Saturday, May 27, 2006

Work Camp

Camp is an important part of our work here. We have four weeks each summer and a weekend in the Fall and Winter where we get together to learn, encourage and grow. Camp has always been a place for all of us because it is a place from all of us. Almost everyone can tell some story about what has happened there or how they helped in making this place.

Each Ascension holiday (when everyone here has a very long weekend from Thursday through Sunday), a group heads on down to camp to clean, fix and basically get ready for the summer. It’s usually a messy time (we have to clean out the gutters, sweep away the cobwebs and clean up the mouse droppings), but also a good time for fellowship. I still vividly remember conversations held on the roof of the dormitory while cleaning off the moss – conversations about who God is and why one would want to follow Him.

This weekend Stephan and I went down to see what we could help with. As you can see it was a bit wet (reminds me of a commercial here from Pearl eyewear: sound of raining in the background and the announcer says “So – it’s summer in Belgium again.”). But since I was working with thr group trying to get the gutter along the road fixed, this was perfect – we could see quite well where the water would run. Later in the day, after shoveling and dumping mud, we were all pretty well ready to stop.

- shoveling 'dirt'? -

This was a special weekend too. We hope to begin this Fall on the renovation of our bilding here – so this may be the last summer that it looks like this.

- the soon-to-be 'old' meeting hall -

Soon it will have a second floor, we will be able to keep it warm in the off-season and we will be able to use it even more for the chuches than we can now. We are excited about the possibilities!

- our 'creek' this weekend -

It was a great weekend. Those of you who have been to camp here before know exactly what we are talking about. And those of you who haven’t yet been – don’t let the rain scare you off. It’s only water (and mud) and although the mud may stay in your clothes, it’s the fellowship that stays in your heart. So come on over!

Monday, May 15, 2006

That's easy for you to say

Recounting the past few weeks in our house sounds like a medical history in a hospital ward.

Stephan had his wisdom teeth surgically removed (all four at once) so there goes any hope for a wise son. On the other hand, he’ll have the chance to be just like me (I had mine out a few years back). Is that good or bad? He is recovering very well, in any case. Usually they say that it can be a week or two before they are feeling better. Stephan was up and going the next day and even went to a friend’s birthday party – taking the train with his little brother to get there. A little bit of swelling, the typical beautiful coloring of a bruise on the chin (leads to some interesting conversations) and he’s doing fine.

Sean has been struggling for several months now with his achilles tendon. That is that tight thing at the back of your foot that feels kind of like a bone. Sean lives for soccer and received a kick at the back of the foot. In January we took him to the doctor who prescribed physical therapy. That meant no soccer for about six weeks (imagine trying not to breath for that long and you will understand Sean’s frustration). We had just bought him a set of soccer shoes, ball and shirt with shorts. They sat at the bottom of his bed waiting in eager anticipation for the day he could use them. When that day came, he gladly went back to playing – for about two weeks. Then the pain came back and he returned to the physical therapist. Now it has struck his right foot and the therapist has mentioned that it might be his quick growth that is causing the problems. Sure enough, Sean has been shooting up in the last three months. He is now almost past Shirley.

Shirley is struggling this past week with a sinus infection. Not the kind you get behind your eyes, or in your forehead, but in her cheek – she feels it in her teeth and jaw. When Shirley decides that she has to lie down and do nothing, then you know she really is in pain. There is not much that can stop her. But we have made an appointment with the nose,throat and ear doctor (the antibiotics and nose spray from the GP weren’t helping at all)and hopefully she will be feeling better in a few days.

But I’m okay. And everyone just keeps going on, doing the best they can. We all pitched in to make yesterday the best we could for Shirley yesterday (flowers, breakfast, a list of tasks that can always be called upon, necklaces that matched her dresses beautifully). The sun is shining again and we should make it just fine. Of course I’m the one writing this and I don’t feel their pain, so it’s literally easy for me to say.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A tale of two trees

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.”

