Walls are made to be broken!

 Remnant of the Berlin Wall, Bernauerstrasse, August 2017.

Walls are made to be broken!

Do you ever find yourself in unexpected places? Right now I am in the UK due to some family illness – I was not expecting on the weekend to be here.

Two weeks ago we were in this building:

Not the best photo I admit. What is it? It is the Chapel of Reconciliation built in part of the what was the death strip that separated East and West Berlin. The original, much larger church building of similar name was demolished by the East German authorities in 1985. It had stood empty since the Wall went up:

 Demolition 1985, photo from the Berlin Wall Memorial Information Centre (worth a visit!)

In going to the memorial site, we had really not expected to find this chapel. It was very peaceful to sit inside and spend some moments to pray. But also to reflect on where this chapel had been built and the divisions there had been.

The Berlin Wall was so iconic of the West-East Europe split. For the people of Berlin it was more than that, it physically tore apart families, disrupted city life and of course people died trying to escape to the West. I remember being amazed when the Wall came down in 1989 – it had seemed such a permanent feature!

Walls are made to be broken!

The word ‘reconciliation’ is part of the name of this church in the former Wall area. In the New Testament we can read of how Jesus Christ has ‘destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ (Ephesians 2:14). By His sacrifice on the cross and taking on himself the wrongs of humanity, He broke the division between people and God. Yet also in the context of what the apostle Paul writes,  Christ broke the division, between Jews and non-Jews (racial/cultural barriers).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we can read these words,

‘So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’.  2 Corinthians 5:16-19, New International Version

There is a lot to take in from those verses. May be read it slowly two or three times and see what strikes you.

Through Christ we are made right with God. But also for those who have received this into their lives, there is a call to live this out. In a later verse, followers of Jesus are referred to as ‘Christ’s ambassadors‘.  We have been called to a message of reconciliation.

That is what the chapel in the former death strip stands for. It is linked to other church congregations in places like Coventry (UK ), Hiroshima(Japan) and Dresden(Germany) who emphasise the call for reconciliation.

How do we help encourage reconciliation? Between people and God? Between people who are divided?

In the previous blog I wrote about prejudice and racism linked to our visiting the Holocaust Memorial. For those of us reading this who see ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, how can being reconciled to God impact into our world around us?

‘we regard no one from a worldly point of view’ – what does that mean for our lives?

What does having a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ look like in our neighbourhoods, study courses, work places, families? How does it speak into our political views that we hold?

Let us take some time to pray and reflect on these words from 2 Corinthians 5. Be freshly encouraged that it is possible through Jesus Christ for people to be reconciled to God. It is possible for all, including people like you and me. Yet also let’s consider how we can live out this message among others around us and whenever we speak up about issues in the news for instance.

Walls are made to be broken – through the ministry of reconciliation!

Andy

 

 

It happened, it can happen again!

Above are words of an Italian Jewish chemist, writer and Holocaust survivor. These are portrayed at the start of the underground exhibition center of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. You may have seen pictures before of the centre from above ground:

  2711 concrete ‘stelae’ of various sizes and heights.

Primo Levi wrote a number of books based on his experiences including ‘If this be a man” based on his time in Auschwitz. It was a book that really impacted me a number of years ago when I read it.

Spending time at the center and other memorials close by was deeply moving:

  • The unbelievable barbarism that people can inflict on others.
  • The importance of seeking to ensure that never again can prejudice grow into such hateful outworking.

As Primo Levi declared, “it happened, therefore it can happen again”.

Around the world sadly we do see too many examples of people being oppressed by others. There are many situations to pray over and to speak up about  also where we have the opportunity.

One of the strengths of the Memorial rooms is that these really bring home the horror of the concentration camps through the stories of individuals and specific families. It was gut-wrenching reading/listening at times and I readily admit I found it overwhelming.

As I reflected and prayed later that day, I also asked myself some questions. Had I been a young person or adult in Germany in the 1930s, would I have turned a blind eye to the camps? Or more than that, would I have actively taken part? Everything within me cries out I hope not!Racism and persecuting people because they are different is terrible.

