Monday, July 31, 2006

general musings

The past couple of weeks have been interesting and crazy and in some respects have been good.
Two good friends both lost family members, one right after the other. It's always hard to watch people you love suffer through loss and grief. Especially knowing there isn't anything you can do except be there.

Our air conditioner broke last week, but tonight - thanks to my resourceful roommate - it seems to be working again. Good thing too, 'cause every heating and cooling place I called said they couldn't here until next week. (update - it's broken again. we had about 10 minutes of wonderful, cold air.... and then.... nothing)

And it seems I'm going be in the States longer than I had orginially thought. Last week I finally stopped feeling like I have to fit my plans into everyone else's time table. I finally just stopped and took time to really hear God. The simple truth is that I'm not ready. Not financially, spiritually, or emotionally. My business isn't stable enough yet. I'm not stable enough yet. I think it could be a year and a half to two years before I actually move. It took me a while to be ok with that. I get so anxious. I know I'm supposed to move to Amsterdam, so I want to move now. But I don't stop and ask God about His timeframe. Well last week I finally did. And I've finally exchanged my plan for God's plan. And I feel good about the decisions that have come from that.

And now, for the best possible news... Christine is back! Back from Australia, to stay... for a little while at least. It's been weird but good. Weird because it's almost like she never left. We stayed in close contact while she was in Australia, so it isn't like we have to re-start our friendship. At the same time, we've both changed a lot in the last year and a half. So we don't have to re-start our friendship, but we're having to re-learn some things, like how to communicate, how to listen to each other. It's interesting. But good. Because instead of talking over a phone line, we can sit down over a cup of coffee and look each other in the eye. It's awesome.

Ok, this is the part where I get back to work. And I have lots of work to do this week. Praise God.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Everyone needs to see this

Holy Everything

the hope that we have

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been faced with a lot of sickness and death. Several people I know have lost loved ones. Friday night I was at a funeral for a man who had been sick for a very long time. About halfway through the service, the strangest thing happened.

I started praising God.

The song 'Angel' by Sarah MacLaughlin (sp?) was playing, and I was looking at the shell of this man who had fought for so long. And I was overwhelmed with the beautiful truth that this man is home. He's home, and he's well, and he's free. He closed his eyes to this ugly, painful, heartbreaking world, and opened them to look in the eyes of Jesus. When he closed his eyes, all he felt was a hospital bed and I.V.'s. When he opened them, he felt the touch of God.

And as I thought of these things, I couldn't help but praise God. This man's family will see him again. And when they see him, he'll be able to walk, to run, to play, to laugh. He'll be able to hug his daughter, his son, his wife.

The hope that God has given us is overwhelming. He's taken the finality out of "good-bye". Yes, in the here and now, we miss those who have died. But, just as God's word says, we don't have to grieve as those who have no hope. Because we have more than just hope, we have a promise. His promise that death is not the end.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

there's no "i"

i think my first ministry experience spoiled me.

i became a Christian in 1997, and was part of a leadership team just a few short months later. Granted, that probably wasn't wise, and I'm sure it's only by the grace of God that I didn't do a lot of damage as a new believer.

That lapse in judgement aside, my first ministry team was awesome. Because we didn't just do ministry. We did life. We didn't just go to meetings. We went to dinner, to the movies. We didn't just go to conferences and events, we went to each others houses. We didn't just know each others spiritual gifts, we knew each others dreams. We weren't just "ministry partners", we were friends. We were in small groups together, we were in weddings together, we were at funerals together. We were in life together. I've never again had such an awesome serving experience. Over the years, I've had to accept the difficult reality that ministry is business. It's the business of God, yes, but it is business. My first ministry experience made me too idealistic for my own good. And though I know that, though I know it's too much to ask for my first experience to be the norm, I have a hard time being ok with anything else. I can accept it, but I rarely like it.

The week and 1/2 that I've been back from Amsterdam, I've come to some unexpected realizations. Like - I miss leading. I miss leading a team, and equipping them to do what they need to do. I miss teaching and training people to lead teams of their own. I miss being part of a team. I miss working toward a common goal. And yes, I know that in some respects, as Christians, we're all part of the "same team", but you know what I mean.

I don't know where God intends for me to be, or what He intends for me to do. I don't know where or how this season of preparation is meant to take place. But it's becoming clear that preparation needs to happen, because at every turn, doors are closing.

Tonight I dug out the ministry charter and business plan I wrote three years ago for my sailing ministry. And I started writing out more details. Details like what and how we'd teach. How long we'd be out at sea. I started thinking about "home base" locations. I even found the name and number of the shipyard in New York that said, three years ago, that they could build the boat I wanted. It felt good to dream. To dream and plan for a vision that I could make happen. A vision I could actually participate in executing.

