Day 7 & 8 – Deutschland 2010 – Rest, Talks, & Study

Day 7, #2 –
Martin & Sandra came & picked me up around 8:30 p.m. to take me to one of Sandra’s favorite hangouts from her university days. It’s a wine & cheese bar around the corner from the U of Frankfurt, & it’s located in a cozy cellar lit mostly by candles. My kind of place.

We sat at a communal table, meaning there were other people seated at the same table as us, having their own little ‘date’ & going about their own evening. This is a pretty common practice (sharing the space) here, though it wouldn’t fly at home. I mean really, sharing a table with a stranger? Who does that? :) One might even make a new friend.

Had a chance to catch up with Martin & Sandra over a Spanish Navarra red wine; it reminded me of a great zinfandel. Martin ordered us pretzels (yes!) & a vorspeise (appetizer) plate that came with hummus, bread, sun-dried tomatoes, some white beans (don’t know what they were but they tasted good,) black & green olives, parmesan cheeze, & some salami. Ahh.

Interesting talks about our kids – their oldest daughter, (2nd grade) is facing some pretty tough stuff right now & has a classmate who is seemingly well-versed & connected in the occult; her mom is a practitioner of the dark arts. Sandra & Martin were trying to figure out what they could do to address the situation; they can’t just forbid their daughter from seeing the classmate because they can’t move her out of that class. So, we talked about praying for our kids &  “blessing & cursing” – speaking life, God’s protection, & physical/spiritual covering over their daughter; basically taking a firm stand in the spiritual world.

The night was over way too quickly, & they dropped me off around 11, just in time for me to crawl under the covers & go to sleep.

DAY 8 –

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the shutters on a German home; I mean the kind that you lower at night for protection, heat retention, & ‘blacking out’ the room. Well, I must have lowered the shutters all the way, because I slept until 10:30 this morning – there were no tell-tale rays of sun coming in to alert me that the day had arrived. Must have been tired as well. I do know that I dreamed quite a bit.  :)

Had my morning coffee, then prepared for my only appointment of the day, a visit to Koriander (the Italian restaurant that has a killer pepperoni/pineapple pizza) with Tobias. We had a great time getting to know each other better over lunch. A large part of our conversation deal with the Sabbath (he went to the seminar last Saturday.)

He also had a lot of questions about Foursquare – I’m finding that many pastors & leaders in the Foursquare Deutschland churches are looking for a global perspective, insight if you will, on the movement that they’re apart of. Each person that has asked me questions about the Foursquare family has stated that they’re incredibly thankful to be a part of something bigger than just them & their church. They want to hear the “family stories.” It reminds me a lot of my daughter, theWeez, asking my mom to tell her stories about her own life growing up, & about the family & how it came to be like it is. These questions, (& the stories that follow,) give a piece of solidity & groundedness to us, & build a bit of confidence about our ‘world’ & our place in it. If that makes sense. It does to me. :)

I’ve walked Leipziger Strasse at least 100 times in my life – never have I seen what I saw today: Jacque’s Wine Shop. I stumbled into it & found a collection of wines from all over the world… except the USA. I’d been planning on going by the Aldi or the Penny Markt, to buy wine for Julia’s family for when I see them on Saturday, but Jacque’s provided a better alternative with a great selection. The pictures don’t do the store justice, but I think I was making the proprietor nervous. I know one of the other customers just about lost it when I pulled my phone out to take pictures. He gave me the Look of Doom, & shook his head at me just like my old German teacher Frau Carson used to do in order to show her displeasure at my inability to put the verb in the right place in the sentence. Ah, dear Frau Carson, I do miss thee.

Ended up getting a Spanish Tempranillo/Crianza for Eddy & Laura, & an Italian Primitivo for the family Kern. I could have spent a couple of hours (& a couple hundred euro) in Jacque’s but alas, I needed to get home so that I could study for my speeching on Saturday & Sunday.

Spent the afternoon/early evening going over my notes for “Foursquare Friends Day” – a multi-church celebration in Engstingen where I get to share ‘my heart’ – meaning what I believe is important & close to God’s heart. I’ll be talking at least 2 times (about 45 minutes a shot): the first will be about the Monday Morning Church; the second is about living the Spirit-filled life… which is HOW we live as the Monday Morning Church in the 1st place.

