I’m back… or, how I finally found the internet in Prum, Germany

I’ve not been able to connect to the net for a while, so if you’ve been sending me emails or notes that haven’t been returned, I’m sorry. Please bear with me – today, 10 November, Shawn & I found the “Lothar Raum” which is where we are connecting to the net via an ethernet cable. Also, this is a long post – you’ve been warned.


Sunday, 8 November
Woke up early to have breakfast with Alex & Linda – a good German breakfast of bread, nutella, yogurt & mueslix… & coffee of course. I appreciate these people who have opened up their home & life to me, inviting me in to be a part of what they do.

Alex dropped me at TPLF at 10, & I spent time reconnecting with friends & mentally preparing for the Sunday speech. Worshipping with our sister church is a lot like being at home, with a pleasant comfort that comes from revisiting something familiar, something that you’ve been missing. It was especially fun to see Dudi on the keyboards ☺.

I spoke on John 15:1-11 – on Staying Connected, with 3 specific points about connection:

  • connecting to God,
  • connecting to our church & church leaders
  • connecting to the people in our church family.

    Speaking through an interpreter is mentally draining – esp. because it requires thinking in complete thoughts vs. in ‘sentences’ if that makes sense. I hit a tangible ‘wall’ in point #2 about connecting to church & church leaders – because of the German reticence to ‘trust’ those in leadership due to both the history of domineering leadership in Germany (WW2) & also the loss/removal of TPLF’s senior pastor 18 months ago. It was tough, but I know I did what I was supposed to & said what I needed to. And left the rest up to the Holy Spirit & the grace of God. Sigh.

    After church, I ate a döner with Shawn & Matty, then waited for Eddy to come pick us up to take us to the Pastors conference that I’ve been a part of for the last 4 years – really enjoyed the talking & laughing with the boys on the long (3 hour) drive to Prüm, on the western border of Germany near France & Luxemborg.


    Our evening at the conference was one of getting oriented to the youth hostel where we’re staying, & a service consisting of praise & worship. Afterwards, we spent time with the German pastors & talked at length about the life & times of the last year. I met a pastor from Kazachstan who was visiting Germany & the German conference to see how the FEGW (Foursquare Germany) functioned as a church movement. As I stood their & listened to amazing story after amazing story, it reminded me both of how incredible our God is, & how small I am.


    FEGW Conference, Day 2
    Peter Wenz, a pastor from Stuttgart is the presenter. The thing that jumped out at me is that he is very animated & full of life & a tangible joy. The topic for the week is “FAITH” – & learning to live ‘correctly’ – which he defined as being filled with the Word of God, filled with hope, & lead by the Spirit into a life that is greater than me, for a purpose that God intends. Our main texts for the session were Habakkuk 2:14 & Hebrews 11:6

    I love how he defined & discussed faith –
    • not as something nebulous or intangible, but as something that is a secret, Godly substance placed in the hearts of His people; this secret substance gives us Godly confidence & boldness, special hope, discernment, & supernatural abilities to accomplish God’s purposes.
    • Faith is a gift from God to stir us, to awaken us to be looking for opportunities to live for God & to intersect the lives of others for God.
    • Faith opens us to God’s realm, the really real realm, to live life in a way that is ‘overcoming’ (Romans 8:39)
    • Faith is real & integrated into our everyday life, & as we act on it causes truth to become ‘real & evident’ in our hearts & lives
    • Faith is real & tangible, & causes ordinary people to really live extraordinary lives.


    Session 2 addressed Mark 1:14,15 & the ministry of Jesus – he talked about Jesus’ 4 declarations:
    • The time is come
    • The Kingdom of God is at hand
    • It is time to Repent – to renew our minds & way of thinking to God’s
    • Believe – in Christ, & follow Him

    Things that stood out:
    • The main obstacle to faith is unbelief – a humanist intellectualism that opposes the purposes & plans of God
    • This unbelief is often centered in the religious upper-class of society
    • We ask God to increase our faith, & then we ‘stand’ in & exercise the faith that we have – not the letter of it, but the Spirit of it.

    Good stuff – lots of great testimonies & encouragements.

    Shawn, Matt & I ate lunch together, then walked to a store down the street for supplies (snacks & water.) The highlight of our walk was when Matt tried to engage the cashier in small talk with a little, “How you doin?” She just looked at him blankly – didn’t speak any English. Shawn translated for Matt, & the clerk, once she understood, just looked at Matt & said, “Bad. Bad.” We all got some good smiles from that. Went to an Austrian restaurant for a schnitzel, a hefe, & lots of good discussion then went back to the hostel for the evening.

