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.


Day 3 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Revolution of the Soul

I woke up early today, mostly due to the 24-hour road construction that began around 11 p.m. last night. The City of Frankfurt U-Bahn/rail system is taking out the pavers that surround the rails in certain parts of the city, & replacing it with asphalt. The “perfect storm” has happened & the next few days have the section of street in front of the Dueck’s home getting asphalt-ed. Fortunately I made it to about 5 a.m. before the backhoe in the street woke me up by dumping pavers into the metal dumpster 10 meters from me. I have to believe that the LORD gives sweet sleep to those He loves.:)

Had coffee & prayer with Eddy, then we headed over to the rooms that TPLF had rented for the “Revolution of the Soul” seminar – it was truly a great space in a phenomenal building. It reminded me a lot of the building in  “The Office” episode where Michael falls into a koi pond. Because it had a KOI POND Booyah. Major excitement from This Guy.

The seminar went well – I told my own story of God’s dealing with me about the Sabbath. Talked about being thankful & content. The affect of adrenaline & stress on the body, & the built in need for rest we have. The talk about adrenaline & stress probably got the most response – it seemed that many had never really heard how our bodies work – that when we have a ‘high demand’ time where we produce a lot of adrenaline to meet the demand, it’s followed by a ‘low time’, which is our bodies natural resting & restoring property – though during the rest & restoring time we usually feel “blah.” Irritated. Down. Like something is ‘off’. And all it is is the ‘normal’ process that our body uses to heal itself. It just feels so different from the ‘on,’ adrenalized, up version of us that it feels something is wrong.

With Christians it can be worse, because in the down times, we think something is wrong with us, & that we’re doing something wrong. So we try harder to ‘get right’. Pray more. Read more. Do more. Thinking that it will cause our ‘low’ to turn around.

One lady shared with tears in her eyes that for the first time she realized something WASN’T wrong with her when she experienced her post-adrenaline lull. That it was just her body recovering.

I had a lot of fun today, in part because the majority of people there were from TPLF &/or were people I’ve known for many years. It was very gratifying to be able to share with others  something that God has used so powerfully to work inside of me. Also, dear Julia! who lived with us for almost 6 months, drove for 2 hours from her home to be there. I love that girl. What a special treat!

At the end of a long day with way too much of me talking, I am spent. Looking back, I would do things a lot different today, most notably have more opportunities for people to interact amongst themselves. Still, it went very, very good. Eddy was on his way to a kindergarten party, so he dropped me off at the house. I Skyped the beautiful Bean, (I miss that woman!) & then made my way down the street to the corner Pizza Parlor for a pepperoni & pineapple pizza with a dunkleweizen. Ahhh. Life is beautiful.

Tomorrow is church with our TPLF family. I can’t wait.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #7

Woke up around 8:30 to the heavenly smell of coffee & homemade cinnamon rolls; Laura is an amazing cook. Just sayin. Evidently, I’ve taken to saying, “Tasty!” so often in response to our meals that Taylor (6) & Elliot (3) the Dueck’s 2 oldest boys, have started using the word as well. Now just to get Max (2) saying it too…

Sitting around the counter eating, the personalities of the 3 boys come out. Makes me think about how very unique the experience is to be growing up as a pastor’s kid… having people in your home all the time… with church days not just ‘going’ to church but ‘running’ it… I’m reflecting back on my own childhood, growing up ‘in the church,’ & also the experiences of my kids; wondering how & in what ways that has shaped their personalities & life outlook. Note to self.

Different service schedule today at TPLF: 1 song, then some announcements & ‘missions discussion’, followed by the speech – with the last 30 minutes or so being set aside for worship/response. The worship team was led by Kyong-he & Steve G… Kyong-he has got a voice that reminds me a lot of Kate Miner, & she is a very skillful & sensitive worship leader, in that you don’t ever really NOTICE her so much as simply FOLLOW her in worship through songs, spontaneous spoken praise, silence, & celebration. Steve is an Englishman living in Frankfurt, & is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a quick wit & ready story. He’s also incredibly willing to help in whatever way he can, & is a great example of how someone with the gift of evangelism has integrated into the ebb & flow of life in & around TPLF.

Today is the last of a 4 week series on the mission of the church – it’s interesting to me to see that though many things have changed, including the pastor of TPLF, the mission statement hasn’t.

    -Living for Jesus
    -Living for each other
    -Living for Frankfurt
    -Living for Germany & the World

The text I spoke from was Acts 8:26-40, about Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch/treasurer on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If you’re interested in hearing it, you can try to find it here. What really stood out to me about that portion of scripture is that “living for the world…” doesn’t always mean having to go to the far corners of the earth (ironic, I know, as I am writing this from Frankfurt, about 5500 miles from home.) The story of Philip is an example where the world has come to him – & he (Philip) responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit in starting a conversation with a man seeking to know God, & in turn, touches & helps change an entire nation.

