Thursday, February 25, 2016

A song for crying

I'm sad.  I've been sad a lot this week.  Heavy, heart-breaking sadness.  I've cried more in the past four days than I have in a long while.  Here's why:

  • Sunday morning I woke to the news of a random, horrific crime in my lovely hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Eight people had been shot and 6 of them were dead. Senseless, sudden, horrific loss.  
  • I'm in a FaceBook group that chose this week to share some of their painful stories of past tragedies. I'm humbled by their courage and tenacity, but saddened by the many different wounds that scar our lives: disease, betrayal, natural disasters, death. 
  • I played piano for a funeral.  It was a celebration of a life well-lived, but also a reminder of the brevity of life and the pain of loss.
  • A friend has suddenly been thrown into a life and death struggle with a mysterious illness.  
  • My kids have been hurt.  I weep when they weep. 

Along with tears of sorrow, this song of lament and hope has been my walking music through the grief.  The slow, tearful tune was made famous by Whitney Houston, and the text is based on Psalm 116:1-2. Verse two is not on the recording here, but it gives me hope.

Listen.  Weep.  Be comforted.

I love the Lord, he heard my cry and pitied every groan.
Long as I live and troubles rise, I'll hasten to his throne.

I love the Lord, he heard my cry and chased my grief away.
O let my heart no more despair while I have breath to pray. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Confession:   Telling the truth about our sinful thoughts, words and deeds in the context of God's unyielding holiness and inexaustible mercy. 

Confessing can be embarrassing and hard.  But we've found ways to soften the blow.  
It's often easier to confess my sins in a group--standing in the safety of the congregation all saying together, "forgive us for what we have done and for what we have left undone."  It covers all the bases, but we don't get too explicit about it.

I also don't mind talking just to God in private prayer about my personal and particular sins.  After all, God already knows me so well that nothing is a surprise to him. 

Then along come public worship songs (and some well-phrased prayers) that expose detailed sins that are current and common to individuals and congregations.  Life-styles, choices, actions, apathy, words and silence that testify against us.  

And they are true. 
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?     Ps. 130:3
Yet, we sing them.  Aloud! Together and alone because  
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
  and that’s why you’re worshiped.    Ps. 130:4

This song awakened in me the reality of my own sins and my participation in the communal brokenness around me.  Singing it with the congregation during the celebration of communion alerted me to the context of God's amazing grace and forgiveness.  

Lead Us Back is written by Bobby Gilles and Brooks Ritter and found on the album Before the Throne from Sojourners Community Church. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Walking Music for the Lenten Journey

I tried not to be insulted, but how dumb do they think I am?
It was just days into the New Year and I knew full well that starting an exercise program was a good idea.  I also already knew that walking was good exercise.  Then the teenage actor looked into the camera lens and, with all sincerity, announced a genius strategy to make exercise more enjoyable:  listen to music while walking!  Seriously?!  He smiled as if he and his little ipod just invented the latest and greatest fad.  Nope, that credit goes to my generation.  We called it a “Walkman!”

Last Wednesday night, I was reminded of that exercise public service announcement as we took our first steps on the Lenten journey.  The songs provided a beautiful sound track to walk through worship.  With tender tone and thoughtful lyrics, they inspired me to be faithful in the disciplined journey through the Lenten season.

This year, I’ll share my walking music with you for the Lenten Journey.  Listen in and share how these songs inspire you to focus on intimacy with God the Father, Son and Spirit as we walk toward the cross and empty tomb. 

This first song puts me in a posture of humble learning:  "Holy Spirit, living breath of God, breathe new life into my willing soul."  Make me ready and willing to be changed and moved, "lead us on the road of sacrifice."

written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Lenten walking is a good idea.  Listening to good music can make our journey more meaningful.  Tell me how this song helps those first few steps of the walk.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Beautiful Last Day

What to do on our last day in the Netherlands?
Eat pannekoeken.

Drink Chocomel.  Think chocolate milk blended until it's as thick as pudding!

Bike to church.

Go for a Sunday drive.
Past the tulip fields.

Past the football stadium (the kind they play with the round black and white ball.)

Drive halfway across the country--that's about 90 minutes.
And walk the beach.

YES!  The beach.  Marina Lanting assured us that we didn't want to leave Holland without going to the sea.  She was right!  We had a beautiful sunny day--still cold and windy enough for coats and scarves, but sunshine and sand.

Share a drink.

Have a little more hot Chocomel with a lot of slagroom!

We tested the water...

and decided it was okay to put our feet in the sea.

We came back to Nijkerk in time for a special birthday dinner of pannekoeken--choose your fillings: cheese, ham, bacon, peppers, mushrooms, spinach or apple and syrup.

We celebrated Annemarie's Birthday with the Lanting family.  That's Annemarie in front in the grey sweater.

We were surprised that some of our new friends in Nijkerk were also invited so we could say goodbye.  That's Mia talking to Jurjen, Xan's daddy.  Xan and Mia were probably the only 2 Chinese kids in Nijkerk and guess what Jurjen's last name is... yup--Engelsman.
2 Chinese kids in the Netherlands named "Englishman"  I'm not making this stuff up!

Share a late night glass of wine with friends whom we will miss very much!
With Marike and Thijs Blok.  Marike is the warm-hearted friend who first invited us to Nijkerk.

With Marina and Jan Lanting who opened their home and hearts to us for these five weeks.

We closed the night with a prayer of thanks that God has brought us together in his own creative and wonderful way.  We hope and pray that this is not "good-bye", but just "tot ziens"  or "see you again!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ana's Essay on Corrie tenBoom

Here is Ana's report on Corrie tenBoom along with pictures of our visit to the tenBoom home in Haarlem a few weeks ago.

