Deutschland #8… a Thursday

DAY 7, Part Deux –

I left the house around 12:15 p.m. to head over to the home of Levent & Ines  via the Ubahn. One of the most confusing things about using the transit system isn’t figuring out the trains – instead, its deciding which of the 4 exits leaving the underground to take. Each one leads to a different corner of the block, so choosing wrong can mean that you’re exactly opposite of where you wanted to go, & to make it worse, you can’t just ‘cross the street’ to get where you need to be. Instead, you have to go back down into the underground & guesstimate which exit is the correct one. Today, I ended up going to three (yes. 3) different exits, walking up 2 flights of stairs for each, only to find that I’d chosen…. poorly. There’s just some things you don’t know until you memorize them I guess.


My appointment was for 14:00 (2 p.m. for us ‘mericans) & I was running a little early, so I stopped at a pizza place for a slice. Turns out, ordering was simple – the majority of the staff spoke Spanish; while I’m definitely not fluent, I can have a conversation. And so I did. It was nice, & a little bit surreal to be speaking Spanish in Germany. But at least I got the right pizza. I walked across the street to Levent & Ines beautiful big Green Apartment Building, & within a couple of minutes, I was sitting at their kitchen table, watching 1 year old Samuel crawling around the room, stopping every couple seconds to try to figure out just WHO this person was in his house.

Levent & Ines were some of the first people I met when I came back to Frankfurt in March 2005 – they had just been married a year at that time. Over the years, they’ve added two kids to the family, 3 year old Saraya & the aforementioned 1 year old Samuel. The last 6 months have been very stressful on them, as Samuel has had to be hospitalized with an unknown condition that caused a lot of physical issues, including seizures. I can imagine that the strain of that, plus trying to care for another child, plus trying to work must have been overwhelming. We had great talks, & I was very blessed & honored to be able to be with them today, just a few days short of their 10th wedding anniversary.

IMG_1595After hanging out for a couple of hours, Levent needed to leave to pick up Saraya from her kindergarten, so he offered to drop me at the rendezvous point for my next meeting in Bockenheim, a region of Frankfurt I’m pretty familiar with because it is where the German church we have had relationship with, Treffpunkt Leben (TPLF) is located. (The picture to the left is the Bockenheim Tower, an old military/defensive installation set up on the edge of the city to give warning if any danger approached.) Saraya’s kindergarten is bilingual, using both German & Spanish. It was pretty cool to be able to hear the 3-6 year olds speaking both languages, sometimes in the same sentence. One of the students was a little Korean girl – couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, & she was talking to her mother, a mile a minute, in Spanish, about her music & dance class. It was precious.


IMG_1593Levent, Saraya, & I parked & walked to Leipziger Strasse so IMG_1594that they could buy a pastry, then we said our goodbyes, & I headed up the street & towards Kurfuerstenstrasse 14, where TPLF used to meet. A few years ago, the old church building was torn down, & this was built in its place.

IMG_1592I also went by to see if anyone might be at the TPLF office, but it was too late in the day, so I missed everyone. Ended up walking to the Kurfuerstenstrasse Park & sitting on one of the park benches & people watching until it was time to go meet Steve. Walked back to the Ubahn station just in time to catch him – we decided to head back to the park to talk until it was time to meet his wife, Sarah, for dinner. I had never met her (Steve was only engaged when he was in Reno, & they just celebrated their first anniversary last week.)


We had a great time catching up over the events of the last couple years since Steve visited us in Reno – the time almost got away from us. Fortunately, Sarah called & reminded us that she was on her way, so we walked back to Leipzieger Strasse to get dinner at KISH, a Persian restaurant right off of the main street with a great outdoor eating space. That the owner of the restaurant didn’t want us to sit at. He wanted us inside for some reason – didn’t catch it, but I think it had to do with the fact that it was a ‘prime table’ & we were there a little before ‘prime time’ with no reservations. Not that we needed them at that point, as there were a grand total of 5 other people at the place, & there were at least 40 open tables. He finally agreed to seat us outside, & brought us menus. The food followed quickly.