So.... who wants to go sailing? :-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

huh. that's me.

"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.... Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter....." Jonah 4:1, 5

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself.
I am Jonah.
This past week has been rough. I've been isolated (by choice), and sad. Our trip to Amsterdam didn't go like I'd expected or hoped. I'll spare you the full story, because it's been three years in the making. Suffice it to say that I had hoped for some clarity during our trip. Not just "next step" clarity, but "what are you doing with my life?" clarity. And I didn't get it. I got the next step, but that wasn't what I wanted, and I've been mad ever since.

It's been a while since I've been disappointed with God. To His credit, He's gracious enough to let me be. To the credit of my friends, they are too.

I've always been amused by Jonah's reaction to God's mercy towards the people of Tarshish. He actually pouts. Goes outside the city, sits down, and pouts. It's so great, because it's so human!
What's interesting is that God calls him out, *before* he sits and pouts. "Have you any right to be angry?", God asks. Apparantly, Jonah thought he did, 'cause in the next verse, he's sitting outside the city, being angry. Later in this chapter, God provides a vine that eventually dies. God asks Jonah if he has a right to be angry about the vine, and Jonah tells God that he's "angry enough to die." Angry enough to die. Isn't that so like us to pout and exaggerate. Well, it may not be so like you, but it's so like me.

Though I'm not completely "over it", yet, I'm on my way. Finding my way back to the joy of simply being with God, regardless of the details.
Truly "I am my Beloved's and He is mine."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

who's really responsible?

Our last Sunday night in Amsterdam, I met a man named Jim. He's English, and has been living in Amsterdam for several years. He's been struggling with his faith in God, so we spent some time talking about that.

Once again, I heard one of the most common questions; "If there is a God, why doesn't He do something about things like war, murder, abuse..?"

I'm always at a loss when someone asks a question like that. But Sunday night, I had a revelation. God left us in charge. When God created man, He made our duty clear "..fill the earth, and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves on the ground." He entrusted us with this earth and everything that lives on it, including each other. So if the world's a mess, it's not God's fault, it's ours. He left us in charge, with clear instructions that we're to look after one another. And we're failing. It's not God who's made this world like it is, it's man. We've failed to take care of each other, and failed to take care of the earth at large.

It's like when a parent gives his child his first car and says "she's your responsibility, so take good care of her." Six months later, the backseat of the car is filled with fastfood wrappers, there's pop stains and cigarrette burns on the front seats, the car hasn't been washed, hasn't been given a tune up, hasn't had an oil change. Can the kid go back to his dad and say "Dad! Man, why did you give me such a sh*#ty car?!" No, he can't. The car is a mess because the kid failed in his responsibilities.

So it is with us. Only we haven't been given a car, we've been given a world. We've been entrusted with the well-being of living things. And we're failing. So if we're looking for someone to blame for the condition of our world, we need not look to the Heaven's, but in the mirror.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

all roads lead to home... eventually

Imagine what it feels like to be in a foreign country, getting ready to go home, only to hear the lady at Baggage Check-In tell you "I'm sorry, the gates are already closed for that flight, we can't let you on."

Yea. That's what happened to us yesterday. We got to the airport a little late, because one of the trams we had needed wasn't running that morning. Still, we had 40 minutes before the flight took off. But the fight was overbooked, and so the gates had already been closed. Of course, it's tourist season in Amsterdam, which means that every flight from now through the end of July was also overbooked.

We eventually got seated on a flight from Amsterdam to Dulles/Washington D.C. From there, we had to take a shuttle to Regan Int'l to catch our flight to Detroit. Sounds pretty simple, yea?
Except that our flight from Amsterdam to Washington D.C. left two hours late because of mechanical difficulties, so we landed in D.C. about 20 minutes before our Detroit flight was supposed to take off. Dulles and Regan Intl's are, at minimum, 30 minutes away, so we weren't gonna make it.

We found out there was another flight leaving at 8pm. It was 7pm, and we still had to get to Regan Intl'. Enter the best shuttle/taxi driver I've ever seen. This guy saved our butts! Seriously. He made to Regan Int'l in less than 30 minutes. We got on the 8pm flight, and landed in Detroit at about 9:30. Hard core props to our taxi driver. Had we missed the 8pm flight, we'd have had to stay the night in D.C.