Sunday, I’ll be in Ottersweier (where Julia lives) & talking from John 13:34,35 about living a simple life. And Julia gets to translate for me. That will be some good fun. :)

The time flew by, & I ended up studying for several hours… it got dark & the rains came again. But by the time I finished my studies, I needed to get out & walk – so I did, rain & all. The rain & cold have left my right knee achy,  especially where the screw from my ACL repair goes into the bone.


Getting out & walking helps a bit & keeps most of the stiffness away. I had hoped for some running, but I’m not nearly hard-core enough to run in the dark, rain, & cold. :)

Green Stuff, Hezekiah, a new coffee gadget, & other musings…

Last week, theBean decided to try to cook a couple more times than usual – & found her inspiration in the Rachael Ray magazine. This has meant trying to marry the ‘adventure’ of new foods (& familiar ones prepared in the not usual way,) with being economical & wise with the food budget. (Cause really- is it really gonna break the recipe to not use the organic ingredients? Really? But I digress.)

Normally, I’m not a big fan of change when it comes to food – & I must admit that I have been known on occasion to resemble the proverbial stick in the mud. However, it’s amazing what a good attitude & a ‘setting of the will’ can do. And the meals theBean is creating have been amazing. Last night we had Jalapeño Bacon Avocado Burgers, with a cheesy-Jalapeño ‘sauce’ (the ‘ ‘ around the word sauce are because I have no idea what it really should be called. It was sauce-like. But thicker. Saucy even, about the consistency of ketchup, but white. Ish.) Between the burger & the sauce was Green Stuff. Cilantro. Diced avocado. Not sure what else.

I’m not usually a fan of Green Stuff (other than lettuce & broccoli,) but I set my will to eat the food, & I didn’t taste the Green Stuff, at least in a negative way. You know what I mean – like when you taste a food & just wait for the punch line… the moment when the ‘yuck’ taste hits the taste buds & one has the OK to spit the food into the trash. It never happened. I must be growing. Hmm.

Got to watch a great Giants/Dodgers game last night. Not a pitchers duel, or a great performance by Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum – but a victory for the Giants. Over the Dodgers. And Giants victories over the Dodgers are worth about 3 regular victories in my mind.

Brother got an Aeropress. I think it was for his birthday last week. More than just Another Novelty Coffee item, it makes a great cup of coffee. And is fun to use. And easy to clean up after using. Unlike my French press, which is so messy that I have to psych myself up to actually make coffee in it. Not that the coffee in the French press isn’t good; the mess is a big deterrent. And there aren’t many sights (& smells) worse than finding the still-messy French press 2 weeks after the last time it was used. Trust me on that.

Over the last week, I’ve been reading in Isaiah, 2Kings, & 2Chronicles – today was the ‘perfect storm’ – all 3 passages I read dealt with the same story & events: the Assyrian threat against Israel & King Hezekiah, & Hezekiah’s response. (FYI: the passages are Isaiah 36 & 37; 2Kings 18 & 19; & 2Chronicles 32.)

What really jumped out at me was the Assyrian attempt to incite Israel to leave their land (God-given inheritance) through threats, fear, & intimidation. Threatening all sorts of mayhem. Promising that they (the Assyrians) would do such damage to Jerusalem that there would literally be nothing for the Israelites to eat except their own waste & filth. Trying to intimidate the masses with booming broadcasts of doom & gloom to all within earshot. Writing letters to the king, detailing the coming destruction.

And Hezekiah’s response? He took one of the letters he’d received & went into the temple. There he laid the letter out before the LORD & prayed:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

And the LORD delivered Hezekiah & Israel.

I felt gently convicted… knowing that my response to real/perceived lack, threats of doom & gloom, & even the unknown, can be to worry. Be anxious. To run through all the potential bad things, worst case scenarios, that could happen.

Hezekiah prayed. Reflected on God’s promises for provision. Protection. Hope. Deliverance.

In my minds eye, I get the picture of Hezekiah in the temple, kneeling before the LORD with the threatening letter on the ground in front of them – & Hezekiah crying out, “LORD, have You READ this? Have You heard what they’re saying about us? About YOU? What are You going to do about this?

God hears. And responds. And He still does today.