Last Sunday, April 15 was the anniversary of Corrie ten Boom’s birthday--which also happened to be the day she died.  Corrie ten Boom was born in 1892 in Haarlem, The Netherlands and died in 1983 in California.  Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, owned a watch shop in Haarlem.  He and his wife were loving Christians who often gathered people in their house for prayer.  They passed this faith and loving nature on to their children: Willem, Nollie, Betsie and Corrie. 

On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded Holland and began to occupy the country.  Hitler was trying to get rid of all the Jews so he made lots of anti-Jewish laws like making them wear a yellow star and not letting them have bikes or own a business or meet with Christians.  
The tenBoom family worked with the Dutch Underground to hide Jews from the Nazis.  They helped to hide Jewish people and move them on to safer places.  They also helped to get extra ration cards and hid these cards in their staircase.  

In order to hide the people, they built a compartment in Corrie’s bedroom.  It was small--about 8 feet long and 2 feet wide.  When we visited the house, I went into the “hiding place” with five other people and it was very crowded.  I could not imagine staying there for very long.

The tenBooms had a warning system in place to warn everybody who was hiding in their house about the Gestapo who often raided houses looking for Jews.  It took many practice runs to get everybody into the hiding place in about a minute.  To distract the Gestapo, someone would stall them so the Jews could hide.  
On February 28, 1944 the Gestapo came.  The tenBooms had been betrayed! Betsie pushed the alarm button.  Corrie was sick in bed in her room.  Suddenly, six people came running in and quickly crawled through a small opening in the closet into the hiding place.  They were four Jews and two Dutch underground workers. 
Meanwhile, on the floor below Corrie’s room, the Nazis had interrupted a prayer meeting.  There was a small sign in the window that said “Alpina.”  When the sign was in the window it was a signal to other Dutch Underground workers that it was safe to come inside.  Betsie knocked it out of the window, but one of the Germans put it back for her.  She didn’t dare move it after that.  Because the sign was still in the window, 16 more Underground workers entered the house that day and were arrested. 
Everyone in the house was arrested and taken to the local prison.  Casper was 84 years old.  He died 10 days later.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to the gruesome concentration camp in Ravensbruck, Germany.  They were put to work in a factory.  Betsie became sick soon after being put in that concentration camp.  Corrie and Betsie heard that lots of their family had been released.  But Betsie became so sick she had to be in the hospital.  She still had to work--this time she had to do knitting.  She died in the camp.
A few weeks later, Corrie was released and found her way back to Holland.  Later she found out that one week after she left the camp, all the women her age and older had been sent to the gas chamber.  
The six people in the hiding place had to stay in that small space for 2 days before being rescued.  They all got out safely.  One of the Jews was later arrested and died in a concentration camp, but three of them survived the war.  One of the Underground workers became a minister, the other one died in other resistance work. 
Corrie tenBoom travelled the word to talk about the experience and about her Christian faith.  
I learned about Corrie tenBoom through her book, The Hiding Place and by visiting her house.  I am amazed that Corrie survived the concentration camp because so many people died there. I am happy that her life was spared so that she could spread the word of forgiveness to many countries and people.  Here are two of her favorite quotes: 
There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.
God will enable you to forgive your enemies.
A plaque inside the Hiding Place


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gulliver's view of the Netherlands

Yesterday we visited Madurodam--a miniature version of famous Dutch sites all made to scale.  It's a tourist attraction that my parents took me and my sisters to visit when we were girls, now I got to take my mom and my girls to see the new and improved version.  After months of re-construction, it has re-opened to the public.

Here's a sample of the miniature sites and some of the actual buildings that we've seen in full size:

Train station and moving trains--it's how we are getting all over Holland.
Schipol Airport--with baggage carts and KLM planes
Utrecht's famous Dom Tower
with 465 steps to the top!
Madurodam's version of the Dom Tower
A row of canal houses at Madurodam

Actual canal houses in Utrecht
The cheese market in Gouda
Madurodam's version of the Gouda Town Hall
Actual "Stadhuis" in Gouda--one of the oldest in Holland
Who's miniature now?! That's Ana and Mia waving from the front of the Stadhuis to give a perspective of how impressive it really is!  
 We even met Rembrandt--one of the many famous Dutch artists!

Another Yummy night

On Saturday we learned yet another delicious way to spend an evening.  Actually, it resembled a unique combination form of cooking forms from both China and Botswana.

In China we enjoyed the "hot pot"--an electric kettle in the middle of a table with a bubbling spicy stew.  We threw raw meat and veggies into the liquid to cook it.
In Botswana, we loved the "braai"--meat, meat and more meat piled on the BBQ!
Put together the ideas of cooking at the table and having all sorts of meat and you have "creuset gourmet."  (sp??)
A plate full of meat ready for grilling
Our new friends, Lisette and Willem Jan Noordzij taught us how to use the mini creusett gourmet pans to grill our own food.

We ordered the tray of various meats from the butcher the day ahead.  On Saturday we all helped prepare the meal by making setting the table with salad, bread and sauces, making pancake batter and by dicing up the veggies.

We heated up the table-top burners-- then grilled and ate our way through the evening.  It's a traditional meal for Christmas--popular in part because it requires those gathered to have patience and take time talking with one another as you wait for your food to good.

After you've had your fill of meat, --or when the meat is all gone--
you can make an omelet or a pancake in the little pan before pushing back from the table.

What a great way to spend a night!