Thursday, June 26, 2008

Köln (Cologne), Germany

May 3, 2008 ~

The Köln Cathedral, it's detailed spires framed by a bright blue sky, greeted us as we drove into the city.

This was the view as we exited the parking garage and made our way toward the Square in front of the cathedral.

Eli took this picture of our family and Kyler.

The beautiful Gothic architecture of the Kölner Dom, (German for Köln Cathedral), it's construction started in 1248 and finished in 1880. We learned the city of Cologne, (the English way of saying Köln), was a major command post for the Germans during World War II and that this resulted in 95% of the city's destruction. However, the city was quickly built up again at the war's end.

We were fascinated by these creative beggars who put so much effort into dressing up, putting out their little collection bucket and then standing or sitting in the sunshine posing...

I admit, for a while they had our attention. We stood in front of them... waiting... for them to do something cool... or interesting... We even put some change in the little bucket and... he... bowed? in thanks. Okay, so then we posed with them... and still we waited for them to do some cool trick...
Still... they did... nothing... but stand there. Okay, this one actually tipped his hat when someone put change in their bucket... ???

And it made me think of how often I scurry around, chaotic, frenzied, overwhelmed, and then show up and... I'm clean out of "cool acts." I stand there, "posing"... hoping I can pass my mere appearance, the small fact that I managed to show up, (usually late, darnit!), off as... impressive. ??? They say that "showing up is half the battle." What about the other half? I have so, so much growing up to do! One of the things on my list of "Courses to Master while attending LU (Life University)" is how to plan better, manage my energies better, and then gracefully show up, (on time!), ready to make a difference.

(Lord, help me not be a Poser!)
So, anyway, we walked inside and followed Rick Steve's tour through the cathedral, which was pretty cool! We even saw the gaudy gold box where they keep the skulls of the Three Wise Men (???) which were given to the cathedral in 1164. At one point, the children noticed this grate on the floor and upon closer examination found that it was a very, very deep pit. This got their imaginations going and they exchanged surmises of possibilities while gazing into the depths.

"Where do you think it leads? Maybe it's a secret tunnel they used to escape to another part of the city!"

"No, what if the treasure room is down there? What if all the gold and jewels are still there?"

"Guys! It's the dungeon! Maybe they even have a torture chamber down there!"

"Oooo... What if there's still skeletons chained to the walls?"



It's always fun to find your name and portrait in stained glass in famous cathedrals!

Israel admiring a chalk painting someone did out in the square. The banner below it reads, "Für unsere Lebenskaten und Material -- Danke." And below that, "For Food and Material -- Thank you."

Then we climed to the top of one of the spires for an inspiring view of the city.

In the bell tower. See Ezekiel, Israel, Eli, and Isaiah in the background?

Eli and Kyler in the bell tower.

Some pretty remarkable views!

I stopped to study this spider web and to imagine what it would be like to be that spider spinning my web between these spires so many hundreds of feet off the ground.

After descending the cathedral's 1500 steps, (okay, not that many, but my quivering leg muscles would've sworn there were at least that many!), we decided to take the cute little tourist train to the Chocolate Museum (or, Schokoladen as you can see in the picture). As I've told you before, Isaiah is our budding linguist and so far he knows how to say "Please" and "Thank you" in a handful of different languages! While we were on the train, Kyler and LeRoy struck up a conversation with an American couple who has lived in Africa for like the last 30 years or so and was visiting Germany on Holiday. Isaiah struck up a conversation with a cute couple who was from Russia but has lived in Germany for 3 years now.

Isaiah: "Oh! You speak Russian then!"

They smiled and nodded.

Isaiah: "Oh good! Then will you teach me how to say Please and Thank you in Russian!" He got on his knees and leaned on his elbows on the back of the seat. His smile is irresistable.

So they taught him how to say the aforementioned words -- in Russian. And I -- who was sitting there listening -- could not tell you how to use good manners in Russian to save my life. Ask Isaiah. He'll tell you.

The chocolate museum is a delicious place to visit! (Excuse the pun.) We walked through the various rooms that explained in detail the history, discovery, and different uses of chocolate. We viewed the old-fashioned machines and read all about the physics and chemistry of chocolate. And then we entered the actual room where they were busy making chocolate squares. And I had a revelation.

First, the chocolate liquid is poured into the mold, then it's shaken to even it out, then cooled, dropped from the mold, wrapped, and put into boxes to be shipped to the consumers. See where I'm going with this?

