Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Rambling

Business has been rather slow for me today, so I thought I'd just ramble a bit. I could certainly do some filing, but this is the task that I usually keep putting off until the very last. Yesterday, I was sorry for not having brought my camera with me. There was a very official ceremony taking place in the courtyard of our building. It was the inauguration of a stele in memory of Karel Van Miert, one of the former Competition Commissioners who died exactly one year ago. I followed everything from my office window. Commission President Barroso was present and gave a speech in honor of him, as well as Van Miert's three successors. There was a red carpet spread out and they played the European anthem. I'm sure the man would have liked this!

Also yesterday, we adopted a big and important decision pertaining to one of our cases. It's about a cartel in the sector of bathroom fittings and fixtures. There are several companies in Europe, especially German ones, who agreed on prices and thus infringed competition laws. Now they have to pay fines with the money that they don't have in this time of financial crisis! In the afternoon, I helped taking four language versions of the 500-page decision to the main Commission building. There, we got the bad news that the individual versions for each company would need to be ready as well by next morning, but they weren't! So the core team had to take a night shift until midnight to sort things out and have everything ready on time. Things always tend to get crazy here when it comes closer to an adoption!

The weather is becoming summer-like now. Today it's very sunny and about 77F; towards the weekend it's supposed to be in the lower 80's even! Well, that's certainly enough to make my bedroom uncomfortably warm. The sun only sets almost at 10PM these days in June, and this makes it hard enough for me to go to sleep early. But even though they have air conditioning in Alabama, I wouldn't want to be there right now!

This coming Friday, we will start a special church revival with Jack Sequiera from the US. I have never heard of this Pastor before, but it promises to be interesting. I'm just curious how many church members will attend outside Sabbath hours. It will be hard for me as well to come every night, but I will try to be there as much as possible. More about it later!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

EU Summit

Today it's quite chilly again; too cold for the month of June. But it's the Sabbath and I'm thankful for another day of rest. There was supposed to be communion service at the English speaking church, but they had to cancel it due to the absence of the Pastor. However, I didn't want to miss out on it, and so I decided to worship with the French speaking church where it was also on. They also had potluck there, and I thought this would be a nice change, as many of my English speaking brothers and sisters are still after the flesh pots of Egypt. They call it more elegantly "Auberge Espagnole" in French, but to my disappointment there was lots of fish and fowl. And this after our Sabbath school lesson on nutrition in the bible! Well, the fellowship was nice anyway, and who knows, maybe one day I can convince them of a better diet. May the Lord help me.

This past week, there was another EU summit here in Brussels. This is when all the heads of governments come together to discuss the future of Europe, and it usually happens every three months. As far as I gathered at first glance, they were talking about the so-called "Europe 2020 strategy", which stands for boosting growth and creating employment. They also warmly welcomed the proposal of Estonia being part of the Euro zone from 2011, which means they would introduce the Euro as an official currency there. Another item of the agenda was the aspiration of Iceland to become an EU member state and the decision to open accession negotiations with them.

So they keep working here on a prosperous, united Europe, striving for "unity in diversity". But how long will the iron and clay hold together? Well, the Lord knows. May His Kingdom be established soon.

They have very strict security parameters during EU summit - nobody can walk by the Council building during this time, except the EU officials

A lot of press in front of the Council building - doesn't it look like a "bunker of power"?

The red banner is advertising the current Spanish presidency of the EU

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunshine and Rain

Although yesterday was a Sunday, I exceptionally went to Church for a women's prayer breakfast. It was supposed to start at 9 AM, but I didn't take the "African time" into account, and so my Filipino sisters and I eventually decided to start eating until the rest of the participants would arrive (which was close to 10 AM). Later on, I gave a presentation on the frontal lobe of the brain, and another sister shared a spiritual thought before we ended the meeting with prayer. It was well received, although the overall attendance was a bit low. But unfortunately, this always tends to be the case if there is anything happening outside regular church services.

On my way home, I witnessed a crime. Well, it was not a terrible, life-threatening episode, yet I was stunned. There was an elderly couple sitting with me in the tram and they were about to exit at the second door of the vehicle. I also exited, but at the first door next to the conductor. Stepping down, I suddenly heard loud voices shouting. There was a young man who had been trying to pickpocket the elderly man, but an attentive woman had seen him and she blew him off. I only saw the thief shouting and running away, leaving the man behind totally baffled with the wallet in his hand. This taught me again that I really need to be attentive here in Brussels - no matter what time of the day it is or what location I'm at.

And then finally, walking the short distance from the metro stop to my place, I got pretty wet. The sun had been shining in the morning, but as so often in the past, I hadn't observed rule number one of living in Belgium: "Never leave the house without an umbrella!"

Indeed, there is sunshine and rain in our lives, literally and figuratively. It was also yesterday morning when I received very sad news from the US. Cindy, my former roommate at Uchee Pines, lost her 23-year-old daughter Brittany in a tragic accident. She had been living with her at Eden Valley Institute, and due to a very unfortunate incident, her daughter drowned in the canal located on campus. I feel so sorry for Cindy and the rest of her family. This shows me again how fragile life is, and that I really need to pray more for the safety and divine protection of my family members and friends. It also shows me that it's high time for Jesus to come back to bring an end to all this suffering. I really like one of our early Advent hymns called "Lo, what a glorious sight appears", and in particular one of the stanzas:

"His own soft had shall wipe the tears from every weeping eye,
and pains and groans and griefs and fears and death itself shall die."

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Faith and Power part 2

I wanted to add something to my previous post, a story in the Bible which I found rather impressive. It's found in 2 Chronicles 20, and it's the story of King Jehoshaphat. In this episode, the people of God find themselves in great distress, as they were facing a battle they didn't consider themselves strong enough to withstand.  

Notice first how the Lord encourages His children:

And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle [is] not yours, but God's. (verse 15)

Ye shall not [need] to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye [still], and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD [will be] with you. (verse 17) 

Indeed, He knows our frame! He is actually the One who is fighting for us in every battle with sin. Only by His strength we can gain victories.

Next, something very interesting is happening:

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with [his] face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.  And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high. (vs. 18-19)

They started praising the Lord even before they went into battle! The same way, we should not only ask the Lord for the victory, but at the same time we should thank and praise Him for it and claim it for ourselves!

See what followed in this story:

And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. 
 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy [endureth] for ever. 
And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. (vs. 20-22)

Singing and praising the Lord, they went into the battle, and He acted on their behalf! 

I found this a very powerful lesson. Never should we wait to claim the Lord's victory on our behalf until we are actually tempted. We can strengthen and increase our faith by not only asking, but claiming victories in advance - and then trust that the battle is indeed not ours, but the Lord's!