Deutschland #4 & #4.5

Woke up early on Sunday & got ready for church – on a whim, I decided to try to FaceTime theBean (it was midnight at home, so I thought my chances of catching her awake were slim to none.) Imagine my surprise when she answered on the first ring. There’s nothing in the world like the sound & sight of myOne. Our brief connection made the rest of the day seem doable.

After a quick breakfast, we headed out to church. Actually, it was to a regional church service – every 8 weeks or so, the 5 Foursquare churches in the area get together for a joint service. On a rotational basis, each church takes part of the responsibility for elements of the service (kids ministries, hospitality, worship, announcements, preaching/teaching, etc.) The reason behind the get-together is two-fold:

  1. Fellowship & relationship building – there aren’t many Christians in Germany, so opportunities for getting together with other Christians are rare. The kind of encouragement & ‘life boost’ that comes from these get-togethers is huge.
  2. Many of the “free” (non-Catholic/Lutheran) churches in Germany are small – 40 people & under. Partnering with other churches allows them to share resources & do more than they could do if they were organizing a gathering on their own. It’s a cool picture of parts of the body of Christ functioning well for the benefit & growth of the whole body. It really makes the self-focused, “doing church my way for my church’s benefit” that is emerging in the Western Church seem pretty silly, petty, & shallow.

Tim spoke on the 3 marks of a disciple from Mark 3 – emphasizing that disciples have 1) been with Jesus; 2) been sent by Jesus; 3) have lives marked by the power of God as evidenced by declaration of the gospel & overthrow of the kingdom of darkness. He did a great job bringing things into a context that made sense regardless of our nation of origin/language. Made me proud, & I’m loving watching he & his wife Deborah fall in love with the people, church, & nation of Deutschland.

IMG_1557I was whisked away right after church to the house of Julia’s sister, Linda, & her husband Heiko. I haven’t seen them since right before they were married a couple years back, so I really looked forward to catching up with them. They spent the morning prepping a BBQ for us – & goodness, it was tasty. We ate steaks, white sausage, tater salad – German style, cucumber salad, & a kind of meat that came from France that no one really translated. It was French, but even so, it was palatable. Here’s a picture of Heiko & Julia, representing Nevada & the Wolf Pack, surrounded by German flags. I had to tell them to put their index fingers up to make “#1” – because in Germany/most of the rest of the world, they start counting numbers with the thumb being #1. They were happy to look like ‘real Americans.”

IMG_1558We’d barely finished lunch when Linda decided to take us on a brief walk through the forest near their home, overlooking a green, tree-filled valley. Didn’t walk too fast – didn’t want to hurl. It was a beautiful, refreshing walk through the trees – except for the 50 meter section where the midges showed up in force. Mr. Frodo, I feel your pain. I ended up with several bites on my right leg – evidently that one is much tastier than the left.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early from the family dinner to head out. Julia drove me to meet Jochen (the regional leader) & Tim & their families for a dinner in a local biergarten in the village of Ulm. Think Great Basin-Sparks outside sitting area x3 & covered with a well-trimmed & lush grass patio blanket, surrounded by 30 foot tall trees. It was nice. Over the pub-brewed beer, we discussed Foursquare, both the US & Deutsch churches, & went back & forth asking/answering questions… there were a few times as we talked that I could see that some of the political/bureaucratic activities that unfortuntely happen as denominations get larger really struck a nerve, & gave me new & fresh eyes to reconsider what has been our (US) normal for church life.

For the most part, we schemed different ways for an interchange to take place between the US & German churches… & have a couple potential dates on the calendar for next year. We’re meeting to firm them up over dinner tonight.

Got back to the house of Kern in time for a snack – salami, cheeze, pretzel bread, & some vino from a local vintner. One of my highlights from this trip has been time around the tables, both in the kitchen & on the patio, with the Kern family: Klaus, Pia, & dear Julia. They’ve taken great measures to ‘stop life” & make the days I’m here very, very special. Words are inadequate to describe the special, special gift that this has been to me, & I am very, very thankful for this ‘chosen family’ who have become some of ‘my people” on the other side of the world.

The storm hit about 10 p.m. Rain. Thunder & lightning. Wind. Reports of a tornado touchdown in nearby Rammstein. It was hot, humid & loud. Made it very, very hard to sleep. I guess I eventually drifted off around 2:30 a.m., as my last iMessage to theBean was at about 2.

Woke up on Day 5 (4.5 for blog purposes) with a start at 8. FaceTimed theBean again as she was off to bed. Weirdness to be starting & ending our days at exactly opposite times. Winding down while the other is winding up. But the 9 hour time difference is cool too, as it provides a great communication window. This morning, I wished I was home getting ready for sleep in my own bed. And I would have turned on the air. TheBean told me she turned the air off upstairs because she likes to be warm. Evidently, 90 degrees in our room is just about right. No exaggeration, no kidding. That girl.