SOAP, Isaiah, family, & other musings…

A few months ago, I felt impressed to amp up (increase, broaden, deepen, expand) my Bible reading. I started adding ‘reading breaks’ of a few minutes several times during the work day, times when I might normally be checking my email, or practicing my vuvuzela… & then followed up each reading with reflection. Thinking on what I’d read. Asking the Holy Spirit to apply it to my life. To seek out all the places in my heart, mind, & life that need a touch from Him. To transform mindsets, attitudes, & behaviors that subtly (or not so subtly) stand against, resist, or even oppose God’s purposes for me.

And I’m seeing LIFE. I’m getting woken up before 5, no alarm necessary. Waking up feeling rested & restored, excited to take on the day, looking forward to my reading & reflecting. Looking for opportunities to interact with others about the stuff that God is stirring up in me. Feeling a renewed love & hunger for the Word.

Reading through Isaiah 25 this morning – a prophetic passage talking about the end times. These chapters of Isaiah have a definite Revelation feel & sound to them, with familiar themes like the fall of the nations that have resisted/opposed God’s redemption; judgment; the fall of Babylon; perseverance; salvation.

A section of Chapter 25 really jumps out at me:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; & the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, & the reproach of His people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice & be glad in His salvation. Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV

Very cool – God throws a feast to celebrate, with the best meats & wines, specially chosen & prepared by Him! And the recognition that this is God’s favor, His salvation come to humanity, to those who waited for Him.

Reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 40 that talks about ‘waiting on the LORD’ – & that those that wait on the LORD will renew their strength… And that waiting isn’t passive inactivity (like sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.) No, its consistent, active obedience to the things I know to be doing. The confident expectation that God is at work, will be at work, & is acting on my behalf. Sweet.

Pasty has been in Cookeville, Tennessee with Alex & her family since 7/1. Kind of a senior trip, complete with a houseboat trip & a Florida vacation – before he comes back & starts college in the fall. He’ll be back 7/26. And I miss him this morning.

TheWeez is at Middle School Camp in Sonora, meaning theBean & I are down to 1 kid – IDoey. He’s got summer weights & football every day, so life for him revolves around sleeping, playing, & eating whatever he can get his hands on.

Last night before bed, he came to tell us goodnight. He grabbed both theBean & I & said, “Family hug!” He looked at both of us while he hugged us & exclaimed, “Isn’t this great!?”

I’m pretty sure IDoey enjoys the life of an only child.

For some reason I was thinking yesterday about the Christmas song “Away In A Manger”… there’s a part of the song that says:

the cattle are lowing/the baby He wakes/but little Lord Jesus/no crying He makes

That never made any sense to me – the cows are making a bunch of noise & wake up the baby… but the baby doesn’t cry. Of COURSE the baby cries. That’s what babies do when they get woken up, especially by cows.

I think we like the idea of a baby that isn’t like other babies; one that doesn’t cry when woken up suddenly… in the same way we like the idea of Jesus being a man that wasn’t like other men – who wasn’t subject to the same feelings, thoughts, temptations & frailties that we are, yet who persevered through them to be obedient to the call on His life to be Redeemer & Saviour to the world.

I think we’re uncomfortable with Jesus’ humanity.

NEWSFLASH! U2 has published the dates for their rescheduled North American tour. June 7, 2011. Oakland.


Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #10

Eddy asked me to talk to the TPLF ‘team’ on the topic of developing a culture of love, acceptance, & forgiveness. In preparing for the talk, I was studying my notes & reviewing all the life lived, highlights (& otherwise ☺) from the last 10 years at Hillside. Thinking back, I get weepy, pondering the cost of attempting to figure out just what that “love, acceptance, & forgiveness” looks like, lived out in the lives of fallible, imperfect people.

Trying to condense it into a 25 minutes window almost seemed impossible… but then it’s not. At this point, I think that while I (& we. Yes we,) are still a work in process, there is enough water under the bridge, the development of God’s purposes for me (& us. Yes us,) that talking to the TPLF’ers about this seems simple…

I found it spilling out of the overflow of what’s getting more & more bubbling up in my heart. I started by defining culture as a ‘set of shared attitudes, values, goals, beliefs, & practices…” & rolled on from there to HERE.