But I think true humility means that I have to be honest and say as I was not there then, I don’t know how I would have reacted. That is a challenging thought.

I think we can all end up considering that matters like prejudice as being quite abstract when it comes to our own lives. And yet…?

  • In our hearts, how do we view other people? Is there any group of people that we essentially feel negative about?
  • Are there people whose way of living we may well disagree with but somehow this has crossed over into something toxic inside?
  • Is there any group of people whom we have basically stereotyped and consider inferior in one way or another?

‘But I am not a fascist!’ we might say. No but you and I are human!

As the apostle Paul wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Such sinfulness can include deeply embedded bias and prejudice against others. It can be easy to deceive ourselves, as the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah declared, “the heart is deceitful beyond all things..” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The good news there is in Jesus Christ changes lives. It is a life change to speak into every aspect of who we are. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

It is because of God’s grace that we can be made right with God. We all need His grace whoever we are. We need to see that is true of all people – it puts us all on a level field regardless of differences in backgrounds. Surely that should impact the way we treat others? (Why not check out Paul’s writing about a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ in 2 Corinthians 5. How in embracing this might this impact how we live?).

I finish by encouraging us all to allow the Lord to examine our hearts. Consider these words from Hebrews 4:12-13:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

What is in our hearts, really in our hearts?

Andy

 

 

 

A work in progress

So where is this in Leiden? (I know at least one couple have the answer – keep quiet please!)

It is a “work in progress”, even as the summer weeks continue…

Here in the Merenwijk area of the city where we live, there is also building work going on – new roundabouts being put in at either end. One is done, the other will take until the end of September.

A work in progress…

Ever watched a potter working at his or her wheel or a glass blower in action? Perhaps you have stood and looked over the shoulder of someone painting outdoors somewhere. Or listened to some young people in the neighbourhood composing the latest song for their band : )

A work in progress…

Last week, I wrote about surrendering. That is a challenge in all kinds of areas since it requires humility but also the exercising of trust in God.

One such area of challenge is in terms of our lives and what is happening. Are we impatient and wanting to have ‘arrived’ (however we might define that?).

There can be all kinds of things that we can end up wanting done now if not yesterday! Such as wishing our course was finished, the job training completed, our application accepted or that person says yes. Or perhaps we have prayed something and it seems no answer is coming (though as an aside, it may not be in our interest or that of others for all our prayers to be answered as we would like!!!)

What if delays and things that seem like frustrations are part of of our journey of being a ‘work in progress’? Where is our trust? Is it only there when things are seemingly going well? What about when the way does not seem so clear? How do we respond then?

Do you see yourself as a work in progress? If not, what might help you get a new perspective? Who could you talk to about how life seems? Don’t struggle on in isolation.

Are there aspects of our lives that we need to surrender afresh and trust the Lord again?

A lot of questions I admit.

I want to encourage anyone reading those questions to not panic or despair but to have hope. In the Bible, we can read these words:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Hope in the Bible is something definite not a maybe!

Earlier from the same letter we can read,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who loved him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

That is quite a statement to think about, amid the twists and turns of life (it is worth reading on through to the end of that chapter. God’s love is spoken of in the midst of all kinds of challenges we might face).

Work in progress?

May you find the encouragement or strength that you need at this time.

One last verse, taken from another New Testament letter,

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)

God keeps to his promises. He is at work in our lives. Not manipulating us or treating us like chess pieces of course!

Part of the journey of surrendering is that we begin to become more Christ-like. Not that we lose our personalities in this – we are called to be more like Christ not called to be clones with no individuality.

Being a work in progress is not just about any of us singularly. It is also about community. The church(the body of Christ) is a work in progress together. One image the Bible uses is that of a bride preparing for marriage.

Whatever you are facing, you are not on your own. God has not forgotten you. Hopefully for many there is family and/or friends to be a support. Yet vitally also, there is the community of church – it is far more accurate and helpful to say “we are church” rather than “we go to church”.

Work in progress… let’s think on that!

Andy

 

 

Surrender?

