28 February 2011

a short visit

I have been working on a number of random projects this last month: a translation, an article on Ezekiel 18, teaching a couple of Old Testament seminars, making some entries for an online biblical dictionary, and so on. Plus, of course, all the usual life things. It's been good, except for a problem with deadlines - I'm currently behind on the last of the two projects, which has caused a bit of havoc with all the other usual life things - including updating the blog.

But my sister Janice managed to plan a conference in Europe for her work - and took a side trip to visit here kast weekend. It was lovely to do some fun things together and to catch up. The only problem was that it reminded me again of how far away I am from the lives of my family living back in Canada. And I find that hard sometimes.

Here are photos of our day out in Rotterdam :)

a promotional concert (Blof) that we bumped into walking along

random art work - oil barrels

there's nothing quite like dutch toys

our tourboat

a fully loaded ship

loading and unloading
Ship repairs
Currently the New York Hotel, but formerly the place where people emigrated to America

me and Janice

The cube houses

05 February 2011

Not living out one's calling

I remember there being a bit of a joke in Seminary about how becoming a pastor was something you did only after it was obvious that there was no way you could avoid doing it. The idea behind the joke had to do with the idea that being a pastor wasn't just something one did because you thought it'd be interesting or fulfilling - it was a calling. Unless you had the sense that this is definitely what God was asking of you, it wasn't worth the likely suffering, the demands, and the challenges.

Sometimes I feel the same way about community life. 'Run away from it!' seems like good advice. I do believe that all of us are designed to live in some kind of community - but for most of us that calling is within a church, friend-group or family setting, with limited people really close to us - and many of whom are fairly similar to us. The kind of intense community where one attemps to live, worship and work with people different from oneself and stand open for new people and lots of changes - to be part of this kind of community long-term has to be a calling. In any relationship it is hard enough to take on the challenges of listening well, working through problems together, and loving the other persons for who they are and not just who we want them to be. But in a setting where people are more different from us and not family, these challenges increase significantly - and to have the strength and courage to do this takes a lot of help from God mixed amongst a sense that this is how one can best glorify God.

I feel called to this kind of community. My delight in it and my desire to face the challenges well and glorify God in what I do comes through in numerous entries on this blog. And this calling has been confirmed by others around me.

But what happens when one doesn't live in community? When circumstances make it so that, at this moment, I'm not sure how best to live out this calling?
And I have no answer to these disconcerting questions. It is perhaps not so surprising then that my life feels off-balance at the moment.

02 February 2011

Increasing my political involvement

A bit more than a week ago, the ChristenUnie party had their 'friend day', a day when members of the party and people interested in the party could come together to hear what the party was doing and get a glimpse of what was going on in Parliament. As it was being held at the Parliamentary buildings, which is only a 10-minute bike ride from house, it seemed like a perfect chance for me not only to become more acquainted with the party but also with politics here in the Netherlands.

I have to admit that my political involvement in the past has generally been limited to voting - and then only sometimes. I'm a citizen of a land (Canada) that can call an election on short notice. When you happen not to be residing in that country, both figuring out who to vote for and organising a vote by proxy aren't all that easy to do within 50 days (And the year I was in Ukraine, I was so out of touch with things that the election was almost past before I even found out that there would be one!). Such a level of involvement is not exactly ideal - but how does one change that?

Being a citizen of the Netherlands (and actually living in the country :)) has opened up opportunities for more political involvement. Seeing Matthijs's example of attending political conferences and just generally being knowledgeable of the political issues has also been an encouragement to do something. Living in a country that has a representative system also makes involvement much more attractive. Whereas voting in Canada meant a complicated process of deciding to 'waste one's vote' on a party that represented me well or voting for the party most likely to beat the party that I really didn't agree with; such a choice doesn't exactly motivate one to get involved except perhaps in a fight to change the system.

The Netherlands has a representative system - and it means that a little party like the ChristenUnie is able to have a say in how things work. This is due to their being the extra votes needed to pass something - and reasonable requests can be made by the ChristenUnie in exchange for their votes. What makes it most interesting for me is that it is a party that has Christian values (especially family values), is fairly socialist, and is big on the environment. In my experience in North America, it felt unusual to find Christian groups aware of the environment let alone motivated about doing things about it! [Thankfully, this is changing.]

And so to find a party that is a combination of various things that I find important makes me interested in getting involved. And the 'friend day' helped, too. Not only did I learn more about the party and how it works, I got to see the 'tweede kamer' [second house], learn more about European Parliament, and I saw that those involved seemed like ordinary individuals like me. The only thing I could still wish for was for a focus on more involvement of non-white males - there were a number of females involved in leadership but the number of minorities present was definitely disappointing.