28 April 2009

from one queen's day to another

30 April is Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) in the Netherlands. it's a lot of noise and a lot of people and the official day for trying to sell your old junk in front of your house.

18 May is Victoria Day (named after a former queen) in Canada. it's often used as an excuse to go camping or do yard work or just enjoy the coming of spring. there's often a lot of drinking involved, as well - although i'm pretty sure that's true about the dutch one, too :)

and i'm travelling from one queen's day to another. i leave Amsterdam early on 30 april (missing most of the crowds) and should arrive early enough in Canada to meet up with friends and travel together to a monastery in Michigan. and on 18 May after hopefully celebrating a lot with family, i'll be travelling back to Amsterdam, just in time to celebrate Ascension Day by going on a pilgrimage.

instead of saying that i'm travelling from one queen's day to another, i could also say i'm travelling from one monastery and community to another monastery and community. or better yet, that i'm travelling from one home to another and then back again. i'm looking forward to the break - and spending time with people i've missed and dearly care about.

24 April 2009

vacation - and trying to take advantage of different countries

in a little over a week, i'm going to Ontario and Michigan to visit (yay for seeing family and friends!) and since i'm travelling all the way there, i've been trying to figure out how best to take advantage of all the countries that i live in and/or am going to visit.

so, i've been thinking about what to bring back. a nice dutch birthday calendar (for my brother, who as far as i know never reads this blog, so i can tell all of you :) although he now has a laptop, so who knows, maybe he'll be my friend on facebook pretty soon?!?) and stroop waffels and chocolates, and so on. oh, and bike locks - the kind that you permanently attach to the back of your bike and locks your back tire - quick and convenient and helpful against low-key theft.

and i've been ordering books on amazon.com - because english books are pretty much all cheaper in the US. and i'll be visiting a couple of discount book stores while i'm in Michigan :) and there's this shoe store that i want to visit while i'm also there - high quality discounted shoes. i could use some new sandals :)

and i'm picking up a used game (the farming game) - after a bit of googling, i found a cheap copy of it that i was going to get shipped to me - but then turns out i could pick it up from him, since the guy works less than 10km from where i'm staying (convenient, eh?) and i'm looking forward to trying to play this with my dad - just to see what he has to say about it...

and then there's this store i often buy clothes at in canada - and go shopping with my mom and/or my sisters. i don't really like shopping, but since i don't go very often it generally means i could always use some new clothes - and if i have to go shopping, i like doing it with my mom and sisters. and i managed to redeem some air miles for gift certificates to one of my favourite stores (reitman's) - i'll never have enough air miles to fly anywhere, so i'm glad to be actually able to use them for something - and turns out i have enough air miles that i can also share the certificates with my family :)

all of these things, thinking about what i'd like - what i can bring from here and what i can bring here from there (and how to share those things with people i care about) makes me more and more excited about going on vacation. this just adds more joy to my continued anticipation of seeing others!

22 April 2009

growing - and exploring my place in the community

this is my second year as a companion in the community here. it's not been quite what i expected, although i'm not quite sure what i was expecting :)

being a tochtgenot/companion is a time of exploring further one's place in the community, especially in relationship to Spe Gaudantes, the core group of the community [as i mentioned in response to our retreat it's a bit odd to be only sort of part of this group]. and this generally means getting closer to the whole community. but i say generally for a reason - your close-ness to the community is related somewhat to your connected to the Vaderhuis where most of the activities of the community take place. some people enter the community as a good place to live and be able to help others, and the community part is kind of extra. still others are looking for community and participate as much as they can, but always feel a bit distanced from the regular rhythm of life in the community -the chapels, coffee times, meals, and the people. others enter the community as part of the Vaderuhuis, intensely pushed into following the regular rhythms and bumping into all of the people.

i'm one who entered the community intensely. sure, i had studies and friends outside of the community, but the community was what challenged and encouraged and shaped me most for quite some time. and i delighted in that, appreciating the challenge and joys and adventure of it. but eventually, my desires to teach, my love of studying the Bible academically, a growing awareness of language and cultural issues, and people and ideas outside of the community pulled me away from focusing so much on the community. from what i know of myself, i think this is healthy - it's part of me determining what gives me the most joy and finding ways to do that. and then, hopefully i can share this joy and peace in being myself with the community and be blessed by the community to bless others outside of the community.