Living out love, acceptance, & forgiveness is costly… in that its risky & feels ‘dangerous’ because of the personal & corporate vulnerability that results. It’s also freeing, as it seems like living with no net, with a deeper & more reliant (desperate) need for cooperation to what God-the Holy Spirit is doing in & around us. Cause really, living love, acceptance, & forgiveness is simply putting a human suit on God’s heart & purposes for humanity.

On another note, evidently I had taken a picture at the Sunday coffee party at the Dueck’s house that had caught Aris’ beautiful girlfriend with her eyes closed. So, I’m posting another one that I snapped last night to make up for it. Very, very sweet.

After the meeting, Eddy & I were invited by a couple of people to head over to a place called “Loonas,” a kneipe (restaurant/pub) run by an Italian guy named Gianni (Johnny) right around the corner from the famous Bistro Sahin. Hung out there for a while, talking about times when we’ve been embarrassed by saying something in our mother tongue, not knowing that there was someone nearby that understood it… good times. Embarrassment & the gift of putting ones foot in ones mouth – truly a universal trait of the human race.

Gianni was quite taken with us, partially because it was the 2nd evening in a row that we’d been there… & business was pretty slow. I ordered a Maisel’s Weissbier from Austria. The hefe glass it came it was incredible, so much so that I asked Gianni if he had any for sale. He got a big grin on his face & went & grabbed one from behind his counter – & said, “For you, the American guy, it’s free. Just promise me one thing: don’t EVER put American beer in this glass. If you do, it will BREAK!” We all had a good laugh at that, & I’m coming home with a great souvenir reminder & sign of God’s blessing & favor. Booyah!

I’ve spent today meeting with a couple different people – for breakfast & then again for lunch. The last two days I haven’t been able to walk as much as I would like, so I took the U-bahn to the Hauptwache (main station,) where the outdoor mall (& the KatherinenKirche is, where we did the Leben ist Schoen outreach in 2007.) Walked up & down the mall, looking for a new shoulder bag. (NOTE: a shoulder bag is different than a man-purse. I can’t explain all the nuances of it, but you’ll have to take my word for it, especially if I ever actually pull the trigger on buying one.)

Been using a borrowed (& flimsy) backpack on the trip, & the more I wear & use it, the more my upper back & neck hurt. I’m at the point where I’m looking to spend money to deal with the pain, which should tell you that its become a nuisance… I’ve tried adjusting the straps etc. but to no avail – hence the search for a bag that would be easier to support, & more evenly balanced. Your prayers for healing (& relief!) are greatly appreciated.

Anyway, it’s been raining for most of the day, so I put my hood up, thanked the LORD that theBean had made me take my rain jacket, & walked. And shopped, which consisted of me looking into the stores as I briskly went by each of them. If anything caught my eye, I’d wander in for a few, & then get out as quick as possible. Truly, I am skilled at this. Oh yes.

Found about 4 different, very, very manly shoulder-bags, complete with the imprint of a manly sporting goods company on it. Thinking about colors at this point, & may take the plunge & actually get one tomorrow. Just sayin…

I’ll be snagging a spare umbrella for the walk to TPLF tonight for Flying Ducks (College Group). Aris, the leader of the Ducks, asked me to bring something challenging, so I’ll be speaking from John 8, talking about the difference between BELIEF in Christ & being a DISCIPLE of Christ. Hillside-ers would most likely recognize the text & the substance of the message as we spent a good weeks on the topic in our Living as a Christ-follower series… Good times.

Something I’d like to ponder & work through later deals with a topic that has come up repeatedly over the last 10 days: fatherhood. I’ll put a “,” there & we’ll get back to it soon. Gotta study a bit, rest for 20, & then head over to TPLF.

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.

    there & back again… Friday musings…

    I spent the 1st part of this week in Los Angeles… San Dimas, if you want to get specific… It’s the home of Bill & Ted, as well as Life Pacific College. I had the good fortune to be able to travel with Brother, & to hang out with some dear friends, both of whom there is years of history. Had gut level talks… listened… laughed a lot. Discovered a great pub, on St. Patrick’s Day to boot, one that specialized in Belgians… the set up of the pub reminded me a lot of the ‘traditional’ Frankfurt/Sachsenhausen restaurant, albeit with a long, tall table instead of a standard one. Great times.

