30 December 2009

DCM: Missing the Message?

for those interested in the class i'm teaching in the next month, the following is the description:

150 08 DCM: Missing the Message? Sometimes the message presented isn't the one that's heard. At times this is because of how the message is presented; other times, a person's own thoughts and ideas get in the way of understanding. This can be seen, for instance, in discussions about faith: some Christians (mostly those who'd call themselves postmodern) would argue that how one lives is a lot more important than what one believes. Yet, the Reformed view seems to argue that what one believes is most important. Or does it? The class will look not only at the Reformed message (and how it is presented) but will also cover a number of other areas in which there is potential misunderstanding of the message, such as: education, media, sociology, languages, statistics, psychology, and technology. A variety of formal and informal assignments will be given, with an emphasis on dialogue and participation. The assignments and class sessions themselves will be looked at in terms of how a message can best be heard and remembered. Lastly, the “message” of this course will be given from the perspective of a member of a monastic community in Amsterdam's Red Light District, highlighting further what can affect how the message is given and heard. B. Heyink. 8:30 a.m. to noon.

and for those interested in the textbook (including potential students who can't yet contact me via my calvin address - bdh2 - due to my being unable to access it), we are reading:
- Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God's World (Eerdmans, 2002) -this is the standard text for DCM, and
- Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan, 2006).

25 December 2009

a blessed Christmas

what i love best about Christmas is the mystery of it - and the crazy miracle that is Christmas.

there is soemthing strange about the fact that we sing all these praises to a baby. after all, babies are generally only good at eating, sleeping, crying, pooping, and receiving love. and even then, they're not always all that good at these things! and here all our focus at Christmas is on a baby.

of course, the baby we praise is also the king - but that's also strange, if you stop to think about it. the king of kings becomes human and comes to earth as a helpless, crying little baby.

the baby who is also the king points to an amazing impossible miracle (and his birth and presence on earth are full of many more miracles). and in this miracle, we are given hope that more crazy impossible miracles can still happen today.

23 December 2009

having survived sinterklaas

a few weekends ago i got to be in charge of the Sinterklaas weekend. the verb used in that sentence is pretty intentional - i had to keep forcing myself to think of doing this not only as a chore but also as a privilege (see picture below of me trying to look happy).
more photos can be seen on the Oudezijds100 website

i didn't grow up with Sinterklaas. and i don't really know the tradition or songs. being enthusiastic about the whole Sinterklaas part was definitely pushing the limits of my capabilities. and yet, it was good. not great, but good. there were no disasters. there was good food. and Sinterklaas and two zwarte pieten even came. and on top of that, everybody got a relatively decent present, most of which had some kind of surprise or special wrapping and a poem [considering most of the group was even less familiar with Sinterklaas than me, this is quite impressive - an hour before we were to begin, i had to remind someone of who they were to buy a present for, the morning was spent making a lot of surprises and poems (thanks to the great group i had helping with the weekend), we sorted up a mix-up about a present bought for Sinterklaas himself - and made sure it got to the person who it actually was intended for, and we made sure there were extra presents (in case of disasters)]. i'm thankful for the efforts and enthusiasm of the rest of the weekend team - without them, it would have been much more work for me and a lot less enjoyable for everyone.

and what was nice was that afterwards, i wasn't even utterly exhausted. but having worked (fairly intensely) all weekend left me a bit off-kilter the next week. that that week was a bit more full of meetings and events didn't help, either! i've now regained balance again (writing this is evidence of that). it took a while for my perspective to come back - and to be able to see again that being part of the Sinterklaas celebration was the kind of chore that i find it a privilege to get to do. i'm not sure how much i'll choose to do it again - but now that i know what i'm doing, if i could get a couple of good helpers, i could probably be convinced to do it again (and maybe even next time look forward to it :))

21 December 2009

monday morning in the Kajuit

there are certain moments when i am reminded again of the delight of living in community. this morning, sitting in the Kajuit (our living room area), was one of those moments. (we had ended the chapel with "O Come, O Come Immanuel," which is one of my favourite songs - so I was bound to be in a good mood. the beautiful blue sky outside and the snow on the ground only made my mood better.)

and we sat around together, teasing each other and talking and relaxing. i got teased about missing church yesterday (and found out that i was considered always so conscientious). and i got to see pictures of the snow by the farm in Friesland (or at least we tried to look at them - hopefully they'll go on the website and then you can all see them). we made plans for Christmas dinner. and we teased the receptionist - simply because we could :) and we joked about one of the volunteers getting stuck in Utrecht yesterday and how successful and timely he'll be in his efforts to get back today.

and the atmosphere of the morning was a mixture between the comfortable feeling one has in hanging out with old friends plus the gezellig feeling of being at home (we even had the fireplace going - thanks to the efforts of the harrassed receptionist) plus the relaxed feel of 'christmas vacation.' and i felt blessed to get to be part of it.