this moving away from the community, when it feels like an important part of being a companion is to become closer, has led to some odd feeling this year. in some sense it feels like i've stopped growing in the community. and for awhile, just living with distance was part of the growth - but since it's not the expected sort of growth, it felt stagnant. and this question of stopping growing woke me up to ask what was happening - and why did it feel like something was wrong with my place in the community?

and i'm not sure what's next. i'm still finding it strange (and hard) to grow well in a sort of backwards way - moving closer by finding a healthy distance. but i've moved forward in a few ways - i've put in a request to move out of the Vaderhuis (and thus discover the regular rhythm in a different way), after exploring some different ways of volunteering, i've made more choices about what would be good to continue and give extra energy to and which areas it'd be better if someone else did it, i've been trying to open my eyes more/again to relationships, and i've recognized a growing hunger to be even more involved in (academic) biblical studies (which i'm still wondering about how to fill [from a technical perspective]).

this isn't exactly what i expected as far as growing as part of the community, but perhaps this discovery of who i am and what fits me (even doing things the unexpected way) is also a part of my growth in being more myself, and thus more able to be fully part of any community.

18 April 2009

being single and still growing?

getting married is often seen as one of the big steps to becoming fully an adult. but sometimes it doesn't happen - and then there is this strange waiting or delaying or longing or avoidance.

as noted in a (late) postscript to the previous blog entry, an article in Christian Singles Today, "The Season of Waiting," comments on the challenges of figuring out how to live with the not going forward in the expected ways and having to wait well.

and sometimes that waiting can be too much. a lot of people struggle with putting dreams on hold - until they find the right one to share the dream with. or sometimes people choose a job or career that was intended to be temporary, until... and then the 'until' never happens. and sometimes people can't wait any longer - and then finding a spouse, any spouse, becomes more important than anything else.

the waiting and being single often seems antithetical to the desire to move forward, to grow, to fulfill dreams. and figuring out ways to keep growing while waiting is hard and challenging. the choices are to pretend it doesn't matter - or to throw one into projects or work or church or something. or one can join a dominant trend in our culture - to live a sort of prolonged adolescence [in an article related to singleness and the place of singles in the church, Skye Jethani notes that "our consumer culture has fostered the prolonging of adolescence and the delayed onset of adulthood."]. and i can understand this desire for the irresponsibility of adolescence - it's a lot more fun than waiting!

at times, i chafe against the waiting - feeling like there are way too many uncertainties in my life [can't i just move forward already? have a permanent job, a permanent place to live, and so on]. and then when i find it too much, i search out a project of some sort to put my energy into - so i can have a goal and a sense of moving forward - and i think that's okay to some extent, provided i don't use this as an excuse to stop growing in my whole life. and i don't want to forget that the discomfort of waiting and uncertainties helps remind me of being a pilgrim, a metaphor that fits for Christians who are always on a journey.

15 April 2009


i've been thinking about growing lately, in the sense of maturing and discovering and exploring and moving forward. i'm not sure exactly what the source of the thinking has been, although wondering about next year and what would be best and what would bring me the most joy and satisfaction are probably part of it :)

i have a sense that some growing comes more naturally than others. as a child, you move forward in levels, are challenged to learn new things, and just grow physically. as you approach adulthood, you move towards settling down in a career, buying a house and a car, getting married, starting a family. with parenting, you are pushed to grow with as children grow (and expctations and relationships change), healthy growth can and should be happening.

the question i've been wondering about is what happens when the expected movement forward doesn't happen? how do you grow then? what happens when you don't exactly settle down in a career? what about growing while travelling around or while still staying in school? when you don't get married? how can you grow in relationships that aren't about getting married? or when there's no children? or when you lose your house or your job? or you lose your spouse or a child?