And then the rain started. It began with rolling thunder & a light sprinkle.

That lasted for about 10 minutes – we were protected from the rain by a large sun shade, so we didn’t think we had to worry about anything. Until the rain began to fall in earnest. Sideways. After a couple minutes of trying to ‘weather’ the weather, we gave up & took our food inside to an open table. And we watched the lightning show. And the rain falling, harder & harder until it seemed like the downpour rivaled the hurricane theBean & I endured in the summer of ’94. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I had no umbrella & I forgot my rain jacket at home. IMG_1597

We finished dinner & tea, all the while hoping for a brief respite that would allow us to walk the 1/2 mile or so to the Ubahn station. It didn’t happen, so we decided to make a run for it. By the time we hit the station, I was soaked. But it was a warm rain.

Said goodbye to the Greenhills at the main U station, & we went our separate ways. Fortunately,  I had a beautiful walk home from the station near Alex & Linda’s. I tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t wake them if they were sleeping, yet somehow in my attempt to turn off the light outside their front door, I managed to ring their doorbell, making their giant Rhodesian Ridgeback bark at the sudden noise. Smooth. Very smooth.

Alex was just finishing a workout, & Linda didn’t wake up, so my faux pas wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Took out my contacts & headed towards bed, & took a couple of minutes to catch up on emails that couldn’t wait to be dealt with until later. It was a great day.


As I think about my yesterday (Thursday) on  this fine morning (Friday, about 10:40 a.m.) I’m musing on how much has changed since I was last here almost 4 years ago. In me. In others. And it feels really good to know that in the middle of all of that, we still have something very, very important: Friendship.

Thank you for praying. Blessings to you.

 

Rosarito, Day 2

Slept great, & woke up just before my alarm. Because we’re staying at a children’s home, they get first dibs on the kitchen for breakfast prep/clean up. This means we get the kitchen around 8-8:30 & prep breakfast. We’re trying to take turns making breakfast/cleaning up so that everyone gets to experience the joy of washing dirty dishes. There’s nothing like it.

After breakfast, most of the team was charged with engaging with the special needs children. Very cool to see how many of the little ones have changed, grown, developed, & gained areas of function. The year between our visits really displays the significance of a place like “Catherine’s Home” to help those who society has abandoned or given up on, & invested time, energy, & the love of God.

The boys were tasked with painting a clear-coat wood sealer over a mural in the kids main play room. While the kids were playing in it. We were given rollers & a paint tray, & pointed in the ‘right direction.” And did I mention that the clear-coat sealer came with explicit instructions NOT to apply the sealer with a roller? Or NOT to apply it indoors? Well, that was fun. It made my brain feel silly, as did watching the rest of the team attempt to “lasso the wind” as every mobile kid in the place tried to make a run for it, hoping to bathe their little hands & faces in the toxic goo we were applying to the walls.

And then we ran out of sealer, 1/2 way through. So, Tony Mac & I did what anyone would have done in our places. We jumped in the van, with Daniel the Man, & went looking for “the Home Depot” we’d seen when we came in yesterday. Found it too. Boom!

Turns out, they didn’t have any toxic goo similar to what we’d used, & after attempting to translate into Spanish what we wanted, we were handed off to the English language Paint specialist, Eduordo.

ED: why do you want clear coat wood sealer? Are you painting wood?
ME: Nope. Drywall.
ED: So you want a drywall sealer? We have that. It comes in white.
ME: Nope. We want a clear coat wood sealer.
ED: But you’re not painting wood.
ME: Nope.
ED: How about concrete sealer? You want that?
ME: Nope. We need the wood sealer. I know it doesn’t make sense, but we want the toxic goo we put up to be the same kind of goo we already used.
ED: Sorry. We don’t have it.

It was an adventure. We bought ourselves a celebratory Coke Zero, & went home.


