girls share this room.  We just need to get a small table for them to draw on.

Our Bedroom
Wow, our own bedroom!  After years of sharing a tatami room with the girls this will be a change.

Yes, that is a bidet.
Not too weird after experiencing the "Washlets" in Japan.

The girls love the big tub.

Well, there it is: our humble abode.  Like I said, it is a big blessing.  10 minutes walk from school, furnished, spacious (like a 3dk, for our friends in Japan), and cheaper than the going rate.  God is good!