and i wonder about these questions because it seems like my life hasn't exactly taken the normal ways of growing and maturing. and i don't always know how to mature and grow. i feel a lot like i'm waiting a lot and wondering. and this sense of stopping can mean going backwards, through losing some of the growth and the ability/desire to grow.

i hope that my wonder about growing is a sign that i deeply desire to grow; that i would desire to continue to develop as a biblical scholar, to explore teaching, to grow in relationship with others, to discover new things about my self, to struggle over my place in the community, to be surprised in my relationship with God, and to be challenged to explore with wonder the world (places, ideas, and people) around me. and to make it concrete by wondering about what is next.

postscript: the challenges of figuring out how to live with the not going forward in the expected ways and having to wait well are explored in this recent article, "The Season of Waiting."

13 April 2009

'staatsexamen' - the dutch as a second language exam

a couple of months ago, i took the official state dutch as a second language exam. there are two levels: an everyday dutch level and a more advanced level (i took the advanced one). both consist of four parts: speaking, listening, writing, and reading.

i expected to pass the reading with no problems, considering almost half of what i now regularly read is in dutch. and since i have lots of practice listening to dutch, i figured that'd also be no problem (assuming the multiple choice questions weren't full of vocabulary words i didn't know). writing was definitely harder, especially since i'd only begun to work systematically on grammar in the last several months - having a dictionary made it easier, but i wasn't all that certain about passing. and speaking was also a bit uncertain - i have lots of practice with speaking (thanks to the community) - but my pronunciation is problematic (i have problems with certain vowels and word accent) and i can be a bit lazy about correcting mistakes if i figure people will understand me anyways.

and slightly to my surprise, i managed to pass all four parts of the dutch exam. it gives me a healthy reassurance that it's going well with my dutch. here's the diploma to prove it:

[it basically just says that i filled the requirements of the exam - and yeah, i know i forgot to sign it :)]

although before i get too proud of my dutch knowledge, i should honestly acknowledge that one only needs to get a 70 percent to pass the exam (and i didn't overachieve on this exam). thus, i can proudly say that i now have a diploma that says i understand and can participate in at least 70 percent of what's going around me in dutch (and i have an excuse if i miscommunicate or miss out on what's going on 25 percent or so). good thing i'm part of a community that will continue to push me to use and improve my dutch, eh? otherwise, that 25 percent excuse might grow, especially when it's convenient for me :)

12 April 2009

A Blessed Easter!

May you be filled with joy and the wonder found in Jesus' resurrection.

As part of the Easter celebration in my church, the choir will be singing from Vivaldi, with an orchestra. The song I enjoy the most is "Cum Sancto Spiritum." It can be seen on YouTube [though not sung by us - a version sung by us can be found on Facebook, where i'm tagged in the video].

To read a good devotion about Easter, you can visit Back to God Hour's online copy of the Today booklet (you might have to click on April 12 on the side first, though).

Have a blessed Easter! May today be a feast!

10 April 2009

quotes for Good Friday

As part of moving towards Easter, the blog crconect has been providing "daily reflections on the a desert journey." i've been appreciating the quotations provided there and thought i would share a few of them here, with the hope that they might be a blessing for others remembering and reflecting on Good Friday:

“'It is finished' . . . should be taken in the sense of consummatum est­-it is consummated, fulfilled, brought to perfection. . . . This is the cross point in the Great Story, from the ‘In the beginning’ of creation to the last words of the Bible, ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ At the cross point, everything is retrieved from the past and everything is anticipated from the future, and the cross is the point of entry to the heart of God from whom and for whom, quite simply, everything is.”
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, 187, 189.­

“A hermit had persevered for thirty years. One day he said to himself, ‘I have now spent so many years here and I have had no vision and performed no miracle as did the Fathers who were monks before me.’ And he was tempted to go back into the world. Then he was told, ‘What miracle do you want to perform that could be more extraordinary than the patience and courage God has given you and which allowed you to persevere for so long.’?”
A Desert Father

“Prayer . . . is not a rejection of the present; it is rather a realisation that the present is not enough.”
Alessandro Pronzato

"The glory of God is a man or a woman who is truly alive."