Most of our afternoon was spent walking a dirt road neighborhood that could only be accessed by helicopter. Not really, I made that up. It simply required that we drive the van up sheer, boulder laden cliff-like roads at great risk to our personal safety. I dubbed them “the Cliffs of Insanity.”

Not really, but it was steep & rocky. Our team talked to many kids. I was lagging in the back, & was tapped on the shoulder by a 60ish man named Augustine. He knew gangsta-rap English (all the swear words too) & we were able to communicate very well. He walked with me for about 10 minutes, & then told me he needed to stop & head home because his back hurt. Because he was old. So I asked if I could pray for him, & did, in broken Spanish & Spanglish.

He burst into tears near the end of the prayer – & gangsta-Spanglish spilled out as he thanked me & our group for coming to his “god-forsaken barrio, a place of hopelessness.” Then he thanked me for having a real conversation with him, & treating him like a person, a real person. Because he is a worthless alcoholic, deported 30 years ago, who lost his wife & kids in the deportation. And now his only meaning in life comes from giving pesos to little kids so they don’t starve. And losing himself in the bottle. He thanked me again, & headed wobbily down the street. I wept.


TheWeez was called upon to give the message at the outreach – she had the crowd of mostly U12’s waiting on her every word. She started her talk with a chant, “UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE!” The crowd went wild. She told them how Jesus delivered her from bad-dreams when she was a little girl, how she had been taught to call on the Name of Jesus when she was afraid or in a time of need.

Off to the side, I wept.


Turns out, when we were on our paint run, we missed most of morning dance rehearsal. Yes. Dance rehearsal. For our outreach this afternoon. Missing rehearsal doesn’t mean you miss the performance. It just means you get to shake it like there are no repercussions for doing so. And we did. Tony Mac, Daniel the Man, & I. Booyah!


We got back to the children’s home, had dinner & cleaned up. We’re heading to a debrief (let’s talk about the day) in 10 minutes. Then, it is sleepy time. Tomorrow, we’re heading back up the Cliffs of Insanity to do some work at the Joseph House, Hope Chapel Rosarito’s outreach to deportees.

Good night. Thanks for praying.

Readin’ books, thinkin’ thoughts, processin’ stuff, & other musin’s…

Just finished going through Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” again. Check it out if you haven’t.

We used it as a reference point in our most recent teaching series, & also hosted a couple of book talks with a few folks who had finished reading through it, individually (if that makes sense.) The first time I went through the book was back in 2006 at the suggestion of my friend & mentor Chuck. I would guess over the years I’ve read the book 10 or more times. And every time through, something else stands out to me. I think the combo of the 8-week teaching series & the book talks were the most significant in seeing the topic in a different light. Here’s a couple of insights gleaned from our talks:

  • Generally speaking, people don’t have a reference point on how to process through strong, negative, &/or inconvenient emotions. We feel out of control, unsure, anxious, & guilty… & as a result, stuff those emotions in a locked,dark room in their souls that they never plan to visit again. Several people found it helpful to go through a process to get a handle on their emotions; this includes taking the time to experience/feel the emotion, to invite God into the process by asking for His take/His input through reflection on what we’re feeling, then to express those emotions in manner than honors God, that doesn’t sabotage/hurt ourselves, or wound/cause injury others.
  • Christians don’t know how to grieve, mourn, or process through life’s losses. Not just the big ones – like death of a loved one, catastrophies, like war & acts of terror, divorce & infidelity, among others,- but also other losses, like the change in a friendship when someone moves away, the disruption of relationship when a person leaves a church, & even things that look/feel like a POSITIVE change, like graduation from school, or an adult child moving out on their own. Instead, quite a few people deal with loss through denial, avoidance, blaming others, minimizing the loss, rationalizing why the loss isn’t so bad, or developing an addiction (to avoid & numb the pain). The most common way of running from loss that came up in our talks was using God to hide from grieving – this could look like quoting Bible verses, “We don’t grieve like those who have no hope…” as though that is supposed to address the hurt & pain we feel. It could be like offering up words we’ve heard before, like, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” or “God must have needed another angel in heaven,” or my favorite, which I have heard from more than a handful of people in response to my own grief at my brother’s passing: “God must have known He was going to fall away into sin in the future, so He took him home now.” Not only do those phrases not help, they don’t accurately portray God as He is revealed in Scripture & in Christ’s incarnation: as predictably, consistently good. And ultimately when people said them to me, I wanted to punch them in the neck.
  • Getting our thoughts out on these topics & talking with safe people helps. I was amazed at how significantly people were impacted as they listened to others, heard that their own story/feelings/experience isn’t unique or weird, prayed together, & spoke words of encouragement to each other.