    We’re learning all kinds of stuff about each other. Good times.


    FEGW Conference, Day 3
    I woke up at 1 a.m. to a dull ache in my right shoulder, waaaay down deep in the joint. It kept me up until about 4. Bummer way to start the day.

    Our final sessions with Peter Wenz centered on Ephesians 4:7-13 – which is a portion of scripture that is especially significant for me (on account of the fact that we spent more than 3 months in those verses last year at this time – he focused on the words “measure of grace,” something given by God for people to live & function in – & that the “some people” who’ve been given the role of being a pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, or apostle are to be about the work of making disciples, spurring others on towards maturity in Christ.

    I especially enjoyed his discussion on how the body of Christ is to be “complementing” each other instead of “competing” with each other – with complementing being “to harmonize, go together better;” truly functioning like a body functions towards the same goal, not 100 unique ones.


    The boys & I are debating what we’ll do this afternoon during the ‘small group’ time – everyone else will be getting with the other pastors & leaders from their region & working on a project. We may be making another run to the store for snacks & supplies; Shawn found a “Sculpture Park” that we might be walking to, though the chill of our day, coupled with the ache in my shoulder makes a longer jaunt seem much less attractive… We will see.

  • The Fantastic Journey!… or how I managed to travel for 24 hours straight…

    I’ve known that my November 2009 trip to Germany was coming – months ago, when I booked my flights, I intentionally did 3 things to avoid known trouble spots:

  • Avoided any flight with the words “San” or “Francisco” included in it.
  • Put “I Heart Denver” in all my itinerary searches
  • Determined not to start my outbound voyage before 10 a.m.

    Lucky me, the first 2 things I did worked great – the 3rd? Not so much. Due to an Unforeseen Need To Cutback on the Number of Flights, my Reno-Denver leg was moved 3 times. So, I got to start my day at 5 a.m. so that I could make sure to get to the airport to make my 7:20 with time to spare. Sigh.


    Denver is a great airport; lots of great places to eat, spacious & clean concourses to walk (w/hand sanitizer every 10 steps,) & this time, friends to hang out with. Matty C & Earl W were both on board for the 1st leg of the trip – we hung out at the New Belgium Hub, ate omelettes & egg burritos, sampled the 1554 Black, & talked.

    A good time was had by all… a good time that was split up only by the next flight for me – Matty & Earl had somehow finagled a direct flight to Frankfurt out of Denver, albeit with a 7 hour layover in the aforementioned Denver Airport. At least it was a good one.

    Said my goodbyes & headed for Chicago – even landed there early due to a great tailwind. Only 90 minutes & I was to be off to Deutschland. Or so I thought.


    Literally as we were lining up for boarding, word came down from On High that there was an Un-named mechanical issue that needed to be resolved – the screen began flashing a modified departure time… 45 minutes further out. Ok.


    As our scheduled boarding time arrived, the voice from On High declared that our aircraft had been sent to the proverbial bullpen – & needed more repairs than could be gotten on the tarmac. The good news (& I use that phrase with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek, which caused me to bite it,) was that a replacement plane had been found to take us to the Fatherland… though it was only a mere 3 hours away. Which meant that our departure time would be just a little bit later than we’d initially thought…


    So, what to do? Get a bad attitude? Complain? Go flex my proverbial muscles for all the desk-counter personnel & ask them if they happened to know who I am? No. All of those jobs were already taken, with understudies even.

    The job that wasn’t taken was the one of the happy, content guy reading his book, who was also pleasant to be around, & occasionally even engaged in conversation with the people around him. So I took it.

    Not because I felt like that guy – precisely because I DIDN’T feel it. I was uncomfortable, grouchy, tired, hungry, frustrated, missing out on Game 6 of the Series, missing theBean & theFam something terrible already… I’ve been trying to grow in not just living by my feelings or by the attitude/outlook that tries to muscle its way to the surface… instead I tried to put on Christ. Keep a good attitude. Not focus on me & my disappointments.

    And I made it.


    Slept for 7 out of 8 1/2 hours of my flight. Woke up rested. Flight landed. Eventually made my way through passport control, baggage claim, & customs… found Alex G. Matty C & Earl W were located. Navigated the city (with a temperamental GPS to boot) & eventually got everyone where they needed to be for round 2…

    Ate the Hot & Spicy Pasta that Chef Alex made, with the 337 that theBean sent for Linda… enjoyed a Via together. Went for a walk through the park & the streets around Alex & Linda’s new neighborhood. Relaxing.