That was my first time in D.C., too. On the ride to Regan Int'l, I got to see the Washington Monument, and a couple other well-known buildings, so that was cool.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I had the strangest thought tonight.
I was sitting at dinner with Courtney and Drew. It was a great night. The breeze was cool, but still comfortable. We had just ordered our meals and were talking a little about a lot of nothing.
And suddenly, I had the strangest thought.
One I'm certain I've never thought before, and especially not while in Amsterdam.
"I want to go home."
Me. In Amsterdam. I've never been here and wanted to be anywhere else, least of all in the United States. And yet, the thought comes back
"I want to go home."
And I think it has less to do with my "call" or lack-of to Amsterdam, and more with my overall state of mind. I'm tired. I'm certain that I've tried to hard to process. I've asked too many people and gotten too many opinions. I kept waiting, hoping, for someone to look me in the eye and say "Yes. You're supposed to be here" or "No, this isn't the place for you."
As a result, I'm tired and I want to go home.
Though it will take some time to process, I think I've learned a lot about myself this week. A lot about my motivations. I've (re)discovered that part of me likes the idea of being the hero and saving the world. I have delusions of grandeur. Of comming here and making a powerful, BIG, impact for God's kingdom. But the reality is that it won't happen that way here. Just like it doesn't happen that way back home. And I have to decide if I'm ok with that. Can I let go of my selfish need to be the hero, and come here and simply get to know a handful of people and make a godly impact on their lives? Is that enough? Is that enough of a reason to come here? Is it enough for me?
So, while I leave with more questions than I came with, I know I'm leaving with the right questions this time. And I know what the next step is. So I'll take that step, and work through those questions, and see what (if any) the next step is after the next step.

though I've come away with questions, I've come away with some answers, too.

1) I don't want to plant churches. A church plant simply means taking a group of Americans and starting an American-style church, even if the church is in a foreign country, and I don't want to do that.
2) I do want to, if I move someplace like Amsterdam, be part of a team whose focus is raising up indigenous leaders and equipping *them* to start a church.

That's really all I've got. It's not much, but it's something.

less than 48 hours

and we'll be on a plane back to Michigan.
As always, our time here has seemed to go simultaneously fast and slow. (I've never quite understood how that works.)
This morning, if I'm perfectly honest with myself (and you, I guess... for those who read this) I'm disappointed. I had hoped for a clear 'yes' or 'no'. That didn't happen.
This morning I need to finish up some work, so I was sitting at one of the tables in the Zolder, but after just a few minutes, I moved to one of the couches in the Cafe. Because I feel like slouching. Like a high school kid who's pouting because she can't take the car out on a Friday night. Maybe I've asked the wrong questions. Or haven't been still enough.
Or maybe it's just something I have to choose. Maybe I'm trying too hard.
Regardless of any of those things, I'm a little sad today. Sad because we're leaving soon, and sad because I don't know what's next.
This trip hasn't at all been like I'd expected. And for now, I'm done trying to figure it out. Done trying to figure out "calling" and moving vs. staying, and everything that goes along with it. Done trying to reason, to draw logical conclusions.
At this point, all I really know is that I just want to be like Jesus.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

she's just sleeping

today I was reading in Matthew, and came across this passage:

" 'Go away. [this is Jesus talking]. The girl is not dead, but asleep.' But they [the people in the house] laughed at Him. After the crowd has been put outside, He went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up." Matthew 9:24-25

I thought of the women in the Red Light District here in Amsterdam when I read this. Those women are all someone's little girl. They're someone's daughter. And though it may look like they're dead, they're actually just asleep. Their souls need to be re-awakened. They just need someone to take them by the hand and help them get up again.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

and here we are

well, we've made it to beautiful Amsterdam!
first, I just have to say that the weather is outstanding! we landed Friday morning at 7:30am, picked up our luggage and headed to the Zolder.
We spent Friday afternoon in Vondel Park, with a good friend from the Zolder - Andrew. It was warm, relaxing, and truly "geweldig", which is Dutch for "Glorious!".
Today we spent time in Utrecht, which is a city about 30 minutes from Amsterdam. We visited a Dutch church that's simply called "The Church". We got some great opportunities to talk with Dutch nationals about church planting and all that. It was great!
The rest of night was spent with more people from the Zolder, watching the UNBELIEVABLE end of the Brazil v France World Cup Game. Brazil is OUT! who would have ever guessed that would happen.
Now, it's nearly 2am, and I should sleep. So, after a quick check of email, that's what I'm going to do.
Tomorrow will probably be a work day for me, since I've done nothing since we arrived two days ago. Though, I must say, there are far worse work locations than the Zolder. Working at the Zolder means sitting on a CRAZY comfortable couch, with windows open, the sun shining, hear the sounds of bicycles, trams, boats, and people passing by. Definitely not bad.
for now.. i must sleep... and so i shall

slaap lekker (literally means "sweet sleep", same as the English "sweet dreams"-ish) :)