30 September 2012

Why you really need to wash your fruit

I've been taught that you should wash your fruit (and vegetables) before eating them. This is partially to get rid of germs but more so to get rid of any of the gunk (chemicals and pesticides and so on) that's used to protect the apples from insects.

The other day I discovered still another reason for washing the fruit before eating it: the fact that the stem is lovely to chew on (at least, according to the four-legged-creature that lives with us).


I think, besides washing the fruit, we'll also be keeping apples in the fridge from now on.

29 September 2012

Talking to the women behind the windows

Another volunteer from the Vrouwenpastoraat (women's pastoral care) of the Salvation Army recently wrote a short article about talking to the women behind the windows. I really appreciate how she captures the desire we have to honour and respect these women and show God's love for them.

For those of you who read Dutch, I encourage you to go to the PKN Amstelveen website and read her article about Ouwehoeren over God.

The following is an English translation:
"Shooting the breeze about God"

How do you share with another the liberating message of the Bible? If there was an obvious answer to this, all the Protestant churches in Amstelveen Buitenveldert would have already applied it. Yet, one thing is certain: you can only share the gospel with someone after you've managed to come in contact with him or her. Sometimes that comes in unexpected ways, as I experienced about a year ago.

Three times a month I do volunteer work for the Salvation Army, bringing coffee and tea to the window prostitutes in the red light district in Amsterdam. Normally we go out in pairs with our baskets (as Major Bosshardt did years ago), and we try to have some kind of contact with every prostitute on our route. Often it is no more than eye contact, but even that can mean a lot. Through changes in facial expression or posture you can see what it means for them to be seen not as merchandise or an attraction, but as a fellow human being.

Every once in awhile, I have walked the route alone. On one of those nights I came inside a prostitute's window, and she asked me, completely out of the blue, "What would God think of me, that I am doing this?" It was so unexpected that, knowing she was Hispanic, I asked, just to be sure: "Dios? '. "Si Dios." Those two seconds respite gave me the chance to offer a quick prayer: God 'elp, what do I say?" Because what answer can you give to this question from a woman who is the grandma of a little boy less than a year old and who financially supports the family of her unemployed son in Spain throught what she earns by selling her body? "God knows you.", I heard myself say. Nothing more, but it was enough. She tasted the words and repeated them as if they needed careful chewing: God knows me. Slowly she began to nod her head and the tension from her body fell away. It was apparently a word of liberation.Her situation had not changed. She still had to earn money through meeting the desires of a variety of men. Her son was still unemployed. But God knew her in her situation with her past and the choices that she had made, and it made a world of difference. That evening I cycled home with gratitude because God had used me to pass on part of his liberating message.

18 September 2012

Sick :(

Matthijs is sick. He had 2 wisdom teeth pulled last week and is not doing well. The first day or two went fine (we even put a piano together the day after he got them pulled!), but then his face started to swell even more and he just feels lousy. He's been taking pain medication, ibuprofen to lower/stop fever, and sleeping extra - but it's not helping enough. Blech.

Neither Matthijs or I are sick very often. We're not very good at it, to be honest (Matthijs can verify how much I complained and whined when I had a broken foot last year!). I can see how Matthijs is frustrated that he's not better yet, but also how he's restless because he wants to be doing more and have more interest in the world around him. But he can't do anything more to make himself better than what he's already now doing, which is also frustrating. Maybe later today or tomorrow, we'll call the hospital again, but until then it's just a matter of waiting.

And I can't make him better. I can be patient, take care of more chores, make dumb jokes about him looking like a chipmunk (although laughing is sometimes painful, so too much humour is also not a good thing), be around more often (or less if that's also better), and so on. But I still wish I could do more, and I can only imagine that those dealing with much more serious illnesses must feel that desire even more strongly.

I do take comfort, though, in the realization that even though being sick is lousy, it is made slightly less lousy by having others around who care about you (friends, family and the community). And honestly, it's really nice to be married when you're sick. Although it's even nicer when you're not sick :)

11 September 2012

Start week

And the new season has once again begun at Oudezijds 100. This is now the sixth time that I've experienced this, and I've come to the conclusion that start week is not my favourite time of the year.

That's not to say that I'm not happy to see the people coming back from vacation. Even better, the house is once again full of life, especially the chapel and Kajuit (our common living room). And new people have arrived, including the 2 in-house university-age full-time volunteers who help with tons of big and little things around the house. And I like most of the activities that we do, including the upcoming Community weekend.

But.... it's a bit of a shock to the system. Too much too soon. The lazy feeling of summer, the openness of everyone's agendas, the comraderie of being one of the few who have come to the chapel, the Kajuit and/or dinner have instantly disappeared. And they've been replaced: Not by something bad, just something different. I need some time to adjust.

Perhaps next year I'll do better in planning a distraction for that week (or start on my community to-do list a bit earlier!) And the shock and adjustment will be a bit less.

At the same time, I am thankful that we do, to some degree, have a week built in for adjusting to being back together and working out schedules and planning. That makes the adjustment a bit easier. However, I'm more thankful that the first week is over and that I've once again remembered the wonder I have of being part of such a fascinating, albeit busy, community.

03 September 2012

Prayer and Coincidences

Reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline and talking about prayer within the community have had me once again thinking more about prayer: mostly how I'd like to pray more and with more faith.

Prayer is, for most of us, somewhat unknown territory. This is despite the fact that to be a Christian means that you pray. It's simply that most of us aren't entirely certain what happens when we pray: how does it fit with God's will? can/does God change? what effect does it actually have?

And I don't know the answers to those questions. I pray simply because the Bible says we should pray. And that's enough for me - that and I don't know how not to talk to God about everything that's going on in my life (and it's a lot more pleasant than talking to myself!).

And I also know that prayer changes things. There's a reason that when I lose things, within five minutes of searching I'll have prayed. And usually just after I'll have prayed, I find it again - which makes it easier to believe in the effectiveness of prayer.

And this weekend, I saw the effectiveness of praying for lost things again: even when the lost thing was not mine, and it was lost because someone else had moved it. On Saturday morning, my neighbour asked me if I knew anything about her bike - she was heading out with the kids and it wasn't downstairs and the door was open. Everything thus pointed to it having been stolen. I had no idea what to do - so I prayed that it had only been borrowed and that it would once again be found. Shortly after lunch, my neighbour called me - she was walking to the train station and on the other side of the road, she had seen and found her bike: could I come and guard it while she went home to pick up her extra bike key? Yes!!

Coincidence? maybe. But I have been reminded again that these kind of crazy coincidences tend to happen more often when we pray. And that's inspiration enough to want to pray more.