So here are my feet last week in the Harz Mountains in Germany! Probably seems like a strange way to start this brief blog!!

I took the photo towards the end of a toboggan run that we all went on. At this stage, you had to just sit back and surrender to the mechanism and allow yourself to be pulled back to the start. Even if you tried to do anything with the controls, it made no difference. The only option would be to un-clip your safety belt and step off!

In life, ever felt that you have got to a situation where things are beyond your control? If so, perhaps you need to learn to surrender?

  • Many of us, may be all of us often want to be in control. We can seek to rely on our abilities, our knowledge, our resources or our contacts. None of these are wrong in themselves. Yet where do we turn when all of this no longer seems to work?
  • Or when we look at the news and troubles around the world? How do we respond? Does fear and despair totally engulf us? Are we able to see beyond and ask God to give us a different perspective?
  • If you are reading this as a Christ follower, are there areas in your life where you sense the Lord is challenging you to change, grow, embrace something new or give something up?

In response to all of these, I give the word ‘surrender’. What might that look like in our lives?

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we can read,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  (New International Version)

Do we believe that? Will we act on it? To do so will involve ‘surrender’.

Some of the core of Christian faith can seem at face value contradictory. For example, to live, we have to die: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Jesus did not mean literally dying. So what was He getting at? How do these words speak into your life?

On old U2 song (yup, I am showing my age!!) includes the words, “if I wanna live, I gotta die to myself someday”.

This weekend as a church community we will meet at a lakeside and witness two people getting baptised. They are recognising God’s grace in their lives, His forgiveness and that they have begun a new life of following Christ. Neither of them are claiming to be perfect.

Baptism symbolises the dying to an old life and rising to a new one in Christ. That can sound a bit ‘mystical’ and disconnected from the real world. But walking out faith amid the opportunities and challenges of life, involves in a very real way, an ongoing dying, a surrender. This impacts into daily living.

As the verses above from Proverbs stress, “Trust…” We all put our trust in something… actually we all surrender to something. What or who is it going to be?

Andy

 

 

Where are you headed, but also how?

This photo was taking on a summer’s day in the UK (honest, despite the dark clouds!!). It is part of Hay Tor which is a well known granite outcrop in the area where we used to live. Many people come to it each year as part of their visiting the Dartmoor National Park.

Some will hike or cycle many kilometres to reach it. Others will park their car at a further point and walk up. Some stop at the higher car park and then it is only a few minutes to reach the top. Occasionally you might see someone paragliding or using some other aerial means to pass over the tor. The sheep and wild ponies graze and wander by meanwhile.

Where are headed at present in life? How are you seeking to get there?

I don’t just mean literally if you are about to go on holiday ( though if so, have a great time).

What are you on with in life? It is good to reflect on this regularly though without getting over obsessed about it!

Some of Jesus’ words spoken amid the concerns and worries there can be in life – “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)

How might these words speak into our lives and where we are headed? How might seeking God’s kingdom impact our priorities, who we are and what we do?

It is not just about where we are headed but how we get there. The other day for instance I read from the book of Proverbs,

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out” (10:9)

One of the Merriam Webster online definitions of integrity is “the quality or state of being complete or undivided”.

  • Integrity – it is a big topic.
  • Integrity –  something vital for how we make our journey.
  • Integrity – a challenge to us all to consider how are we living. Both when we are seen and unseen. In our thoughts, words and actions.
  • Integrity – is there a particular area of our lives we need to address?

How is the journey we are all on?

Andy

 

Knowing or knowing about?

The photo above was snapped last night up at the lake near where we live. This one below was taken about 40 minutes ago:

The sky was darkening, the water becoming choppier. Then the lightning began to flash, the thunder rolled and the wind whipped up some more. The rain was really coming down heavily by the time I reached home. Sat here now,in slightly soggy clothes.

It is one thing to know about a thunderstorm, it is another to experience one! Admittedly this was far from the most dramatic one I have ever been in. The ex-Geography teacher inside of me loves to get immersed in such storms (in a safe way of course!)