    Had a brief chat with theBean before she went to work. Ahhh.


    I’m looking forward to the rest of my time – starting with a good nights sleep. Good night now.

  • 40 going on 21, part 1

    I’ve been ruminating on a series of conversations that I had with my buddy, Chuck, while I was at CSR this last August.

    The conversations were brought on by the fact that my 40th birthday was coming soon – & how much I was looking forward to that event & the stage of life that would come with it. (And, by the way, I’m 40 days into my 40th year, & so far, I’m loving the fact that I’m a man! I’m 40!)

    A lot of our talks centered on the infatuation our society seems to have with YOUTH & being YOUNG… & the seeming inability to accept the fact that people age… & aging is seen as a bad thing, something to be ashamed of, avoided, &/or denied.

    Bummer.


    Part of what really drove it home for me was that a lot of my ‘thinking time’ happened on & near the Virginia Tech University campus – there were literally thousands of 18-25 year olds all over the place just arriving in Blacksburg for the start of the fall semester… In Walmart. Starbucks. Borders. The campus bookstore. Swarms of people. Checking each other out, visually measuring self against others, masking anxiety with volume… The pretty young things got the most attention & savored it.

    In the midst of it, I felt strangely secure. Comfortable in my own skin. I pondered Chuck’s words, & thought about what he’d said about the privileges & things gained as one ages…

    …experience & wisdom to be shared. Perspective at having seen seasons of life, fad, & fashion come & go & come back again. The weight the words carry of one who has not only lived, but has lived well, without striving, through the tides, peaks, & valleys that life brings. The joy of watching one’s children grow. Peace at being able to simply enjoy the moment.

    The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old. Proverbs 20:29 New Living Translation


    Being 40 is great. I’m lovin’ it.


    Things I’m thinking about:

  • Associating ‘young’ & ‘youth’ with childish, irresponsible, immoral behavior
  • Peter Pan syndrome…
  • valuing people by their outward appearance…
  • living selfishly, without regard for others
  • attempting to avoid the responsibility that comes with the making of choices – & the consequences (outcomes?) of those choices
  • the inevitability of aging… something that no amount of cosmetic surgery, hair dye, or botox can avoid.
  • my dream…

    Hmmm.

  • tuesday & it’s pretending to snow…

    Woke up last night to a howling wind, accompanied by the sound of rain & hail being slammed up against our windows. Ah yes. It is nearly Winter. Or at least its pretending.


    Went to theWeez’s soccer banquet tonight – held at Pizza Plus, which IS a plus. Got to eat pizza & wings & watch 15 or so 12-14 year old girls do whatever it is that 12-14 year old girls do.

    75 minutes, lots of giggling & a 3 minute awards ceremony later, we were on our way out.

    It was snowing. Or at least pretending to snow. You know what I mean, the kind of snow that you can actually see falling to the ground, but once its actually there, it sort of disappears. Which is why I say it’s ‘pretending.’


    I’ve started my packing process – the week-long saga I go through in preparing for my November trip to Germany. Laying out clothes I might want to take, making sure they’re all washed & pressed; then, laying out clothes that I’ll wear in the days leading up to departure day. Silly, I know. But the 2 piles can’t be mixed.

    Determined more than ever not to over pack, & also to leave adequate room for my gifts & take-alongs.


    Got a great present today – about 40 3-packs of the Starbuck’s Via instant coffee… just add hot water & booyah! Coffee, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. I’m taking it with, just in case I meet some hot water…


    I like to hulu, – esp. because it makes it so I can watch Fringe. It reminds me a bit of The X-Files… Fringe is something I normally couldn’t watch, because it’s on the same time as The Office, which totally trumps Fringe, at least in theBean’s eyes. (Which, by the way, are some pretty deep blue eyes… so deep, I got lost… but I digress…)


    Week 3 of the kettlebells – holy moly. That’s all I have to say. Arms, legs, chest, core…


    Which reminds me that I need to soak-a my feet. I’m tired.

    Here’s to “No Snow!” tomorrow.

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    thursday night…

    One of the by-products of the killer kettlebell workout from yesterday, which was also accompanied by a couple miles of extra running up & down Disc Drive, is that I am sore. Really sore. Wake-yourself-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-rolling-over sore. Sigh.


