twelve, thirteen…

Saturday was Roundabout day – more like mini-compressed Roundabout day – our last two meetings (11/2007 & 5/2008) have been Wednesday p.m. through Saturday noon events – where people, mostly between 20 & 30, representing many nations of Europe (approx. 10) get together for a few days of intense worship, prayer, building & making friendships, & being encouraged to continue in their calling, with faith & courage, no matter the cost.

This year, due to some extenuating circumstances, it was condensed to one day, from 10-4, which of course meant that the people attending were 100% living in Frankfurt… a total of 12 of us came together & I believe that the purpose of Roundabout was fulfilled… there’s a lot firmer structure in existence now, & the roles of the leadership team are more defined. Next meeting will take place in 11/2009, with the intent of doing this 2x/year after that, May & November.

After Roundabout, we cleaned up the church, & then I hung out with Levent & Ines. Went to Ines’ ‘hometown’ called Koenigstein, & drank a coffee in a little cafe there. Then we headed to her childhood home & I got to meet her parents. What gracious people, very open & giving. They are both very handy – she makes jams & jellies, & all kinds of home-made baked goods; he makes his own ‘apfel-wine’ & is quite the wine-aficionado. I couldn’t leave without 2 jams. Very nice.

Levent wanted to give me a little taste of Turkey, so we went to a restaurant called “Manolya” which in Turkish means “Parsley.” We ate 2 sampler platters – one of vegetarian foods with lots of Turkish yoghurt, & one with a selection of meats… Some of the best meats I’ve had in a long time. Very nice. I’m very garlic-ey right now, as the main ingredient in most of the veggie foods was “knoblauch” (garlic.) Sorry theBean. Hope its gone before I get home.

This morning was church at TPLF – I was the guest speaker & talked out of Matthew 9:9-13 & Luke 18:9-14. Aris translated; its always a challenge to try to put the words I’m speeching on into complete sentences & thoughts so that the translator has something to work with & doesn’t have to wrestle with trying to guess what I’m saying. Overall, I think it went ok; a girl from SriLanka that has been in the church for about a year, searching & asking questions, gave her heart to Jesus. Cool beans.

I really enjoyed reconnecting with many old friends – & heard from many, many people: “Thank you for being here.” And also, “please thank your wife, kids, & Hillside for releasing you to be here. It is very, very important & meaningful for us.” I’m glad that the relationship between our churches is still growing, & that there has been a ‘recommitment’ to each other, in the face of TPLF’s pastoral transition. On that note, I’m also thankful for Eddy & Laura – the new pastors; pray for them.

This afternoon, a group of about 10 of us (the twenz) went to a stand-up pizza place. I got pepperoni-wurst & pineapple, & a good bier to wash it down – lots of talking & laughing over what was supposed to be the best pizza in Frankfurt. It was good. I’m looking forward to measuring it against Pizza Plus tomorrow night. :)

Came to Levent & Ines’ house for part 2 of the party. A variety of cakes & other sweets, hanging out with Aris, Levent, Ines, Alex, Linda & Evita, Alex’s ‘little’ sister (she’s 18.) A good time was had by all, & I really enjoyed my last day here with many good friends. As the group shrunk, we sat around the table, ate leftovers, & talked. Very nice.

They say that all good things must end, & so now I’m in the process of packing (& blogging!) so that I can get up at 04:30 a.m., drink a coffee or two, & head to the airport, where my plane takes off at 8 a.m. First to Chicago, then to SF, then home again. Reno. I can’t wait. Please pray for safe flight, good connections, & peace. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

Blessings to you.

10 Mai – coming to a close…

Today was our last time together – we spent the morning in worship & in our small groups – revisiting what it is that God has most impressed on all of us this week: individually, & for each other. We went around the circle & shared, then after each of us finished, we took time to pray for & confirm what happened this week – to ‘cement it’ in our lives while it is still fresh in our memories, before the tyranny of the urgent & the routine of the commonplace return to battling for attention.

To me, what stood out is the need to listen – to really discern what’s going on in the days & times we live in, then to respond appropriately. Most significantly, I have been encouraged multiple times that words carry weight – & somebody told me that something I’d said to them in August was still ‘ringing in their ears.” That the words we speak carry life – & that I have a responsibility & a gift to encourage – to impart courage. To build up, to strengthen, to give life. Reminds me of our studies in James 3 on the power of the tongue – this point was driven home time & time again.

I’m spending the rest of the evening with Alex & Linda – we ate dinner together (ciabatta bread & veggies) & sampled some of the New Clairvaux Petite Sirah. Later, we’re heading out for a night on the town…

9 Mai, Part Deux…

This a.m. we had a prayer time – one of the student leaders (Dudi from Frankfurt) thought it would be a God idea for all of the core team (of which I’m a part) to do nothing tonight – but that all of the student leaders to bring a ‘gift’ – a song, a psalm, a scripture, a prayer, something, that would be done for the benefit & building up of everybody there. Church.

There were prayers in Romanian; a couple of original songs (one in English, one in Japanese;) a poem; a bible verse reading; a game; 15 minute relaxation; communion shared (with bread & wine & lots of community union) a funny story by one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever heard talk – a great Finn with a booming, sweet voice.

It was amazing. A great day.

Now it is 1:15 in the a.m. so Hi Ho, Hi Ho, its off to sleepy I go.

9 Mai – lifting

Today we experienced a great lifting of the heaviness that I (& others) have been wrestling with for the last few days – it was obviously an opponent – the accompanying hopelessness, despair, & grief (w/o hope of an end) were telltale giveaways… as was the desire to separate & isolate ourselves & to pull away from relationship. My hosts had quite a time of it today – it even affected their puppy.