    On that note, Brother & I stayed in the dorms – Floor 3 of Bldg D, #315. Through a series of negotiations that I shall not get into here I ended up with the top bunk, which was a great gig once I found a way to actually GET to the top bunk. Ended up having to climb up the desk/bookshelf & then launch myself up & over the rail. It was quite the experience. Not as comfy as sleeping in my very own bed with my very own theBean, but it was cool – esp. with the novelty of sharing a room with buddies.

    One of the highlights for me was sitting in on classes – Pentateuch/Torah, where the class was in the beginnings of working through Leviticus – talked about the theme being “Becoming who we are” – never heard it described that way. In light of that, the rituals (ceremonies, practices, daily reminders) lose their strange-ness, & take on a special quality… seeing a people be-becoming… learning to step into their calling & identity. Nice job David.

    The other classes we went to were Biblical Preaching & a Youth Ministry seminar class, with 7 students who are already out & about involved in youth stuff. The professor had to go to a “meet & greet” for about 40 minutes, leaving Brother & I to talk to & with the students. It was a highlight, & really sparked me to remember how much I enjoy ‘school with a purpose’; learning, growing, being challenged in my thought processes, having to formulate new ideas & new conclusions. Good stuff.

    One of the other reasons Brother & I were there was to explore some distance learning ops – not a whole lot has surfaced, but in some way we’ll be back at school, if only from afar.

    It also spurred on & reignited some old ideas for a local institute within our church family – we’ll see.

    At youth group right now we’re talking about “Image & Identity” – reflecting on the fact that we’ve been made in God’s image. We aren’t mistakes. Individually, we’ve been marked as God’s masterpieces, unique, special, & well-made, really coming to life in all of its fullness as we embrace who God made us to be.

    And the enemy of that are the forces that exist to conform – reshape us, using a ‘1 size fits all’ approach. Its easy to look outward, to the country & culture that we’re living within… with its ideas about beauty, acceptable body shape, what to eat/drink, how to live… with the pressure to conform & take on behaviors & an ‘acceptable’ outward appearance to really fit in with those around us, even though it means living inauthentically based on someone else’s version of what I’m supposed to be & do.

    I was talking to a friend yesterday about this, & what came up was the sneaky & insidious way this same type of thing exists within the Church… where the pressure to become a ‘good christian’ with approved & authorized ‘good christian behaviors, thoughts, characteristics, & preferences’ can seemingly force us into a mold where we’re just as focused on the outward appearance, going through the motions of living this ‘good christian life’ in order to gain the approval of others within the Machine. All in the name of becoming a disciple. But WHOSE disciple? Faking the funk, putting on a show that we’re outwardly ok, while dying on the inside – living in a virtual prison of not wanting to do the WRONG thing, leaves us undeveloped, immature, & fearful. Is this the ‘life in all of its fullness’ Jesus came to bring? Don’t think so.

    Worse, the longer we go, the more difficult it can be to break out – because the longer we live the lie, the more fear & shame piles up, trapping us in a cycle of inaction.

    Makes me think… The enemy isn’t always out THERE.

    I’m stoked. Tonight, we get to go to Carson to hang with the Locke clan: brothers & fams. My dad’s birthday is tomorrow, & to celebrate, we’re gathering tonight for a Giant Apple Pancake (GAP.) Let me ‘splain.

    Back in the day, momentous occasions in our household meant going to Johnny Ascuaga’s for a GAP – its a monstrous, dense, battered concoction, smothered with apples, cinnamon, butter, & powduhed sug-ah, then topped with syrup. The batter itself has to sit out for a day, & it takes at least 20 minutes to cook, & involves a ‘flipping of the Pancake” that can (& sometimes did) result in disaster. Going to Johnny A’s meant an adventure, not knowing if our delicacy would actually make it to the table intact, but that if it did, we were going to eat & eat well, at least until the sugar coma came on.

    At some point, Johnny A realized that the GAP was more trouble than it was worth – to him at least – & stopped serving it. He did, however, put the recipe out for the adventurous soul that would try to recreate the greatness of the GAP.

    My dad, being the brave soul that he is, took up that challenge, & over the years has become quite the GAP maker. Chef-like even, producing GAPs that rival the best I ever had at Johnny A’s, marking great days, holidays, & just becauses with sweetness.

    But up until now, he’s the only one that knows what it takes to pull this off… I say until now, because we (me, brother Ben, & brother Moe & fams) have been invited to not only partake in the eating tonight, but also in the making, so that we too can carry on this great tradition of decadence. Ahh.