We don’t have much wine around here, but in our backyard are two cherry trees, a pine tree and a little pear tree. The pear tree looks as though it is probably two years old or so – scrawny, the leaves only grow on one side. We get some pears on it each year, but they are small, stunted. The many footballs that this tree has to endure, being in the middle of the playing field, might have something to do with what it looks like. The tree is actually more than 15 years old. It has never been trimmed.

Behind our house, on the other side of the canal, is an orchard. There are apple and pear trees there. The pear trees there are also quite small. Most are not any taller than I am. During the winter months they look like sad dwarves, huddling in soldier formation waiting for Spring to return. But when Spring returns, they explode in flower. And by the summer they will be full, no, bursting with fruit. The first time I saw it I was astounded (knowing nothing about fruit trees). These pear trees look like Arnold Schwarzeneggar on steroids (or is that double up?).

These trees are pruned every year, cut back to the bare essentials while they wait for the growth to burst forth. This all just hit me tonight as I was out with Snuffles walking along this orchard. It made me think of lots of things, but mostly that being small doesn’t say anything. You can be small (as a church as well) and that could mean that you’ve been neglected. Or you can be small and extremely fruitful. I may not know what I’m really asking for, but I am ready for some pruning - as long as the Father is the one doing the pruning, it will work out great!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Just sing it!

- in a cavern, in a canyon . . . -

This past week I was in the recording studio with Listen Up!, the a cappella group I sing with to spread the gospel. We are recording our second cd, this time in Antwerp in a studio called “Cavern’. It is in the basement of the YWCA in downtown Antwerp.

It has been amazing to see how intense this can be. The setting is interesting: in the middle of a week of beautiful weather we are downstairs in the dark focusing on the songs we have written together, focusing on how we sing them, how we sound, how we work together. It’s amazing how much we all learn from this.

- listening intently -

We have mentioned several times that we weren’t even aware of what the others usually sang in a song. When we sing together it just sounds right and we play off of each other. In the studio we have to sing each voice separately (or at least, that is how we are doing it). Suddenly you hear what a beautiful soprano or alto part has been hiding in the song.

Part of that scares me to death. Suddenly I can hear what my voice really sounds like. And I have to really sing what I am supposed to sing – can’t hide behind a bunch of voices. Even your breathing is evident. (Gets me thinking about how we live. Nothing is really hidden, and we can look pretty good until the focus is put on everything we do.) That is when the studio guy, a Norwegian Antwerpenaar named Kjell, says, “Just sing it.”

- taking a break (in the sun) with Kjell -

And that’s what we have to do. Don’t pay attention to the surroundings, your worries about your voice or anything else. Kjell knows why we sing these songs, even though he may not be completely interested. We need to just sing about what we know to be true – and it comes out right. And that’s what we need to do in life as well. Just keep doing your best, focusing on what the meaning is. Just sing it.

- Rob singing it like it is -

Monday, May 01, 2006

Queens and labor

This past weekend was a long weekend. That was the most important for most people I think. Saturday was “Queen’s Day” in the Netherlands: lots of orange (the color of the royal house), lots of kids selling things at special markets, special concerts and a visit from the queen to a few chosen towns. Anybody visiting Amsterdam on this day would have been overwhelmed by the mass of people just having a good time. Usually this all happens on April 30, but since that fell on a Sunday this year (and everyone already has that ‘free’), they decided to move it to Saturday.

And Monday is May Day, or the Day of Work (or Labor Day as some of you might call it). In Belgium and Germany this is a holiday. Lots of red (it was originally a socialist holiday and celebration), special activities for ‘workers’ (but everyone can get in on the celebrations – even white collar workers) and closed shops that are usually open.

Since we work in Maastricht – a Dutch city surrounded by Belgium and Germany – the whole weekend is busy in the city. But tomorrow gets back to normal. Sean is already dreading the biology test tomorrow, but he’ll do just fine. Life goes on.