I spent the afternoon with Claudius, a dear friend from TPLF – coffee & a sunny day by the shores of the Main River… Truly, this is the life. All I was missing was the Bean & it would have been perfect.

I’m late to the next Round of Roundabout, so I’ll put a comma here & try to jump back in later –
Many blessings to you

8 Mai

We spent the day in today talking on “What is church?” in the context of two small groups, & a large group discussion. The point of all the talking wasn’t to try & come up with one, spot on definition of what church is – but rather to move beyond the idea of church being a set of programs, methods, & meeting locations – one of the ideas that I liked the best was the picture of the church being an embassy in a foreign land – complete with ambassadors…

For lunch we had pizza – which in Frankfurt usually means a very thin crust accompanied by a compilation of all kinds of things that you never thought you’d see on a pizza – like Tuna. Still, I happened to find one pizza topped by Salamiwurst & another with green & red peppers – I folded each piece 3x & then shoveled in mass quantities.

We’re just ready to eat dinner (it’s 6 p.m.) followed by worship & a ‘wrap up’ talk by Geert from Holland.

Thank you for your prayers –

What is Church?

Tomorrow a.m. (tonight for you at 12:35 in the a.m.) I will be facilitating a discussion on the topic: What is Church? The point isn’t to describe the institution so much as the mission – or the reason it exists.

The life context of the 25 attendees is radically different – in age, cultural background, country of origin, life experience, & perspective, so I’m expecting some interesting answers to the above question.

How would you answer it? If that’s not enough to get you blogging, then:

When you think “Church” what comes to mind? Why?

Talk amongst yerselves…

7 Mai…

I slept well, & woke up a couple of times in the night to see what time it was… only to find that I still had several hours of sleep available to me. Alex & Linda are on the 5th floor & have an incredible view from their extra large window. A double espresso & a trip on the U7 later, I arrived at TPLF for our 1st meetings with the Roundabout team.

TPLF is going through a very difficult time right now, as they have lost their pastor, a dear friend of mine (& ours) for an indefinite period of time – as I approached the building, I was overwhelmed with waves of grief… almost like a wet blanket that weighed me down & made it hard to walk. I sobbed for a period of time (I don’t know how long,) then went upstairs to the top floor. The people that make up the Roundabout core team that were able to be here are myself, Sam & Mirjam, Dan & Joy, Petra, & Geert, & We met for about 3 hours, & had a great time catching up. We talked about Roundabout, our schedule, & also how we are working through/processing our own grief & life struggles. A couple of highlights – I got to see my god-daughter, Rebecca Grace, & to hold her – she is very light, & always has the beginnings of a grin on her face. Plus, she can touch her nose with her tongue! Not bad for a 7 month old… She came to me right off (which her mum says she doesn’t normally do,) & was content for quite a while…

My belly was growling, & at 1 p.m., we made our way over to the Bistro Sahin for Doener Kebaps & mineralwasser, which is water with some light carbonation. Very nice; just like I remembered.

Sam & I talked for about 2 hours – sitting outside of the Bistro, drinking a coffee @ the “Illy”, taking a walk around the White Tower (by the U of Frankfurt) – we talked about family, marriage, church, personal calling, Sabbath & “pacing” e.g. walking vs. running through life, & also about navigating difficulties, & maintaining/cultivating integrity. I really like the opportunity to talk – & to have interchange of ideas – it reminds me that regardless of where we come from that there are many, many things that we can relate to because we’re both Christ-followers. It makes me thankful that in Christ we really have a depth & breadth of relationship that is based on values that aren’t personality or culture.

I am also very, very thankful to be a part of Hillside; & that you, my church family, are behind me & believe in & support me, not only at home, but also in coming to Frankfurt. I am so proud to be able to represent you, & to be able to know that I’m loved & am prayed for. And that Hillside is Jesus’ church, & that we’re on the way – becoming who God has shaped us to be. I’m getting teary writing this as I see your faces & think about the wonderful people that you are, & how special you are to me. I am overwhelmed with love & appreciation for you. Thank you for saying “Yes” to God’s process for your life – for being brave, filled with faith, to hear God & to obey Him, both personally, & as a church family.

Between the hours of noon & 4 p.m. are the lowest times for me – it’s the wee hours of the morning at home (we’re 9 hours ahead) so my body is screaming out for me to “obey’ & go lay down. But I resist, & stand firm, & drink lots & lots of java, hoping & praying for the time in the afternoon, usually about 5:30 p.m., when my body realizes that anywhere I am, its time to get up…

Tonight we’ll be eating dinner with all of the Roundabout participants – there’s even a couple of people from Romania… maybe I’ll break out my incredible knowledge of the Romanian language, which allows me to say a few words: Please; thank you very much; you’re welcome; I don’t understand; apple pie; French fries; two hamburgers. (Let’s just say I spent a LOT of time at McDonald’s on my trip to Oradea, Romania.) We have worship & prayer, then will take about 2 hours to get to know a bit about each other – as we describe a bit of our life ‘story’ – or what brought us to this place at this time. Then its home to Alex & Linda’s for a cold German beer & watching episodes of The Office. Dwight K. Schrute is funny in any language.

Tears are very near the surface for me – I find myself blinking them back all the time now… sometimes tears just come out, & I don’t know why.

It’s 5:30, & I’m emerging from my pseudo-slumber – I’m going downstairs to the erde-geschloss (ground floor) to mingle with the people that are arriving – you know how I love to mingle ☺.

Thank you for your prayers – & I will update as soon as I can.