    Should be fun.

    Spring sports season is upon us. Pasty is in track. I-Doey is in baseball. TheWeez is a proper footballer (soccer to us ‘mericans) & I’m in softball. TheBean is breaking out her cheerleading outfit as I type… :)

    Life is beautiful. Tim & David, thanks for a great week.

    Yet more reminders that life is beautiful…

    Heard the news from Sister, & have been watching the news & reading the occasional PB Article, wondering if & when I would hear the ‘bad news’ that my snack of choice, Skippy Extra Chunky Peanut Butter was on the roll-call of salmonella laced products. Alas, nothing yet.

    And so, today, I celebrate with a spoon, a jumbo jar of Skippy, a plethora of Hershey’s semi-sweets, & a fresh-pressed cup of java. Ahh. Life is beautiful.

    And if that wasn’t enough to bring me joy… all I have to do is walk into my office, & more often than not, meine Nichte, Ellie, is usually around to bring joy, a steady stream of yet unintelligible words, & a unstoppable quest for nanananana… here she is sitting at my desk reading my Bible… Ahh. Again….life is beautiful…

    Last Saturday was the Memorial service for Francisco Aranda. I spent the majority of the time at the memorial cracking up over memories… discussions, my attempts to practice Spanish, stories about pre-Disneyland Anaheim, & my favorite, Francisco’s very practical take on theology… I’m truly happy that we have a hope past just what this life offers, as well as the promise that we’ll see each other again. His family has put together a memorial website & online guestbook – check it out HERE.

    Missions Development… #5

    I decided that if I wanted to know what was going on, I needed to ask more questions & ‘put myself’ in the know on what was happening – not leaving it up to chance that I would find out, which meant taking on a more active (vs. passive) role in our travels – something that was uncomfortable for me to do, esp. as I saw myself as a ‘sidekick’ on the trip, not as the leader, coordinator, or planner. But, I was nervous, & being out of my culture/context in the UK had been tough enough – now we were headed to a place where the primary language spoken wasn’t English; it was German. I had known that we’d be able to stagger through just about any situation in the UK with a modicum of difficulty (which we’d proved by surviving a little ‘run-in’ we had with a policeman at a roundabout.)

    I had no idea or assurance that we’d be able to do the same in Germany. None of us spoke German, & I/we had very little idea of what was coming. A few questions helped me discover that our plans for Frankfurt & the Foursquare Europe conference had been made ‘tentatively,’ which meant:

  • Somebody should be there at the airport to pick us up & make sure we get to where we’re going.
  • We don’t know the identity of that somebody, or have any phone numbers or contact information in case the ‘somebody’ doesn’t show.
  • We know that there will be Foursquare pastors & leaders from several countries in Europe, so there should be plenty of good opportunities for connecting.
  • We’ll be there for a couple of days.
  • That’s it.
  • Ouch. I should have known this might be the case, esp. because I knew that our leader’s life motto was “it’s all good.” (Truly, which is really funny looking back on the situation. In the middle of it, not so much ☺ …) It would have been prudent to have insisted on getting some details in advance of going; but now we were in it, so rather than get aggro, start accusing & assigning blame for the situation we were in, it was time to communicate – to get on the same page – to do what we could to prepare for the unknown. So we talked – & all took responsibility for helping us to navigate through the remainder of the trip until the point where we got home, me to my wife & 3 kids, all of whom I was missing more & more every second.

    Our arrival in Frankfurt, traveling through customs, & getting our bags were all uneventful… it also brought us to the point of no return, the unknown. We headed into the main section of the terminal, which borders the baggage carousel room, & started walking. With no known destination. Just looking for somebody. I prayed. Hard.

    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy holding a sign with 1 word on it: ICHTHYS. From a missions video about Foursquare Germany that I’d seen in 1989, I knew that there was a American who’d planted a church in Germany, & that it was called ICHTHYS. I also knew that the word ICHTHYS was one that all kinds of churches & groups used – but I didn’t care. I grabbed my 2 traveling companions (as the other 2 mysterious travelers were… somewhere. No idea where they were for the entirety of our time in Germany,) & went over to the guy with the sign & asked: “Are you looking for some Americans to take to a Foursquare conference?” He was. YES! The elation I felt at that moment was indescribable. There was a tangible sense of encouragement that swept over me, a reminder from God that He was with us. That He was answering our prayers. And through all of the messed up, nebulous travel plans & snafu, He was in the middle of it, with us. With me. Yay. I hugged the guy, which I’m sure must have freaked him out.

