Friday, March 20, 2020

Conversations

1st Friday conversations
Isn’t it amazing how God loves to talk? Look at the Bible. It is full of amazing stories. God has been telling us His story for a long time. But He also loves to listen. He is constantly asking us to talk to Him (pray) and has promised us that He is listening - very closely. Listening and talking are part of being with God (goes along with that walking bit I talked about recently). 
Our lives have changed a bit in our most recent season of life. We (Shirley and I) have more possibilities to go together and listen to conversations, take part in conversations. I am so thankful that we have these chances. Sometimes we are meeting with members from the congregation in Maastricht - on Wednesday evenings, Thursday mornings with the men or Friday mornings with the women (or Monday evenings further away). Sometimes we are singing and speaking to one another in spiritual songs - on first Fridays or third Wednesdays. 
But more recently I had also added some other options. On Tuesday morning and evening I hold a consultation for those who have questions about God or the Bible. The Dutch allows me to make a play on words and offer a “Speaking hour” when they can come talk - about any question they might have. Mid-March I was going to start with a Bible study group in the city. That has been put on hold for a bit (corona), but we will see how that works out in the coming months. Modern technology and social media makes these kinds of meetings possible. 
But everyday we notice that there are opportunities to listen and speak - if we pay attention. And technology also makes this possible. And even necessary in ‘Corona” times. We call a member of the church who is housebound at the moment. We email or whatsapp other members who can use an encouraging word. We get a text message from people looking for help, or offering help. Everywhere, people are speaking. I hear the cashier repeating her litany and try to remember to look her in the eye and wish her a good day, thanking her for her work. I wave at the car behind me that just let me in, thanking them for their kindness. I listen to the young one tell all about the funny story (that he told me yesterday three times already). 

God wants to talk to me and you. He is always listening to me and you. And we are made in His image, made to be able to listen and speak. What conversations have you had recently? How has ‘social distancing’ affected your conversation?

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.                 Hebrews 1:1-2

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Walking in the rain

Yesterday I took the dog out. I do that every day. Twice. In the morning it is usually a wonderful time to think, to pray, to be aware that it is a new day with God. In the evenings, especially now since the days are getting longer again, the sunset might remind me of the blessings that continue daily. Chester’s joy and simply running around, sniffing, putting his ‘signature’ everywhere he can, lifts my heart. 
But sometimes it is raining. We live in Belgium, after all. I almost always take the umbrella with me, whether I think it is raining or not - because it might start after I get going on the walk. And the wind might be blowing. Hard. Which doesn’t always go well with carrying an open umbrella (and why would I have the umbrella shut if it is raining?). Water streams across the path and my socks get wet. I pull down my cap over my ears on the mornings that it is still freezing (which are quickly passing away). 
But I am just thankful that I can be outside, walking. I know people who cannot go outside and they really miss it. People in these days are being asked (told) to stay inside. Don’t get together with others. Don’t meet. Don’t greet. Don’t touch. But I live in a place where there are not that many people. I can walk. I can put a coat on and go outside and walk. And I am with God, wherever I go. 
I am thankful for how blessed I am. And I am thankful that no matter where I go I can walk with the One who created me, who knows what is happening in my life, who guides me and gives me strength each morning as the sun rises (even when I do not see it) and calms my evenings with a beautiful sunset and a night of rest (if I am willing to accept it). Isn’t it amazing that the one thing God did with Adam and Eve in the garden was take a walk?

Take a walk today, even if you can’t. Spend time with Him and be thankful for all the good that He continues te provide. Some days are going to be harder than others. But He is walking with you. And that is what He has always wanted to do. 

If we are walking in the light ,as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us of all sin.  1 John 1:7

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Chewing on meat

How precious it is to sit and share together at the table! This past week I was blessed again to spend a few days at ABSS - Advanced Bible Study Series in Gem√ľnden, Germany with people from all over Europe. The lessons are always challenging on various levels and there is time and opportunity for real conversation about spiritual topics. It is also a time to meet new people and where young and old gather to learn from each other. 
I usually also go hoping to see and experience some snow, but that was certainly not to be this year. Instead, I was able to play some good, energetic basketball with a good group from Marseille. In the past we have played in the snow, we have played when we only had three and we have played with anyone - even those who don’t really know anything about basketball. This time we had at least 4x4, but the challenge was to play with a ball that was almost flat. Lots of passing, very little dribbling. 
As mentioned, the lessons challenge. This year brought questions about what third-culture leadership looks like. It even reminded me that anyone who is in Christ is essentially third-culture, as is anyone who is married. Another series asked us to look at our bias and consider how we approach others with the word of God. For me it was nice to get some lessons on Judges, since I will be teaching this at our Teen Camp this summer. It is always nice to get some information and different viewpoints at a week like this. 
Shirley and I are always apart during this study week. We cannot easily find someone for Chester for those days. At the end of this week (Thursday), Shirley heads out to the Ladies Retreat in Germany, so it will be her turn then for the challenging lessons, conversations and good fellowship. We are thankful that we have these opportunities and that we are able to take advantage of them. 
How has God been challenging your heart and mind around the table with others recently? 

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:14-18