27 August 2014

Giving and Receiving

Giving and receiving are more complicated then we Christians often acknowledge. In the culture I'm part of we tend to be somewhat stingy while we also really like to help others (but don't so much like needing to receive help). Neither are really great examples of generous giving or gracious receiving.

Acts 20:35 notes that it is better to give than receive, but I wonder how much receiving helps us know how to give? This past week I was reminded of  how much being given a gracious, undeserving gift makes it easier to be giving in return. I think it's because even as much as I do want to be generous, it feels somewhat foolish to be too giving - because how will I know if I don't need something? It is only when I'm given more than I need, I realize how foolish I am for worrying!

Last week I received, with the help of a friend (Thanks Sarah!), the entire contents of a kitchen for our North American house. For free. Simply because a graduate student was leaving the country and wanted to pass it on to someone else. And I was astounded and delighted and felt very blessed. To share in my joy, I took pictures of the delightful and carefully wrapped gifts.  

As I look at these gifts and anticipate filling my new kitchen with them, I cannot help but hope that I might pass on this generousity to others, as that seems the best way of saying thank-you for this generous gift from Mia/Maria. Generousity is also a way of expressing my trust that God will take care of my needs. And lastly, as Matthijs has been informing me (seeing as he's now in charge of dispersing our stuff in Amsterdam), it's simply a lot of fun to be able to help others out by giving away our stuff to them.

12 August 2014


I have made it to Lansing and am slowly transitioning (back) into this place and my role as campus pastor. The visas are in, stuff with moving has been fairly finalized, including a lot of sorting and giving away, the plane tickets have been bought, and I have found a new house that I'm happy with (here's hoping and praying that they are happy with us). And I've connected with the Campus Edge group and the church, reawakening my hopes and prayers for this place and helping me once again find my role here.

Simply being in Lansing makes the transition feel easier, if only because it is easier to acknowledge the empty place in my heart that used to be filled by my life in Amsterdam. I was glad for my time this last while in Amsterdam - I got to be with Matthijs, the community, and friends, and I could enjoy life in a European city. Yet, at the same time, I was trying to deal with the empty place left by leaving, an emptiness that I was not anticipating so much as I had already begun to know. And the sadness of leaving crossed paths with my desire to build up a new life in Lansing, and there was not enough room for both to co-exist well. So in the midst of processing and grieving the changes (or trying to avoid doing either), I feel like I did not always function well nor did I always know how to acknowledge to others how much I would miss that life surrounded by so many I cared about. It is not that I worry that I will lose touch with those I care about, it is more that I am saddened that I can no longer delight in/with and appreciate those folks with the same ease and regularity as I used to.

But I also know that part of the transition is focusing on the joy and wonder of going to a new place. It's about learning to delight in the adventure of it all (like learning to walk a cat), dreaming about a space to live where we can (once again) practice hospitality, developing new relationships, and being stretched by all the challenges. It is hard but good, and I am thankful for how well the transitioning has generally gone.

01 August 2014

A look at my new neighbourhood: religion in the public sphere

Through the local paper, I've discovered that my (new) local Catholic Church has set up offices around the corner from where I currently live (and in the neighbourhood where I hope soon to find a new place). The article (found at: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20140801/NEWS01/308010006) begins as follows:
"Lansing’s Church of the Resurrection this fall will take over space on East Grand River Avenue occupied by a women’s health clinic that provides abortions."

Reading the local paper is a great way to become acquainted with a new place, and it's a good way to discover more about the culture of a place. I'd walked by the office of the health clinic, named WomanCare, and it did not occur to me that this was a place that offered abortions until I saw the Catholic Church picketing that corner for quite awhile. It is surprising to me that such a name could be given to an abortion clinic - Woman Care. I assumed, when I first saw the name, that the clinic specialized in psychological and emotional help focused on women, possibly including health care issues, such as pregnancy, parenthood, fertility, and female-dominated cancers. It also occurred to me that the clinic might focus on women from certain religious groups where care from male health workers would be considered inappropriate. That the name 'WomanCare' would be given to a place that specialized in abortions seemed to be a euphemism at best; it was an insult to those who believe that abortion destroys life and harms women, and it neglected caring for a vast amount of the needs within the female population.

It is strange to me to realize again that abortion is such an issue within the Catholic and Evangelical communities of the United States. It is not that abortion is ignored here in the Netherlands. For one thing, the doctors in the community's crisis center are specifically not allowed to prescribe any kind of abortion-like medicine (and this is to a high needs population: one that is generally not insured, is generally undocumented, and for whom having a child could be a great burden). Secondly, the Christian political parties have a strong stance against abortion, but it does not come up that often within the churches or even in the party's political news. It is different here,and I do not know how that is good or bad. Seeing it through the eyes of others -reading the newspaper in my city and hearing the small victory of the local Catholic church in removing an abortion clinic from their neighbourhood - reminds me that there is still much to ponder about how one can best live out one's faith in the public sphere.