Thursday, July 23, 2009

Willkommen!

I am back in Germany! I left the States Monday night and touched down in Basel around 11.00am Tuesday morning. I have been enjoying my first few days back in the BFA community. It is a bit weird to be here without any students, and honestly I do not like it as much. However I have been very thankful of the opportunities I have had to meet up with other BFA staff that I rarely get to see during the school year. It is my hope to connect and be involved with fellow BFA staff throughout the year. Though I wish the students were here, I am enjoying it so far. I have been blessed by a local family who has opened their house and encouraged me to use it as my own. Yesterday I showed up after work and watched their two boys play Wii for a little while, then enjoyed a nice nap. I swear they have the most comfortable couches in all of Germany!

For the next ten days I will go to school in the morning to put in my 'work-days.' Yesterday I was out mowing and weed-whacking (until I broke the thing!) and today I was putting furniture together and pulling weeds. Yesterday at the start of the day I had an encounter that quickly reminded me I was in a foreign country. I was standing by the mower while my partner was checking something out behind the house. A local German walked up to me and started saying something, I caught enough to know he was talking about the mower, so I simply nodded and said, "ya ya" When he continued talking and asked a question... I stared at him, with absolutely no idea what he just said.
I had to laugh while pulling weeds, because I was pulling for over three hours, right outside the school. I felt as though I had gotten in trouble and was out there as a form of detention. I am glad to help around the school, but pulling weeds is not a personal favorite. I pulled for three hours today, and have about an hour and a half left ahead of me tomorrow.

Saturday August 1st, will kick off our Res. Life orientation! I am excited to reunite with the returning RAs, and meet the new RAs and Dorm Parents we have coming in! At this point many of them have not purchased their tickets per lack of financial support. Your prayers in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
It was difficult being home for such a short period of time over the summer, but I am confident I am where I am supposed to be. There is peace and joy in that.
Blessings from Germany.

Tommy

Friday, July 17, 2009

Packing up!

Well the time has come to start packing up! My summer in the States went by real quick, but was filled with moments of relaxation, adventure, and quality time with family and friends. I will be flying out Monday evening at 6.05, and arriving Tuesday morning at 11.00 (5.00am est). Though my total travel time will be slightly over 11 hours, I am pleased that I fly directly from Boston to London and then London to Basel. It will be a lot of time in the air, but fewer flights and fewer airports, which is always a plus.
I have started to pack up and get everything in order. But if you would like to give me a call before I leave, please do so. 603.988.3179.
If you are reading this, and have not received a DVD in the mail from me, and would like one, let me know and I will get one in the mail to you before I leave. Putting together a DVD was one of my main projects over the summer. It is my hope that the DVD shows you where I live, the students I am with, and a bit of the passion and love I have for serving in Germany.
I hope to hear from you before I leave, but if not I will post upon my arrival in Germany.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seasons

Though I have lived in many different places, all carrying their unique characteristics, one of the aspects they all hold in common is that every place I have lived, goes through four different seasons in a calendar year. Within these seasons one can find things to be excited about, and things to complain about. Additionally each season carries its’ own set of unique qualities that distinguish it from the others.
Each year starts with the ringing in of a new year with a joyous celebration. In many places this celebration occurs where the ground is covered with snow. There are few things more beautiful than the sun reflecting off a tree’s iced-over limb, onto a ground sprinkled with a fresh powdery snowfall. Few things are more unbearable than shoveling your driveway at 5.30 am, or walking to class in weather below zero, before the wind chill. Yet, as quickly as a snow storm can blow in, the snow can melt and spring has sprung! Think of the creativity and promise that is held in each and every budding flower. Which, of course will not grow without the never-ending days of rain. But, don’t hold onto your umbrella too tightly, as summer is lurking around the corner and with it, warmth and freedom from school. Vacations, beaches, barbeques with watermelon and lemonade, baseball games, all signal the joys of summer. Naturally everyone attempts to take advantage of the sun and beaches become overcrowded, traffic jams move slower than your metabolism and the ice cream truck won’t leave your neighborhood alone! Saving the best for last, fall comes, and with it an abundance of apple cider, apple sauce and homemade apple pie – for others fall is represented by the changing of leaves, but it is primarily all about the apple cider.