    As the ALCS plays out in front of me, I’m realizing that this is officially the least amount of baseball I have ever watched, over the season, on TV. The plus side is that having the Aces in town meant that I got to see more games in person.


    Re-discovered an early 80’s movie The Philadelphia Experiment. Last saw it as a high school sophomore. Took me back in time.

    Which reminds me: that may be why I love to watch old movies (old to me mostly means 40’s, 50’s & 60’s) – watching them takes me back to the 1st time that I saw them. Almost like time travel… except safer. And without a DeLorean.


    Socks have become increasingly important to me.


    Fresca. Get it.


    Great talks with EdieVegas yesterday. He’s in grad school studying a developing branch of Historical-ness. Love that guy. He’s living one of my dreams – pursuing a graduate degree in History. Heavy sigh.


    Is there anything that you CAN’T put Tea Tree Oil on?


    A nap is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself. Good news: I’m a giver! Perhaps tomorrow I shall nap. We shall see. We shall see.

    Good night now!

    Wednesday was a funny day…

    I found a new gym. Or should I say, it found me. Its only .9 miles from my home, & my whole family can gymnasium (I totally verbed a noun) for less than $30/month. Haven’t left my old gym officially, but I’m not going anymore, because my new gym has NEW equipment. Functional treadmills. Nice barbells. And kettlebells. They had me at kettlebells.


    Worked out today. Happened to put my car/house/every-important-thing-that-requires-a-key-in-life-key chain in a locker. Forgot my own lock, but that’s ok, right? Came back to pick up my keys to find… someone had put a lock on the locker. Sigh.

    I went around to every male in the gym (thank you Jesus that there is a Men’s locker room, because it totally limited my search) asking, “So, did you happen to put a lock on locker #37? Cause my keys are in there, man.” Everyone said, “No.” It was awkward, especially with the BIG men, the guys that have a Routine, guys listening to their iPods, guys like Sal who seem like they’d rather break me into several pieces as soon as look at me…

    So I called mytheBean. She brought me keys to my car so I could take care of some of the errands I needed to run. I rationalized, “I will come back in 2 hours & the lock will be off #37 & my silliness at not putting my own lock on will be but a distant memory…”


    I had planned on driving the Ex down to the gym to pick up my keys. Turns out, everyone left me at home WITHOUT keys to the Ex. So…

    TheWeez & I walked the .9 miles down to the gym & I expected that my keys would be at the front desk by this time. Not so. The lock was still on #37. I was able to convince the manager that the best course of action was to CUT the lock on #37, & let me get my keys. Then, I would buy a new lock at the Home Depot & bring it back. A small price to pay for my… forgetfulness.

    Got my keys. Ran the .9 miles uphill home, while theWeez waited at theBean’s work. Got the Ex. Drove to pick up theWeez. Went to the Home Depot. Tried to find a lock that resembled the 1 that was cut for me. No dice. Looked for 1 that I would want, & found 1 for only $6.34 (tax included.)


    Went back to the gym to drop off the lock. Girl at the front desk was amazed at the quality of the lock I chose. Go figure.

    Turns out the guy that had put the lock on #37 had been in the gym the whole time, (4 hours bro?) & had said, “NO!” when asked if he had put a lock on #37, but had obviously been simply trying to avoid the responsibility of locking a space that had held my keys… go figure.

    Drove home with theWeez. Weary. 3 hours & counting of my life, poured out in the pursuit of right. Gonna watch a moving picture with my girl – Shanghai Noon? That’ll work…

    Football on a Sunday afternoon, & other musings…

    It’s easier to watch the 49ers now that they seem to have at least a fighting chance. Goodness. The last few years have been rough. Like 15 of them.


    On that note, I think I made it through the tough stuff because of fantasy football – when things were rough in the Bay, at least I could live vicariously through the players on my teams.


    My last fantasy baseball team ends its season today. With me in 1st place. Booyah.


    I’ve had a series of very vivid, realistic dreams. Sometimes it seems that they’re totally random & don’t have any special significance… but these dreams make it seem like some action &/or response is required. Gotta pray.


    More & more, I am understanding the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…”


    Stargate Universe was ok. Seems like the creators have taken a page from the BSG playbook. I’ll watch again this week & see how it goes. You see it? What’d you think?


    Nap time.

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    …October Friday

    I’m reveling in the joy that is Friday morning. A little extra sleep. Morning coffee with theBean. Catching up on some blog-rolling. Making sure my 8 fantasy football rosters are complete (its the 1st week of the NFL season with BYE weeks, don’t you know…?) Enjoying the coolness of autumn mornings.