    He took us on a series of trains. We changed 3 or 4 times, & then he told us we’d have about an hour to get to our destination: Fulda. A-ha. While my other traveling companions talked happily amongst themselves, I pumped our guide for info, & asked him everything that I could think of. It turned out that the guy was just going to be our guide to the conference; he wasn’t staying, & knew nothing about what was happening, other than he was to deliver us to the conference center, & that the only people at the conference center (aka: a hostel) would be people who were attending the conference. Ahhh. Nice. I allowed myself to let down, & noticed that I’d been on edge for as long as I could remember. For the first time in days, I knew rest & a bit of peace.

    The train station in Fulda was only a short walk (translation: a mile or 2) from the hostel – I can remember walking up the hill towards the hostel, just as twilight was settling in. It was beautiful… & there were small groups of people hanging around outside. And they were smoking. Chain-smoking. Almost all of them had a beer or a drink in their hand. As I made my way inside, I saw the main meeting room, & it was full of people, many of them speaking English (because of the multitude of nations represented, the main language used between people of other nations was English. Yes!)

    All around the room, the clusters of people were engaged in deep talks. And many of them were drinking too. I can remember thinking, “I thought that everyone here was here for the conference… hmm. Guess not.” In retrospect, it cracks me up, not because I was mortified at being around people who were drinking, or because I had something personally against drinking; its just that my experience with Christians & the church was that no one drank even the smallest amount of alcohol or smoked in public… esp. not pastors.

    After we found somebody to help us get registered, & I found the room where I’d be sleeping, I went down to the main meeting room to mingle. And to see if I could find some of the other attendees for the conference. I found the lady who registered us & asked her if she could tell me where the rest of the people for the Foursquare Europe conference were? She looked at me, puzzled, & waved her hand around as if to say, “they’re all here, all around. You’re in it.”

    I laughed, the kind of laugh that comes deep from within. It was my response to the very real ‘culture shock’ that I was experiencing firsthand. I laughed because I was being confronted with a situation so different from my past ‘church’ experiences… different from everything I’d been taught & everything I’d learned by observation about what real holiness & righteousness was… here were men & women that obviously loved God & were giving their lives in the context of pastoring… & they were also drinking beer & wine, in public even. I laughed because in that moment, I was hit with the realization that much of my experience with God/Christianity in the US had had an American cultural basis & bias… which was something that I’d sensed & been wrestling through for years.

    Over the years, I’d observed that a large chunk of the American Christian world believed that drinking of any sort was the kind of thing that people needed to be delivered from… for many, 1 beer was at the very least a gateway to all sorts of bondage & trouble for the ‘drinker,’ & at most was a stumbling block being placed in the way of others, tripping them up with a ‘false sense of freedom.’ I knew of people on staff at churches & attending Bible colleges, that had to sign pledges saying they wouldn’t drink even a little.

    I’d read the Bible & knew, deep down, that drinking beer, wine, etc. wasn’t the real issue & didn’t make someone more or less holy – & that the real issue was with a lifestyle of drunkenness. (If you’re brave &/or a glutton for punishment, you can read a series of blogs I wrote on the topic of Christians & alcohol HERE.) I also knew that, at home, in my city, I felt it was ok for me to drink beer (didn’t like wine at that point,) but also ‘knew’ that I was supposed to keep it quiet, & that many, many were against it. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, or drink where people might see me doing it, & ‘be caused to stumble.’

    But in a moment, I felt a freedom, I felt a burden lift – & knew that if I was going to be authentic, be real, then I would be the same person all the time. Contending for freedom (NOTE: not being ‘pro-alcohol’, which I have been accused of, but that’s for another story,) & also not submitting to a yoke of slavery hidden by self-righteous religiousness.

    I laughed because I felt the presence of the LORD. And a joy. And a renewed perspective on me, my life, & the journey I was on. And I knew that I was glad that I was in Germany. And that God, & the kingdom of God were bigger & ‘more real’ than I’d ever imagined.