IMG_1563My man bag has died. I bought it 7 years ago in Frankfurt, & it has survived travels all over the world, carrying my lappy, journal, notebook & all my other ‘go-tos’. It has holes in the sides & bottom, & it no longer zips. Therefore, I decided to replace it – Julia took me shopping a couple of places until I picked out the newby. Here it is.

Found out that the store we were shopping in had a familiar name, so I decided to get a pic of the sign with Julia in it. IMG_1565

A successful shopping trip deserves a reward, so Julia & I drove a whole 7 minutes to get out of town & go to McDonalds. It was an experiment really – I wanted to see if the beef in the McDonalds burgers tastes the same as it does at home. Got a McDouble w/extra ketchup. Turns out, they taste totally different. It might be that they use Australian beef here like they do in Eastern Europe. Not sure, but the burger tasted… beefier? More real? Its not like I eat at McDonalds at home very often; more like 2 or 3 times a year. Maybe it was because I was a hungry elf & anything would taste good. It was time well-spent.

Picked up a couple of gifts & then headed to the house to study a bit for next Sunday (I’m preaching in Mainz, Germany at the church of Jan von Wille, a pastor & the national leader of Foursquare Deutschland. I’m doing a variation on the last message I preached at home: We Are On A Mission From God, text John 20:19-22. For the last hour or so, Julia & I have been sitting at the table, not talking, working on our laptops. She’s my kind of people, & I’m so thankful for this wonderful adopted German daughter. Love being her Ami-Papi (the name she gave me, means “American Dad.”) I’ll finish my Monday blog sometime tonight or tomorrow morning, after I live it. :)

I close this blog before I head to take a nap with a picture of the old Man-Bag next to the new one. Distinctly heard the old one say to the new one, “Carry on.”



fellowship, encouragement, new discoveries, & other musings…

…and so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius & Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God, & took courage… Acts 28:14-17

Paul was in Rome.

And the first thing he experienced there was an in person meeting and greeting with fellow Christians who had traveled 50-60 miles to visit him (from the Forum of Appius.)

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes – in the previous years, he had experienced abandonment, rejection, constant persecution, wrongful accusations. He was treated like a criminal, had survived several assassination attempts, and even recovered from a stoning. He’d been imprisoned in Jewish & Roman strongholds, had weathered the temperamental whims of Caesarean governor & had even lived through a shipwreck.

Then, upon arriving in Rome, he encounters brothers & sisters in Christ, a vivid reminder that he isn’t (& won’t be!) alone in this place; they are a flesh & blood fulfillment of God’s promises & goodness to Paul; their very presence caused him to give thanks to God, & also to be encouraged. He was filled to overflowing, & his time in Rome was characterized by his “proclaiming the kingdom of God & teaching about the LORD Jesus Christ with all boldness, & without hindrance.”

This is fellowship. Mutual encouragement. Being strengthened, & strengthening others in return. Based fully on the commonality of having been brought from death to life, darkness to light, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Years ago, I traveled to Birmingham, Englad with a couple of friends in preparation for a mission trip; we didn’t know a soul there, but had heard that there was a Christian church that we could visit. We made our way there, & found a small group of brothers & sisters meeting together for a meal & worship.

Though they’d never met us, they welcomed us to their table & into their midst with open arms. There was a tangible feeling that we were among family, & that we had something in common that bound us together in a way that only happens with the fellowship with other believers.

We talked, laughed, sang, & prayed. They prayed for us, speaking words of knowledge, encouragement, hope & faith that touched our hearts to the very core. I can remember looking across the room through the candlelight at this gathering of believers, knowing that we were bound together, in Christ, & that I knew I loved them & what’s more, that they loved me.

A few days later, when we parted, I had the distinct sense that I wouldn’t ever see many (most? All?) of these people again. But I also knew that when I did, here & in Heaven, that we’d run to embrace each other, & to celebrate the goodness & grace of our LORD Jesus Christ that sustains us from day to day.


Thursdays might be my favorite work day. Not only is Thursday my ‘Friday,’ but most Thursdays during the lunch hour I get to have fellowship with a dear friend.



Now, The Fellowship of the Ring has a positive connotation.

Fellowship in the real world? Not so much.

Fellowship at church? Yikes.

Why? Because church hurts.

I’ve attended church almost weekly since I was 2-ish. When I hear the word ‘fellowship,’ think of being chided to “say hi to the person behind you,” pasting a grin on your face, turning around to see the back of the head of the person you’re supposed to greet.