David Benner in his book “The Gift of being Yourself” reflects on the call for each of us to truly know God and to truly know ourselves. In this, he writes of the importance of ‘transformational knowing’. It is one thing to say we know things about God but what about knowing God?

Consider these words of Jesus, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

The root word for what is translated here in English for ‘know’ is an intimate word. It means to know through first hand experience rather than just a piece of factual information or speculation.

Is such a knowing of God possible? Well according to Christ – yes it is. It is the essence of eternal life. Perhaps  some people view eternal life as just a vague hope for something to be there beyond the grave.  Yet according to what is recorded in the Bible, it is not vague and not just for one day. Eternal life has begun now for those who follow Christ.

I don’t mean of course, Christians do not die. Clearly physical death comes to all. Yet the belief in a definite not vague hope of life after death is rooted in eternal life begun in Christ now in this life!

Such a gift of eternal life is available to all through Jesus Christ. He made it possible through the cross.

Yet even for those of us who say we are Christians, where are we at in terms of knowing God? Are we growing in truly knowing Him or are we stuck we knowing stuff about Him?

I will not even begin to suggest that I have arrived in what it means to fully know God. I am grateful for the grace and truth that Christ brings (John 1:17) and the Spirit of truth (John 14) at work in us. He that ‘began a good work in you will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).

Such belief is neither escapist or detached from the world in which we live. I believe that as we know God better, we can get to know ourselves better too. This in turn can have positive impacts in the way that we treat others and how our communities are influenced.

In ICL, we are drawing to the end of a teaching series called, “Spiritually Fit”. The core essence of this is knowing God – all else can then ripple out from that!

Andy

PS It’s still thundering and raining, lots of lightning – time to go and look some more!

 

Contribute not just consume!

The above is probably not as clear as it could be and therefore not as delicious looking as it tasted! American pancakes with various additions consumed whilst meeting with another local church leader the other day.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives various definitions for the word ‘consume’ including:

to engage fully, to utilise as a customer, to do away with completely, to eat or drink especially in great quantity, to spend wastefully…

Not all of the above are that positive!

We would do well as humanity to really give careful thought to how we are stewarding this planet that has been gifted to us from God. There is more than enough for all but not at the life style level the minority of us in the world live!  So therein lies some real challenges. Are we willing to embrace some changes so that others can benefit?

Are we contributors as well as consuming or are we consumers alone? Is it about what we can get, we can take, we can have? How do we approach our lives, our families, our work, our church, our neighbourhood? As consumers or contributors?

In his book ‘Culture Care’, American Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura sends out a call that Christians should see part of their life mission as being called to be contributors to culture rather than consumers of it. What might that look like in each of our lives?  (as an aside if you read this before Sunday 18th, one of the seminars taking place is about ‘Culture and Faith’ It will be touching on such issues about culture).

In the New Testament, we can read these words:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 New International Version

The context is about money to be given to help others in real need. Are we open to being cheerful givers with our money? More than this though – how about also with our time, our attitudes, the way we treat others? To be generous contributors in all kinds of ways. To have an attitude to give rather than to get!  (when we have a heart to give, we very often ending up getting along the way in some form or other anyhow!)

The verses quoted above show that to be a contributor, we need a heart to be a cheerful giver. Yet also we need to have hearts that trust God – “And God is able to bless you abundantly…” Do we believe that?

I don’t mean some kind of ‘health, wealth and prosperity’ distortion of the Gospel. Rather do we believe that God is able to bless us (which may not mean in terms of money!) so we can “abound in every good work'” – a big part of that is that we might contribute into the lives of others around.

So with God’s help and a heart to see others and the planet as He does, let’s seek to contribute not just consume!

Andy

 

 

Unity in a divided world?

An ancient song recorded in the Old Testament opens with the words,

“How pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity…”  (Psalm 133).

Then there is some imagery that possibly for our minds, it is hard to get our heads around. The song ends though with the words, “For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Unity bringing God’s blessing…

Take a look in the news and we see plenty of examples of disunity. Even as I write, various governments in the Persian Gulf/North Africa have “united” to accuse another Gulf State of funding terrorism. At least one of those governments could arguably themselves be accused of being guilty of human rights abuses and funding terrorism. There are other tensions too within this “united” group!  

