30 April 2014

More pictures of life here

Upon arriving home in Amsterdam, I promptly took pictures of my life here. Unfortunately, posting them has  been much less prompt.

Nonetheless, the following pictures give you an idea what my life has looked like in the last two weeks.

The view from my window; trees starting to bloom and the neighbours who first set out their plants before sitting outside.

View from my window: the Oudekerk in spring

Sunday afternoon bike ride: windmill near the Westerpark

Castle with moat in Belgium: where we stayed for our bibliodrama class

Our access to the castle (meals were served in the basement so we had a good view of the moat)

The bridge to our own private forest

The gate of Hof Zevenbergen (which closes at 10, so you'd better be in or else get ready to do acrobatics or swim!)

2 weeks later - the trumpeter in the canal and more green on the trees. (And don't forget the neighbours with the plants!)

22 April 2014

Easter has come!

Easter has come! Christ is risen!

The joy of Easter is easier to experience when the world around me is proclaiming spring (Being so close to Matthijs also helps, of course). And the Netherlands, with its love affair with tulips, is proclaiming spring loud and clear.

Last Thursday evening, I got to take the train along the tulip fields (between Haarlem and Leiden). I was surprised and delighted again by how beautiful all those tulips swaying in the field are. It thus seems appropriate to honour Easter with pictures of the fields (ones I had taken several years ago).



13 April 2014

Holy Week - just different

I am entering Holy Week in a monastery. Matthijs and I are spending 4 days doing bibliodrama. I am full of delightful expectation and am hoping to be surprised by God and learn much.

The only complaint I have is that it it is hard to concentrate on Christ's suffering this week, journeying towards Good Friday to finally be delighted and overjoyed by Easter. The problem is that it feels like Easter has already come. After all, I am home by Matthijs. I have seen loved ones I have missed. I biked through 3 parks in Amsterdam this afternoon and am spending a whole week with Matthijs focusing on the Bible - in a former castle (surrounded by a moat! and around that a forest to walk in). Everything is green because spring arrived here before I did. And I am adventuring with Matthijs, one of my most favourite things to do!

I am expecting this week to be holy; but like Lent, it will be different.

10 April 2014

Hermeneutical difficulties related to not believing in the creation of the world

Just as I have argued that there are hermeneutical difficulties with claiming that the formation of the world necessarily happened through the six days of creation, I would also argue that there are hermeneutical difficulties in not believing that the world could have been created without evolution.

The biggest challenge relates to how much we as Christians ought to be able to explain things (scientifically). Those advocating for evolution make it sound almost like one has to have a logical explanation for how things were formed. This makes it sound like it's not okay to claim that there is much we do not understand (i.e., mystery) in the formation of the world. Furthermore, some things in the Bible are not scientifically explainable: the biggest, most obvious one being the resurrection. The resurection of Christ is fundamental to Christian belief (1 Cor 15). There is no scientific explanation for Jesus being really dead and then rising again. The Bible thus seems to make the claim that some things cannot be explained and must simply be taken by faith.

I also don't know how understanding the world (and humans) as being formed through evolution explains how sin and death came into the world. Although I don't have an answer for this question, I find this a less difficult hermeneutical issue than the above, partly because I know that not all Chistian traditions hold to the same teachings with regard to original sin and because I believe some have already been addressing this question. (If you do have an explanation, please do let me know! update: one possible explanation can be found here: http://blog.calvinincommon.org/2014/06/27/the-fall-of-historical-adam-and-eve/)

When I said that I think Christians can't believe that the world had to be created in 6-days, I can see how that might be interpreted as me saying that I believe that the world had to be formed through evolution. Except that's not really what I believe.
I want to honour and respect the God-given gifts of the intelligent science folk around me who do believe that evolution is very much part of the process of how the world has been formed, especially as Christianity often gives those advocating for evolution the hardest time. At the same time, I also believe that all we can definitely say about the issue on the basis of the Bible is that God was very much involved in the world's formation. I believe that to claim to know exactly how the world came into being - or to say that those holding more to the creation side OR to the evolution side are obviously wrong or, worse yet, not even Christians - is a mockery to faith and makes our God too small.

07 April 2014

Lent, just different

Lent is more than halfway over, and it feels like my lent has been a a bit of a disaster.

In years past, I have joined in on the community's meals, meatless meals eaten with 20+ people silently listening to music playing in the background.
This year, I have eaten alone more often than not. At the same time, I have eaten meat more often than I have in ages. And my attempt at fasting for a day ended late in the afternoon when I decided that I needed to accomplish a few things more than I needed to learn (more) about my difficulties with self-discipline.

In years past, I have attended the chapel services in the community multiple times a week - last year during lent even trying to attend daily. Each service spoke of Lent, whether through the reading or the songs or through the familiar purple curtains which were long my responsibility. And even in the days when my attention was elsewhere, the liturgy's lack of a praise song - present throughout the rest of the year - would gently remind me that this season was different.
This year I have church only on Sunday, in a church that I am not familiar with enough to know how this season of Lent has been different than other seasons. All I know is that it has taken me awhile to realize that I have been missing the familiar songs of Lent from my childhood. I have also become less diligent in attending local Catholic services and regret not doing 'daily prayer' more often.

The hardest part of Lent, though, has been Matthijs' absence. The day before Ash Wednesday marked the end of almost 40 days of not seeing him - an odd way to start Lent, which is known in Dutch as the 40-day time. Lent is a time of giving up, but how was I to enter a time of sobriety when I had been given back that which I had found hardest to give up in coming here? But the sobriety has returned, and the short 4 weeks of absence feel like another 40 days.

It feels like I have done a lousy job this year of using Lent to re-order my life by looking at my brokenness and sin more closely. Yet, God has graciously poked at me to expose my brokenness: how I have too often taken for granted those I love (both here and in Amsterdam), how often I don't open myself up to how God can work through me (I have much to learn about being a pastor!), and how desperately I need God's help in ordering my life (as a visit to monastery reaffirmed to me). Most importantly, this Lent has very much helped me to long for Easter: for being re-united with those I love and for being awed by the power and might of the resurrected Lord.