All of "the citations come from John Moses, The Desert. An Anthology for Lent (Harrisburg, PA.: Morehouse, 1997)." For further quotations, see the blog.

07 April 2009

exploring again

with the beginning of warmer weather, i've been enjoying exploring again [having someone to share exploring with makes it more fun, too]. the other weekend was to Muiderslot Castle in Muiden and last weekend was to Zandvoort aan Zee, via Overveen.

i've been meaning to get to Muiderslot Castle for awhile now. now that i've discovered that there are old castles in this part of the netherlands, i'm excited about getting to see them - and Muiderslot is probably the most well known castle in the area. the following are a couple of pictures:

the castle as you'd see it from the water

a view of the area behind the castle, looking towards the sea.

the view from above the drawbridge - important for our attempts to figure out how to conquer the castle (we never did find a great method).

and for those of you who appreciate maps, the following will help you see where the castle is located. it's east of Amsterdam. we took the train to Weesp and then walked (bus back) to Muiden.

View Larger Map

and the last weekend was a bit of a different adventure - a walk in nature. it was supposed to be a day of enjoying the sun at the beach. and friday was gorgeous weather, as was sunday. unfortunately, saterday, the day we decided to go to the beach, was dreary.

so instead of taking the train all the way to the beach, we got off halfway at Overveen and decided to enjoy a walk through the woods and dunes and hope that the sun would show up by the time we got to the beach. and so we walked through the stillness of nature where nobody else was in sight, climbed a large hill (odd in the netherlands, must have been an old dune), tried to sight buffalo, instead sighted deer elsewhere, found a castle-like wall by the deer, jumped over a fence (though we'd stayed at paths like we were supposed to, i think one of them was more of a deer path than a people one and we ended up fenced in), got lost, ate lunch by a rabbit hole, walked against the wind at the beach, ate ice cream, walked until we were sore, and almost fell asleep on the train ride home. all in all, it was a lovely day of exploring.

to give you an idea of where we were, the following is a map between Overveen and Zandvoort.
View Larger Map
we started out walking east, along the northside of the tracks. at some point we crossed under the tracks, and eventually we ended up on the Visserspad. it's the inbetween part that i'm not sure about... but that's also part of the adventure of exploring :)

05 April 2009

Palm Sunday

i've noticed that the church liturgical calendar is shaping more and more of my life (being part of a monastic community will do that to you). and i like being shaped in this way. i look forward to the different seasons and am glad to join the worldwide church in living out our faith in this way.

and today is Palm Sunday, a Sunday that i have always associated with "hosanna" and Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. added to this now are memories of several Palm Sundays at St. Gregory's Abbey, filled with incense and a procession holding palm branches. and we would hear the story of Jesus' death chanted, from the triumphal entry until his burial. in hearing it chanted, the old familiar story would become alive again.

and today, i celebrated Palm Sunday in the Oude Kerk. at the beginning of the service, we all walked outside the church and entered again through a different door. it was strange to be with others holding hymn books and palm branches walking in the Red Light District, in the middle of a high tourist area. but there was almost something special about displaying our faith in this way. and my understanding of Palm Sunday has once again been expanded - i see a bit more the strangeness of proclaiming Jesus as king amidst a world that isn't really expecting Him - or at least not like this.

holy week is beginning, and the community will spend more time in prayer and extra time in remembering the events related to Jesus' death and resurrection. we've been anticipating the triumphal entry all of lent now, as we've been singing the Palm Sunday anthem of 'hosanna, hosanna, the king of Israel' to close our meals. and in the coming days, there'll be prayers at noon and bedtime, in addition to the usual morning and evening prayers. on thursday evening, we have a Seder (Passover) meal and we'll wash each other's feet. on friday, we will be painting as part of remembering Jesus' death on the cross. on saturday evening, in anticipation of Easter, a member of the community will be baptized in the Oude Kerk. and sunday, the vigil begun at sundown on saturday will end after 12 readings - end with a celebration of the Lord's Supper and a feast for breakfast.

i am looking forward to continuing to meet God in this time.