To me, it’s not about aiming for greatness, or trying to be significant, let alone famous… its being available to serve, to obey, to be lead in a simple way to do whatever God puts in front of me to do… whether I can see the “WHY” behind it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice, & the real joy comes from gladly doing the will & purposes of God.

I really enjoyed having the worship/song/reflection portion at the end of the service – it gave a lot of time & possibility for listening & responding to the LORD… & also felt like a ‘good’ fit for the message & the day.

Its always great to be at TPLF & have the opportunity to renew the acquaintance of old friends, & to meet new people. Today was even better – my dear friend Anja came over from Mainz (about 25 miles away,) & Julia, the young woman from Aachen, Germany that lived with us for 6 months,) made the 2-hour trek by with her sister & a friend to be in the service. It’s hard to put into words the response that that kind of love evokes. What special & dear friends.

After church, several of us made our way to a restaurant just around the corner from TPLF – Koriander (formerly Zimt und Koriander – now under new ownership.) I think that they have great pizzas, so that’s what I got – a personal pepperoni & pineapple, complete with a dark Hefeweizen. Mmmm. That should get your mouth watering.

We walked from the restaurant, talking & catching up on the last few months – & navigated the short distance to Eddy & Laura’s house. They were having an ‘open house’ for any who wanted to come by & sample some of Laura’s baked goods & drink some tea or coffee. The house was filled with great smells, peals of laughter, & good talks. Aris & Steve had us all rolling with their witty repartee.

Too soon, it seemed, the afternoon flowed into the evening, & our friends had to make their way home, especially those that had traveled so far. It brought tears to my eyes to say goodbye to my friends, for whom I’m so thankful.

The family & I spent a quiet evening with a light supper (tasty!) & now the boys are in bed & I’m trying to catch up on the happenings of the day with news from home & Hillside. When I’m here in Frankfurt, I try to be “HERE”; while at the same time, I dearly miss my wife, my family, friends, & church family.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #6

I’m sitting at the desk in the office/guest room of Eddy & Laura, my home for the next 8 or so days that I’m in Frankfurt. The sounds of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” (check out it HERE) are ringing in my ears, accompanying the pealing of the bells of the beautiful Catholic church across the street. Just finished my studies for the speech I’ll be giving tomorrow as a part of the TPLF Sunday morning gathering. What an incredible day I’ve had.

I was so tired last night that I staggered into bed after homemade pizza & a couple episodes of Veggie Tales with the family. TheBean & I texted back & forth a bit, then I fell into unconscious slumber around 9:30 my time (if my last text was any indicator of an accurate time.) Woke up this morning at 8:30, feeling very refreshed. Thanks to Eddy, I had some great coffee & set about to try & blog, only to find that my site was temporarily down. No matter. Emails & my 4 fantasy baseball teams beckoned for attention.

I was excited – my dear friends Martin & Sandra were coming to pick me up & take me to breakfast… last November, I was hoping to see them, but due to some illnesses, it didn’t work out. With eager anticipation I waited… & when they arrived, I could barely contain myself for all the joy I felt at this reunion!

We walked the short walk to the cafe, dodging rain drops & catching up on the events & happenings of the recent past. It seemed like only a few moments before we were darting into the cafe next to the White Tower (no, LOTR nerd – not Saruman’s tower, the Bockenheim Tower.) Turns out it was a 10Euro, all you can eat breakfast from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. And can I get a “BOOYAH!” Goodness.

All of my favorite things were there – quark, blueberry & peach yogurt, fresh fruit, croissants, bacon & eggs, you name it. Sigh. We ate. And talked. And ate some more.

What fun to catch up talking – German & American politics; music (Sandra is a Dr. of Musicology with her very own Ph.D to boot,) food, families, church, forgiveness, marriage, parenting, & the list goes on.

Finally, we wrapped up our feasting, & decided to take a walk to try to cope with the copious amounts of food consumed. Went through various parks & small gardens, seamlessly navigating from topic to topic, one moment laughing hysterically, the next on the brink of tears. It was Awesome with a capital A.

Too soon, the morning came to a close as they dropped me back at La Casa de Dueck. Eddy & I spent some significant time discussing our ideas for the Sunday speech; I really wanted to hear what his heart is for me to communicate in TPLF. We had “coffee & snack time,” which only augmented the back & forth.

Eddy left me to finish my studies, & the family headed out into the garden (backyard) to play – the sounds of their laughing & fun brought a great deal of joy to me. I especially love hearing 2 year old Max call his brother Elliott by name. He says it with a lilting, “EllioTTT!” that always reminds me of the movie E.T. Truly good times.

Dinner is happening any minute. I’m savoring today, both the memories made, & those to come.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, #1-2

Sunday is a blur. TheBean whisked me away right after church to the airport, & we had the familiar experience of saying our goodbyes. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them.

Once I was alone in the airport, surrounded by strangers, the familiar travel-brain kicked in. Pay attention to the announcements. Check all the Departure screens. Check them again. Hurry up & wait.