    I like how October feels in the morning. Its distinctly different in its feel & smell. The pleasant crispness of the day, which is not the BITING cold that November brings, but is perfect for wearing my new Snuggie™. Theoretically.


    We’re off to beautiful downtown Stockton today – Pasty has a game against Franklin, & we’re making a family voyage of it. I’m already foreseeing a good time being had by all. Road trips mean stops at Local Mini-markets & the rubbing of shoulders with Said Locals. Which = Fun. And I know IDoey will be getting chili-dogs, theBean will load up on sunflower seeds, & theWeez will aim for anything Sour Patch. And maybe I’ll have some McDonald’s Double-Cheeseburgers. The possibilities are endless.


    Re-reading some Sherlock Holmes. I almost forgot how much I enjoy the familiarity of the stories coupled with the keen observation & wit of Holmes.


    Softball season has ended none too soon. 1x/week since March, & the ball left a few indelible marks on me. Left hand got hit during BP in March. Still bruised. Right shin off of a bad hop in May. Still feeling that. Top of left foot from yet another bad hop last Monday. Achy & tender to the touch, which makes tying my shoes dis-comfortable. And un-agreeable.


    Pasty just came home – & theBean made him Second Breakfast. Funny. At least to me.

    the fun of getting presents in the mail…

    I’ve taken the 5 Love Languages quiz before, & also am a bit self-aware about what communicates love, sweet love, to me – mostly physical touch & words of affirmation.

    Still, there is nothing like coming home from a long day at work to find that there are Unopened Packages awaiting ones arrival. Today there were 3 boxes; 2 from Amazon, 1 mysterious unmarked (yet professionally wrapped enough to make me not sweat that Ted Kaczynski is striking again,) box. All with my name on them. Booyah.


    I’m a slooooww opener of stuff. Perhaps its to convince myself that the wrapping paper needs to be saved. However, that’s not it – in this situation, there wasn’t even any wrapping & I still managed to take For-ever to open. I started with the unknown (because, hey, if its from Amazon & comes in a box, its a book. Or DVD’s.)

    Turns out my buddy Rudy, a wine ‘broker’ in SF remembered my birthday with some fruit of the vine – a Malbec & a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Sweet. Nothing like unexpected signs of blessing showing up on my doorstep. Thanks Rudy.

    First box from Amazon – turns out it is a couple of Financial Peace books that theBean had ordered & BOOM had showed up the next day. Nice to have an Amazon hub in Fernley… So she was happy too. Vino & her books.

    2nd box from Amazon is the jackpot – FIVE (5) books by C.S. Lewis:

  • The Problem of Pain
  • A Grief Observed
  • Mere Christianity (my other copy got snaked
  • The Great Divorce
  • Miracles
  • All of which means – I will be reading tomorrow. Lucky me. And thank you.

    Wednesday in the afternoon, & I’m hungry…

    Just finished lunch – it came 3 hours too late, but why cry over an already eaten meal? What gets me is that even though I just ate lunch, I am already pining for dinner. And I’m not really hungry… just wanting to make sure that I plan adequately for the evening meal. It happens this way when theBean works her doubles – Tuesdays & Wednesdays – meaning we fend for ourselves. Not that we aren’t capable re-heaters of the delicacies known as Left Overs, but everything is better with theBean. If you’ve met her, you know what I’m speaking of…


    Talking with Chum today about life & stuff… like we normally do 1 or 2x/week. Don’t know where I’d be without the steadying, consistent encouragement & friendship of that guy.

    Got on the topic of Old Dead Guys – people we like to read – A.W. Tozer came up… Got to talking on the topic of leading within the context of church, & one of Tozer’s quotes:

    A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of external situations. Further, I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader.”

    That one really rings home for me – mostly because I don’t aspire to be ‘the pastor’ – the leader, the guy in charge. Yet through circumstances & as Tozer says, “inward pressure of the Holy Spirit,” I have consistently found myself in the spot where I’m holding the keys to the bus… Ok, guess its time to drive.


    Led to discussion on Tozer’s commentary… those who are ambitious to lead. Not sure if that person “gets” what leading is, cause if they did, would they have to try to make it happen?

    Brings to mind:

    Jesus said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 NLT

    And also:

    FRODO: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

    GANDALF: “So do all who come to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

    Hmmm.