I think of post-church service coffee time – kinda awkward standing around looking at the other friendly strangers in the room… giving thanks to the LORD on high for the Costco muffins on the table which allow you to stuff your mouth… thereby giving you a ‘pass’ on the whole interaction thing… getting by on the mumbled, “And how you doin’?” “Good!” “Oh great.” “See ya next week.”
The sigh of relief when you’d make it to the parking lot, to your car, & then HOME!

Church hurts.

It might be because we often experience underdeveloped, mostly surface-y relationships… which hurts because we talk so much about how deep & meaningful our relationships & fellowship are & ‘should’ be… & when we’re not experiencing that, it’s easy to get desperate, feel frustrated, & to become disillusioned.

It could be disappointment at unmet expectations. Our own (or others) extreme neediness. Unhealth, selfishness, & immaturity in our interactions with others.

Perhaps its the expectation that something of life-changing significance, true fellowship, will take place in a rushed, crowded environment where there’s literally 45 seconds to ‘talk’…

Or it could be that the time we were open & transparent with another, we experienced swift, sure judgment. Where someone (well-meaning or not), attempted to Fix Us. Apply a ready-made, black-and-white, one-size-fits-all church solution to our complex & often gray lives… Where someone’s ‘gift’ to us was their honesty. (If the truth doesn’t happen in love, is it really a gift? But I digress.)

Maybe we end up mistaking real fellowship with the underdeveloped & surface-y relationships… That’s not what fellowship is intended to be. Or what it CAN be. Its definitely not what is referred to in Acts 2:42:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, & fellowship, to the breaking of bread, & the prayers…”

Fellowship (the Greek word “koinonia”) has a literal definition, but also one that is implied – the literal is… “joint participation; communion; sharing in anything; intimacy; community.” I believe that the implied definition would be along the lines of, “prioritized time & space shared with others around a common purpose, resulting in knowing & being known. Mutual encouragement that results in the growth, relationship, & development of all parties…

Which is why I love Thursdays. Lunch hour, we talk & listen… sharing trivialities & meaning of life stuff. Visit & revisit challenges, struggles, joys, & hopes. Wrestle through what God’s saying & doing in & around us. Close with a brief prayer.

I always come away encouraged. Refreshed. Strengthened. Feeling like I’ve grown & am growing in my relationship with God. Thankful to be living life with others – to know that they love me for who I am, & don’t try to fix me.

I know I don’t have it figured out, but I think that fellowship takes patience. Time. Commitment to the long-term. Willingness to grow. Care. Contending for authenticity. Risk. Be vulnerable. To listen. Release another from my need to pass (final) judgment. Encouragement, persistence, & a willingness to hope & want the best for another. Love that unconditionally extends self, embraces another, & trusts the work of God – the Holy Spirit, to do the transforming & fixing.

My life is richer because of fellowship.

Labor Day, baseball, & relationship

I spent the majority of this Labor Day, laboring. Had a killer work out, then went into the office during theBean’s 1st shift of the day. Don’t cry for me, Argentina – I am comfortable knowing that I have enough time in the day & week to do what I have to… & no more. And working on a ‘holiday’ isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. It was so quiet in the office; not a creature was stirring.

For the last several weeks, throughout our series “GOD – the Holy Spirit,” I’ve been ruminating on something that my friend Morris Chapman said. Long ago in a place far, far away, Morris was playing the piano & ‘freelancing’ lyrics… & he sang something like, “LORD, I don’t wanna just seek Your hand, I wanna seek Your face…”

That line has stuck with me for years… & reminds me that what I need, what changes me, my life, my heart, & mind is relationship & fellowship with God. And that God would dwell with me… ala Revelation 3:20…

It’s easier to seek His hand… to come to God with a wish-list or a ‘Christmas list’. With the “I wants” & “I needs” clearly marked. in hand…

Baseball to me is like good poetry. And I love the SF Giants… not because they’ve won a World Series in my lifetime, but just because. I fell in love in 1973, & have been smitten ever since. For better or for worse…

My Giants started the day 1 game out of the lead in the NL West… which leaves me hoping beyond hope that maybe This could be The Year that my Giants win it all. If they make the playoffs, we’ll see how it goes. I like their pitching, & am pleasantly surprised at the recent binge of clutch hitting.


I’ve been alive long enough to see the world change, & baseball with it. There was a time that the following quote by Jacque Barzun may have been true:

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball

I don’t think so anymore.

The pace of the game, subtle nuances that escape all but Vin Scully, the unwritten rules, & a 162 game season so rudely interrupted by the start of America’s real national pastime, football, have all combined to relegate baseball to a 2nd tier sport that slips year after year towards the brink of obscurity.

I’m on a study binge; kind of fun, as my study binges usually happen on the verge of something big for me & mine. Currently reading through When The Spirit Comes in Power.