The layover in San Francisco was a robust 4 hours 20 minutes – an unavoidable inconvenience due to United cutting back on a few of their Reno/SF legs. Fortunately, playoff hoops was on, & the Gordon Biersch restaurant was serving…

Finally boarded the plane, & made my way back to my assigned seat, praying all the way. Praying for what, you might ask? For a small human to occupy the seat next to me. With emphasis on the word small. Makes the long eastward bound ‘sleep’ flight that much easier to bear.

Turns out, the flight was 11 hours long, as it was re-routed due to the so-famous-its-INfamous Ash Cloud. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I did manage to fit in about 7 total hours of sleep, mostly broken into 1 & 2 hour chunks. Better than the alternative, & I shall get good sleep tonight! So say we all!

Tonight, (as well as the week of Saturday, 1 May – 8 May,) I am staying with Eddy & Laura Dueck; he’s the pastor of our sister church in Frankfurt – they just moved into their new home in February after a pretty extensive remodel & reshaping to make the flat ‘reflect’ them. Took a bit to just relax & get settled in… & to get reacquainted with the Dueck’s 3 boys – Taylor 6; Elliot 3; & Max 2. To say that they have an active house would be an understatement. :)

Read a little, & then took a walk through the streets of Bockenheim (think Bistro Sahin, Subway, the White Tower, & the Rewe,) they live only a few blocks away from TPLF. So with our sister church as my North Start point of orientation, I know exactly where I am now. Which means I just may Run Real Fast in the morning. On purpose.

Eddy & Laura put the boys down, & went to a birthday party – meaning I’m the ‘on-call’ sitter. No sooner had they headed out, than #1 son Taylor made his way into the office where I’m writing & hung out with me for a while, sharing the kinds of stories that firstborns everywhere can relate to. Of little brothers. Getting to do things First. Feeling like a grown up at 6.

I DO plan on awakening refreshed in the morning – & will meet with Eddy to discuss my itinerary for the next couple of weeks. Then in the evening at 6 p.m. (meaning Tuesday at 9 a.m. PST,) I’ll be headed to Mainz to visit with Jan & Susanna von WIlle, & the church Jan pastors, enChristo. There shall be barbecue. And interaction & talks. I’m looking forward to it – it’s a great privilege to be able to spend time with people in their town, living life with them, hearing their stories. I love this place & these people.

Reflecting on the value of encouragement, not living self-focused, practicing thankfulness & thanksgiving, & being relentlessly committed to following Christ with everything, in every way. Praying for my family. Blessing the new life in Hillside (New Life = growth & CHANGE if you didn’t know.) Wondering what Jesus will bring my way.

“The best laid plans of mice & men…” or “How I’m learning to roll with the waves…”

The best laid plans of mice & men go oft astray… Robert Burns – To A Mouse

I’m scheduled to fly to Germany on Sunday, 4/25, & this particular trip is something that I’ve been looking forward with great anticipation. April 27-30, I’m supposed to be meeting with pastors & leaders in Foursquare churches in & around the Rhein/Main area of Germany – to further relationships, to encourage them in their current life & church situation, & to be encouraged in return.

Probably the biggest thing I’d be doing is helping bring a deeper understanding & connection with the larger church family that we’re all apart of… to communicate & hopefully live out the core, the heart, purposes, & essence of what it means to be Foursquare, something that the Foursquare Deutschland national leader, Jan von Wille, believes to be especially important & timely for the German churches he oversees.

Connecting with, encouraging, & investing in pastors & churches in Germany is something that I’ve been doing for about 12 years now, & to be able to be a part of what is happening there is a real privilege, & is something that brings me great joy.

And then there’s an ash cloud. In case you’ve missed it, (& I know there’s a few who have, as I’ve spoken to you,) a volcano in Iceland has been erupting for the last week or so, steadily spewing volcanic ash into the atmosphere… which has resulted in most of Europe being ‘closed’ to any air travel, as ash is very damaging to airplane engines, often building up in them, causing them to overheat & stop working. Which is not a good thing.

Europe is closed? Hmm. Didn’t see that coming.

There is talk that the wind patterns may change this Thursday, allowing air-traffic to resume; & there’s also talk that the expanding ash cloud may result in disruptions off & on for the next 6 months or so.

My brain is all over the place rehearsing different scenarios… if it clears up this week & flights resume & I go, will I be able to make it back? What if the wind shifts, the ash continues? I find myself laughing out loud at the thought of talking to my friend Eddy, the pastor of our sister church, Treffpunkt Leben (Meeting Point Life): “Hey Eddy. Good news & bad news. Good news, If you need any help around the church, I’m in. Bad news, I’ll be staying with YOU for the foreseeable future.”

TheBean has weighed in… she would definitely prefer me living in Sparks with her. Thanks babe. I appreciate it.

In all of it, I’m praying for peace & clarity. And I’m rolling with the waves, yet firmly anchored.