There’s probably more, but those are the biggies that have been bouncing around my head for the last couple weeks.


Jerry Cook has a new book coming out in the next 8-12 weeks. He’s the writer of a couple of my favorites, including, “Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness,” and also, “The Monday Morning Church.” The next one is called, “So… What’s The Big Deal? Six Events That Changed The World”, & it is written in response to being asked this question: “So… what’s the big deal about the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian?” I have seen a rough draft of the book & I will tell you this – when it comes out, I’m buying a case of them to give away. Great & practical theology communicated in a manner that a Jr Higher could “get.” Be on the lookout.


Over the last year, I’ve been praying for the kind of clarity where I could say, “I only do what I see my Father in heaven doing.”(John 5:19-21). To me, this means – I’m not just living on purpose, I’m living according to God’s agenda. One thing that I have noticed – a lot of people have an idea of what THEY think I should be doing… & if/when it doesn’t line up with what I think I’m supposed to be doing, it is “relationally uncomfortable.” I’m praying for insights & ways to gracefully communicate with others on this, esp. when I don’t meet their hopes or expectations. A work in process, am I. Thankful that the One who started this process WILL bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:5-6)

So say we all.

Life is beautiful… & full… & other musings…

I’ve been functioning at ‘high-demand’ the last 8 weeks – & I’m feeling it. A full complement of pre-marrieds, Wednesday night Revelation class, & deadlines for my “Human Behaviour In Organizations” (aka HBO) class have been shoe-horned into the normal life schedule, leaving me with at least 4 nights/week spoken for… so I’m shaking it up. Finishing the grad school class tomorrow, marrying off a couple (booyah!) & zealously guarding the evening times wherever possible. Here’s to living in balance.


Got to fulfill a lifelong dream: saw U2 in concert in Oakland on Tuesday with theBean & a couple of great friends. It was a great time. Even the part afterwards where we got to experience traffic jams, a BART snafu, & the Amazing Disappearing taxi cabs of Oakland, CA. The show ended at 11:40ish, & we arrived back at our hotel at 02:45… That experience is its own blog, which I can now write because I have lived it. Now just to recover enough to do it.


My final project for the HBO class is a “Conflict Analysis” – I get to review a conflict that has taken place at a place of my choosing, (I pick my church!) review Conflict Management Theory, & apply relevant theories for managing & resolving conflict in a functional (aka beneficial, good, productive, healthy) manner.

As I prepared for the project, I had the “good fun” of looking back over many conflicts within the church from the last several years. Many of them began as differences of opinion. Some as hurt feelings. Unmet (unspoken?) expectations. Frustration. Real/perceived violation.

In retrospect, the conflicts that seem to end up as “functional conflicts” had a few factors in common:

    -clarified, persistent communication from both parties, even when the words spoken were hard to hear;
    -little to no ‘outside communication’ (aka pleading one’s case to other parties, people not directly connected to the situation in question)
    -humility & grace extended;
    -believing the best for & from the other person;
    -a willingness not only to ask for & extend forgiveness, but a determination to LIVE in it, thereby rejecting the temptation of being offended & not developing the always deadly & always resulting bitterness

My hope in life isn’t to attempt to remove conflict; I think that would be impossible, because whenever 2 or more people live life together & attempt to accomplish something, conflict WILL happen. But it doesn’t have to be destructive.

I’m contending for that. & purposing to try to live in such a way that I can hope for & bring out God’s best in people’s lives.