In the same way our weather patterns go through seasons, so do our lives. Seasons of joy where everything seems to fall in place, the sun seems to always shine and life is pleasant. Then come seasons of confusion and pain, where the rain simply will not stop falling. Times where, despite the beauty of fresh snow, there remains a chill in the air that leaves your heart cold and miserable.
Though the seasons in themselves carry unique characteristics, one of the aspects they all hold in common is; at the end of the day God is still God. Jesus is still real.

It is very interesting to watch the way in which the seasons changed for our friend Joshua. Joshua pops in and out of the Pentateuch like a pair of jeans pops in and out of fashion. We first see him during his season as a warrior on the battlefield against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). After playing a brief game of ‘hide and go seek’ with us, the reader, Joshua appears in the scriptures standing by Moses’ side as his “aide” (see Exodus 24:13, Exodus 33:11, Numbers 11:28, to name a few). Following his stint as a protégé to Moses, he is used as a spy (Numbers 13) to check out the promised land. As a result of his belief and trust in God’s provision he was not among the many who died in the wilderness, and eventually rose to become the man to lead the Israelites into the promised land (Numbers 26+27).
Even though it is a land flowing with milk and honey, the Israelites did not cross the Jordan and enter a life of pleasure and extended vacation. In fact, it was anything but! They spent the first five years (math done according to reference in Joshua 14:10) battling all surrounding nations. Once again we see Joshua as a warrior, marching around city walls, commanding troops and defeating the enemy. Warrior. Aide. Wanderer. Spy. Warrior.
So what’s the point? Through the life of Joshua we hear the whisper of God saying, “I’m still God. I’m still in control.” Despite all the seasons of life, God is still God. Joshua experienced the joy of seeing Moses’ radiant face after being in the presence of God, he persevered through forty years of wandering in the desert listening to the complaints of the Israelites. Yet he also witnessed the beauty of freshly fallen quail for food. He saw the creativity of water bursting forth from a rock. He saw the protection as king after king was defeated in battle. We can relate to all the seasons Joshua went through. Though we live in a different time period and geographic boundaries, Joshua’s seasons parallel our own. How often do we find ourselves in a battle that steals our attention, joy, and peace? We battle cancer, we fight aids. God is still God. Like Joshua, have you ever taken on a new role and been a protégé to someone? God is still God. Ever found yourself waiting and wondering where to move, what job to take? God is still God.
God is still God during Joshua’s seasons, and God is still God during our seasons. Find hope in that. Find peace in that. Find strength and courage knowing that God is still God.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Use your imagination...

One of the things I love most about kids is their imagination. The things they think of and the things they say are often priceless. I remember as a kid sitting out in the yard looking at the sky and making shapes out of the clouds. At times it took quite the imagination to make something out of nothing, but you could always find something! Who can forget making forts as kids? If a parent walked in they would see a big pile of blankets they would eventually have to clean up. Yet in the eyes of the kids, it was a fort far grander than the Swiss Family Robinson could ever piece together. Kids have amazing imaginations. While putting a young child to bed, there remains the necessity to check under the bed, and the closet in case any monsters are lurking around. There have never been any monsters in either place, but kids, with their imagination, can be fooled into thinking they not only exist, but the monsters would love a little child as a mid-night snack. Perhaps the greatest example of kids using their imagination, are kids and their imaginary friends! These ‘friends’ have names, personalities, needs, and wants

What is it that causes us to lose our imagination as we grow older? What is it that prevents adults from sitting in the front yard looking at the clouds? Why is it that when a kid has an imaginary friend it is seen as adorable, yet if an adult is found singing to themselves, or talking out loud with nobody else in the room, they are instantly embarrassed and fend off the bizarre look pierced their way with whatever justification they can quickly offer? Using your imagination is not only fun and relaxing, but at times I believe it can help you get a different understanding of some of the stories found in the Bible.