The children and I went from window to window following the process, me verbalizing my little epiphany, "Hey! It's just like our character! See? Our character needs to be molded." We moved down to the next window, "Then sometimes we go through life's shaking process where our character gets 'evened out,' and we learn faith, humility, and balance. See how the chocolate doesn't spill out? That's because the machine has been programmed to shake it just enough but not too much. We have to believe that God is keeping a close eye on the 'shaking stage' our character is undergoing and that His grace is like the mold -- we'll be okay, we just have to hold on and believe we're not going to 'spill out' before it's time."

"Then our character gets strengthened during the 'cooling' process where we get opportunities to make choices that can strengthen, discipline, and train those character qualities so that we will become men and women of integrity." I was feeling rather inspired!

Then comes the time to 'pour out' our strengths and gifts, allow ourselves to get 'wrapped up' in the passion of God's destiny and calling on our lives, and 'consumed' for the benefit of others and the glory of God!

"Our lives are meant to be so delicious that those who encounter us will say, 'Mmmm, who is your manufacturer?'" Do you know Who Jesus is?

This machine that wrapped the chocolates in gold foil did it so quickly that you couldn't even see the actual wrapping process. You saw the naked chocolate squares come from one direction and the gold foil from the other. You could see them meet up and quicker than the snap of a finger, the chocolate was wrapped and moving down the conveyor belt toward the lady ready with a box.

I thought a lot about this later -- this particular stage of the process. I thought about how the chocolate doesn't fill out a resume, put it's name on a "dream sheet," or apply for further education -- not that there's anything wrong with any of these things as I realize that sometimes they're part of the process. But so often, I stall out in my life, run the wrong way on life's "conveyor belt," come up with these excuses, because I'm afraid.

Looking up the word "wrapped" in the concordance did not inspire me! The Greek word is 'dakah' which literally means to collapse (physically or mentally). So I'm thinking these chocolates have gone through this long process of "perfecting" so that in the end they can be completely surrendered as they move headlong into their destiny? No digging in of the heels. No protests. Just beautifully wrapped, boxed, and...

At some point they're handed out to the visitors as they enter the museum, they adorn the table at the wedding reception, or they're put in a bowl on the coffee table, enjoyed by those sitting in leather armchairs discussing politics. The point is, they eventually get enjoyed, they are a blessing!

So our lives are like chocolate? Mm. What a yummy metaphor!

Ever wonder how hollow chocolates are made? The sign above explains. "The moulds for hollow items consist of two parts. One half of the mould is filled with a precisely weighed quantity of the chocolate mixture. Then the mould is closed and mounted in a centrifuge. Constant rotation in every direction on its own axis distributes the chocolate evenly on the inside wall of the mould. After a cooling period of approx. 45 minutes the finished item is knocked out of the mould." Pretty cool, huh!

These hollow chocolates are pretty spectacular on the outside. But they're hollow on the inside. I liken this to the person who goes through life trying to "find themselves." They don't acknowledge their Creator or surrender themselves, they simply fill up one side of the mould, subject themselves to a "constant rotation in every direction on [their] own axis," and in the end, they might appear rather spectacular, but they're hollow on the inside because of their pride, their refusal to humble themselves and confess their need for the Saviour.

Ezekiel and Isaiah enjoying a bag of chocolates that one of the employees handed them. One minute we were enjoying wafers dipped in the chocolate fountain and given to us by a woman wearing a crisp white uniform. The next moment Zae is asking me if I would like a chocolate. "Zae, where did you get a whole bag of chocolates?"

He smiled up at me and pointed over to a woman behind a counter who was boxing bags of chocolates. She smiled and waved at me. Zae assured me he didn't ask her for them. "I was just standing there watching her and then I smiled at her and she handed me a bag of chocolates!" Well! This does not surprise me in the least!

View of the Rhine River from picture windows in the factory/museum.

Eli standing in front of the museum.

Israel was completely fascinated by the "posers" we saw earlier and thought she might practice... and see if anyone would leave money in her hand. Eli found this to be sorta silly. Kyler expressed concern that perhaps she should seek out a more solid career.

While we looked for a place to eat, Eli, Zae, and Kyler played catch with the football that the boys carried with them the entire time we were in Koln.

The evening hours set in and we found a quaint restaurant with a terrace overlooking the river. We sat and enjoyed our meal while watching groups of people sitting on blankets along the banks of the river, drinking wine from clear wine glasses, eating baguettes and fruit. The sun slowly set, the reflections on the river glittered, and eventually we made our way back to the parking garage.

Another beautiful day experiencing more of Europe. Ever grateful. We drove home, went to bed, and slept soundly... in preparation for another romance-filled day... tomorrow.

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