Looking to head to the gym with theWeez as soon as her breakfast settles. I haven’t been able to gymnasium for a couple of weeks as I’ve been letting a couple of minor ‘ouches’ get better & heal on their own. Today, I’m going to go at it lightly, & hope for the best.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #13

Meeting for breakfast with an old friend, Claudius – took the u-bahn in the brisk morning air to the Willy-Brandt-Platz (named after a German politician.) I got there a bit early, & spent some time people watching. Met a guy from Brazil who is playing basketball at Westerm Michigan U in Kalamazoo, Michigan, & talked hoops a bit. He’s traveling with friends, & I took some pictures of them in the park, standing under the big “E” monument celebrating the European Union.

Claudius arrived & we made our way to a café we’ve visited many times over the last few years. He is something of a ‘romantic’ in that he likes to plan surprises & this time was no different. The breakfast that came out for me was nothing short of incredible, with an American style omelette with all of my favorite ingredients; fresh squeezed orange juice, a croissant & brotchen (little bread) & of course a bottomless cup of coffee. It is truly meaningful to be thought of & planned for. I greatly appreciated our talks, the opportunity to catch up & hear about the happenings in each others lives. Good times.


Made my way to the KonstablerWache (a kind of police station in the downtown of Frankfurt,) & met with our dear friend Dudi (sister of Philip, who I got together with for breakfast a couple days ago,) for my next meeting. TheBean & I connected with Dudi on our first mission trip to TPLF in 2005; over the last few years as she’s been working her way through university, she’s had a couple of opportunities to come & stay with us in our home, most recently this last September. We made our way from the KonstablerWache to a quirky little restaurant called, “Maingold” – reminded me a lot of Reno’s own Java Jungle crossed with Deux Gros Nez…

One of the themes that came up (again!) was fatherhood – the need for positive, encouraging, supportive-without-being-controlling male input in the lives of 20-somethings. Its something that I’m meaning to write about in more detail soon – but hearing Dudi talk about the great need for this encouragement, positive pouring in to help young men & women step into their own calling & stage of life, made me a bit weepy. Its something that I’ve felt the Holy Spirit’s ‘nudge’ about for the last couple of years, & it’s very gratifying to hear the confirmations over & over & over again from such a variety of sources… reminds me that I might be on to something. ☺


Walked along the Main River for what seemed like an eternity – the sun has finally come out after 10 days of wind & rain. I’m just soaking it in, thinking back to the happy times along this river with myBean, pondering my initial ‘tug’ to Germany so long ago that happened in this very place.

It’s Saturday, which means the downtown area is hosting a festival – this time it’s a wein & sausage party with wall to wall people. I took a couple of snapshots & enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded while at the same time being anonymous. Enjoyed a glass of the Dornfelder with a few passersby, & listened to the live music coming from a stage setup nearby. We’re in Germany, so the band must be playing “Winds of Change,” by the Scorpions. I think this just might be the unofficial national anthem of Deutschland


Walked to the Hauptwache (main station) to catch the U-bahn to Alex & Linda’s. Caught up with Alex at the WeisserStein station… & drove to their new flat. Alex & Linda are very special to me, & I always love spending time at their home. This time was no exception. After giving me a tour of their new place, the 4 of us (Alex, Linda, & their dog Jonathan,) took a walk in the park next to their home – felt great to stretch our legs & catch up.

We were all hungry, so we headed home, where I hung out with Alex as he grilled… chicken wings(!) that he had started prepping the day before. Linda brought a great salad, some weissbier, & potato wedges to the table & we spent a couple of hours in conversation. Alex & Linda started a church since I was here last in November, & they are affiliated with the Vineyard movement. I loved hearing their stories of what God is doing in their church, & most exciting to me, with them in their lives as they step out into new areas.

We wrapped up our evening with the most recent episode of the Office, something we always do when I’m here. Shared routines are special too. ☺ It was getting late, so they graciously drove me back to the Dueck’s so I could finish packing my bags & prepping for my early afternoon flight tomorrow.