Moses, the main leader of guiding the Israelites out of Egypt, received help from Aaron, and a young man named Joshua. While a lot of the focus in the early portion of this story of the Israelites is on Moses and his leadership, his ‘young aid’ as Joshua is referred to on more than one account, is a dynamic character working behind the scenes. I like to use my imagination in an attempt to better understand what life was like for Moses and his protégé Joshua.

Moses and Joshua were leading a large crowd wandering in circles in the desert. Not for a few weeks, not for a season, but for forty years! Stop. Slow down. Stop to let your mind and heart comprehend forty years of wandering in the desert. Use your imagination to get a clear picture. How many pairs of shoes did they go through? How many times did they feel like stopping, ready to give in? How many times did they wish they were back in Egypt in stead of wandering in the desert? We read that they wandered for forty years, these men lived through these forty years. Imagine what it was like.

Not only were they wandering for forty years, to put it nicely, the Israelites were not always the best travel companions. It is one thing to have a long trip ahead of you, it is a completely different scenario if you are traveling with a herd of “Debby downers” “Grumpy shrimps” “Party-poopers” whatever term fits your fancy. The story is littered with complaints from the Israelites! They complained about anything and everything. They complained about having to eat manna day after day, completing disregarding the miracle that occurred every morning just for them to have food. When God changed things up and delivered quail, they soon grew weary of this and rather than offering a ‘pre-mail prayer’ they offered a ‘pre-meal complaining session.’ They complained of thirst, so God caused water to pour from the rocks. Again this was not enough, so they complained some more. They complained about the promise of a future land, and the time it would take for them to inherit the land. Discontent, grumbling, fickle whiners. This is the group Moses, Aaron and Joshua traveled with…for forty years!

Again, stop. This complaining lasted for forty years. Imagine the wear and tear this took on the leaders. We see glimpses of Moses venting to God about the toll it took on him. Imagine how many times Moses and Joshua heard the question, “are we there yet?” I grew up asking that question on car rides and received the response, “about three more episodes of Full House and we will be there.” You hear it once, and it might be cute. By the second time cute has transcended into annoying. The third time? Let’s just hope there were other people in the car to offer protection. I imagine Moses heard that same question more than a few times. “Moses, we’ve been walking for 30 days straight, are we there yet?” “Hey Joshua, what’s the deal with Moses, we’ve been walking for 3 months now, are we there yet?” “Aaron, I don’t want to be rude, but how much more desert can there be, we’ve been walking for ten years, are we there yet?” I think of those questions being posed, and I imagine a response could have been, “remember how long it took you to graduate from high school (assuming back then they went through a four year curriculum)? Go through high school eight more times, then and we’ll be there.” Forty years is no bit of time.

Use your imagination a little and the reality of the scene starts to take shape. Forty years of sand in your shoes. Forty years of the same food. Forty years of complaining. Yet look closer and you will see, forty years of God’s provision. 350,400 hours of God’s protection. 14,600 mornings of not knowing where you will sleep that evening, but 14,600 nights where God provided a place to sleep.

Imagine daily finding the strength and courage to trust in God’s provision, protection, guidance, and control. Imagine the decrease in worry this would result in. Think of the peace that is available. Using your imagination is not a bad thing. Imagine shifting your focus from the complaints, to the blessings. Find some clouds and let your imagination take over. Read a story and allow your imagination to offer you a richer context. Don’t see a pile of blankets, imagine the potential for the greatest for ever created. Even though the Israelites were wandering for forty years, God was leading them to a land flowing with milk and honey. A place that was far greater than they could have ever imagined.