Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That's a keeper

I like learning. Although school was not always ‘fun’, it was usually exciting to be learning new things. And that learning doesn’t start or stop with school. A simple walk with the dog in the morning can bring new insights and challenges. Learning means having an open enough mind to see new things and consider them, and a critical enough mind to question what is true or right or worthwhile.
It is possible to learn from all sorts of situations and all sorts of people. One of my favorite texts is in 1 Thessalonians where we are encouraged to test teaching and hold on to the good. I haven’t yet met a teacher with whom I agree on everything or whom I believe has everything right. But I am willing to listen, to sift through the information, and to hold on to what is good.
This month I had the opportunity once again to attend ABSS – the Advanced Bible Study Series. This week of study is organized by my colleague Paul Brazle in Germany and is attended by brothers and sisters from all over Europe. I enjoy the challenging lessons as well as the good conversations (during and after playing basketball) and singing. And I was able to hold on to some good lessons.
The other side of the learning coin is also found in scripture – and it is also one of my favorite thoughts: remember to share with the teacher what you have learned (Galatians 6:6). I remember a young boy showing me very earnestly how to tie my shoe – he had recently learned and wanted to make sure I knew how to achieve this very important task.
That is the beauty of learning – it is exciting. We can’t hold it in. We want to share it with everyone. Sometimes we hear to an inner voice saying, “This is nothing special. Everyone already knows this.” Don’t listen to that voice. Share what you have learned. Be excited. And for those who are listening – just as I was with the young boy teaching me to tie my shoe – listen attentively and learn. Be excited with the learner.
In the Dutch version of the song ‘Freely, freely give” we sing: “Pass it on, pass it on – whatever you now have. Pass on whatever you now know.” Whatever it is you know now (you will learn more as you go), pass it on. Whatever you have now (of course you are not a millionaire and cannot help many), pass it on. God wants to use us now, wherever we are.
In this coming year I am looking forward to mentoring a brother in Haarlem. I pray that God will use me to help him learn, and I know that I too will learn as we struggle together through the things God wants to teach us.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Monday, February 13, 2017

Just for the day

Every day is a gift. Some days we get to work hard, meet lots of people, get a ton of things done and feel content at the end of the day. Some days we work hard and feel like nothing gets done - and we put that day to bed and look forward to the next day to finish things. Some days are just to enjoy with family or friends, or to take time to rest. But each day is a gift.
We try to take advantage regularly of day trips to get away together. It is amazing what you can see within a day's travel - no matter where you live. We have spent time simply biking in our area, or walking not far from our house. But sometimes we take the opportunity to travel a bit farther.
In January we had just a few days that Sean was free and we could get away together as a family easily. So we checked online, made plans and jumped on a plane to Budapest, Hungary. It was a quick two and a half day visit, but a great time together. Check out the pictures here. The history of this city and country, the beauty - in the cold of winter - and the time to share this together was a real blessing.
At the end of the month Shirley and Scott got to take a day together traveling with the train. The camera did not go along - just time together and memories. We had a special train card to travel the whole day, so we stopped in at several different Dutch cities: Den Bosch, Gouda and Utrecht. But the train was as interesting as the stops.
On one of the legs we sat next to a mother and daughter. Somehow we had sat ourselves in a 'Silence' car, meaning that we were to be silent (not quiet, but silent). I can imagine this is nice for those who want to get some work done on the commute. The girl tried, but being silent is not that easy for young children. At one point she was more or less singing: 'Soup, soup, soup, soup.' "Mama, what if you could only eat soup - for every meal. Would that be healthy?" Mother replied wisely, "Well, that depends on what kind of soup you are eating."
Later that day in Gouda we stopped for a bowl of soup. One was spicy parsnip soup (made spicy with a good bit of ginger!). The other was a tomato and bell pepper soup. Both were welcome after a winter walk through the old town of Gouda. Near the end of the day, after walking around Utrecht's lighted canals in the evening, we sat in the cold rail station eating a salad - which was delicious, but not as warm as the soup.
We enjoyed sunshine the whole day, took plenty of time to stop and read about the history, and even spent time speaking with an artist who shared with us about his work. People watching, imagining what the cities were like in the past, listening to all the different languages and dialects - simply enjoying the day together. A full day - a blessing and a gift.
Enjoy your day today. Know that God is able to use you in so many ways, bless you in so many way,  if you will simply accept His gift - today.