20 December 2009

snow in the netherlands

it is snowing in the netherlands - there's at least 10 cm in most places - and the world has turned delightfully white. as a canadian i'm pretty enthusiastic about it (and i'm looking forward to introducing my cat to it in a little while). for pictures, see Sneeuw in Den Haag, monday afternoon snow, and flights cancelled.

but as a canadian, i'm also a bit annoyed that the public transportation system seems to have problems functioning with even this little bit of snow. on thursday evening, my dinner date got cancelled cause Matthijs was stuck in Utrecht - he waited there a couple hours because of the snow.

and today it took me 3 hours to get home from Den Haag (what normally takes about 1.5 hours). i was scheduled to help out with the vespers at church - i figured if i gave myself an extra hour time, it should be fine. but it wasn't - first, i got out the door a bit late. then i discovered the trams weren't running - nor was the light rail train. so i walked to the train station (a lovely walk, made more impressive by all the snow men i saw along the way, but it was not so ideal for getting anywhere on time). i got to the station just in time to catch a stop train to Leiden. then i stepped into a train to Amsterdam, only to find out shortly that it wasn't going. 15 minutes later, into a stop train to Schiphol. and at Schiphol, 20 more minutes waiting before i could get to Amsterdam. and in my talks with other passengers (messes like this tend to make people more open to talking to each other - at least i never normally feel inclined to talk to others), i discovered that in comparison my experience with the trains was actually pretty good! much to my disappointment, i not only didn't make it home to help with the service, i wasn't even in time to attend the service.

but even with the mess that the snow is making of public transportation (and it's even worse with flights at Schiphol!), i'm delighting in the snow. on friday night, i ended up on the front step of a beautiful old house surrounded by woods covered in snow (we had a meeting there about communities). and i've been happily throwing snowballs for a few days now. and today i even made a snow angel. so what do i really have to complain about?

17 December 2009

learning to see things differently

there are a number of thoughts and blog entries in my head, but they haven't made it up onto the blog yet. for now, i just want to share a story by Matt Beimers that is published in the december issue of The Banner. It talks about opening one's eyes to see things differently.

The story begins so:

"Let the Little Children Come...."

I think tonight I found some Magi.

It was 6:00, and for no particular reason I decided that we needed to drive around and look at Christmas lights.

Never mind that no one wanted to go—there’s nothing like being forced to look at Christmas lights to cheer you up.

In typical fashion, the kids got over their frustration quicker than I did. They began singing Christmas carols five minutes into the drive. Me? I decided that the cheerful singing only made me grumpier. Sure, “Silent Night” is great, but what about those lights?!

Thankfully for everyone, I could only keep up my Grinch impression for so long. Generally speaking, little children singing carols and reenacting “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will eventually break down any hard-hearted wall you put up. On the way home we headed to McDonald’s for some ice cream, and I somehow managed to confuse the drive-through person into giving us an extra sundae.

While I had already learned some lessons by this point about pride and stubbornness, my education was just beginning."

To continue reading, click on http://www.thebanner.org/magazine/article.cfm?article_id=2398.

04 December 2009

so much for peacefully lying in bed in the morning....

this morning i got a phone call at 7.15 - a somewhat panicked request for the location of the zwarte piet suits. it was a bit early but i'd been awake for awhile already. as soon as i start waking up in the morning, the cat interprets my movements as an invitation to pounce on me. i try to ignore him.

but this morning, the cat's playful antics were interrupted by his growing curiosity (and panic) about what was happening on the landing in front of my door. i was doing my best to ignore it, as i was still trying to somewhat peacefully contemplate my day]. but yeah, after noise, an anxious cat, and a phone call, it was obvious ignoring things wasn't working so well.

the noise turned out to be my new neighbour, moving an old mattrass out of the room. the cat ran out to investigate, much to my new neighbour's dismay. since i was unaware of her plans to move in at this time (and 7 is a bit early to be banging around), i can't say that i was all that sympathetic to her anxiety over my cat. after all, my cat is afraid of everything that moves - especially anything that moves quickly or makes loud noise (since my neighbour has a small daughter who moves quickly and makes lots of noise, i imagine the cat will soon be scared of visiting their house).

so much for peacefully lying in bed in the morning... and i would be annoyed about it all, but it's just too odd not to roll my eyes and laugh about it.