Of course, we see the headlines and are not privy to what is really going on behind the scenes. Let’s been praying that there can be resolution that is just and right for all those impacted and connected.

In the UK, where we come from as a family, there is a general election this week for a new Parliament. It has been called just under a year after what many saw as a very divisive referendum. Will the election re-unite people more clearly?

Over the past two weeks in the news we have witnessed bombings in Manchester, Kabul, London, fighting in places like the Philippines, Syria and Iraq and on-going protests in countries like Venezuela. Many examples where there seems to be all kinds of things at work to bring division between people (as well as people coming together to unite for instance in solidarity after the bombings)

Let’s be praying for this world.

We also have to face up to the reality that finding true unity amid diversity is a challenge. Enforced unity tends to be authoritarian and does not touch the hearts of people. Rather it oppresses and persecutes – think the Gulags as but one example. Unity as a slogan meanwhile can end up being no more than that and lacking any true substance!

Unity takes working at, it involves heart change, it takes prayer, it involves surrender of entrenched positions, it takes listening to others and understanding where they are coming from, it involves knowing what you believe but also how to communicate this in the context of others, it takes a willingness to make unity a priority.

So is the last paragraph a comment to the nations? Well not necessarily, for two reasons:

Firstly, I hardly think any political leader for example is going to be reading this.

Secondly, I think there is a call to ‘get our house in order first’ (Not that it is wrong to be speaking up about matters such as extremism, division, injustice, human rights abuses, the poor and the oppressed, the environment – personally I think as Christians, we should be doing so)

In John 17, a prayer of Jesus is recorded. It includes a heart cry for unity among His followers. His words include this:

“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me” (17:23)

Sadly for many people looking at the Christian church, they see division. They see Christians sometimes more wedded to a certain political view than actually to Christ. They note the ridiculous number of different denominations (let’s be honest, it is ridiculous!)

Christ prayed for unity. Why? He gives two reasons in his prayer –

  • That the world knows that Christ came from God and
  • In sending Christ, this was(is) an expression of the love of God.

This world needs to know of the life changing and division breaking power of Christ’s love!

I recognise that there are all kinds of challenges to seeing unity among the church of Christ happen. But it is vital for each us to do our part to pray, live and work towards this. Otherwise we are choosing to ignore what Christ prayed!

A few practical suggestions:

Let’s ask the Lord to give us a heart for His unity in our lives and to seek His reconciliation among others.

Pray for our own congregation. Let’s be active in connecting with others and do our part to encourage unity around Christ, amid celebrating the diversity and working through differences.

Pray for other church congregations besides our own.

Speak well of other Christians and do something to ‘bless’ some Christians outside of our own church community.

Where there are differences, these do not have to be ignored and at times something may well need to be said. Yet let’s check our heart attitude in this.

Grapple with difficult questions. For instance:

  • In the world today, there are church leaders/church movements seemingly actively supporting oppressive governments, how do we respond to this?
  • There are issues of doctrine, sexuality, ethics and politics that Christians have varying views on. How do we still unite around Christ whilst acknowledging and working through such differences?

Seek to understand where others are coming from, rather than holding sweeping or uninformed opinions. Avoid judgmentalism that says things like “oh they are too traditional” or “they are not Spirit filled” or “they are too liberal” or “they are too evangelical”!!

Be a global Christian. Seek to be informed about what is going on across the planet and how we can learn from other Christian traditions even from out side our own culture. Pray for believers around the world including all those persecuted for their faith.

Do all we can to be “Christ’s ambassadors” with a “message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5) among those in our circles of influence: families, friends, neighbourhoods, study/work places, what we put in social media and elsewhere online.

“How pleasant it is when people dwell in unity… For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Andy

 

 

Kabul, how to respond?

I had a train of thought in my mind to write about as we approach Pentecost weekend. I was going to comment about how our ‘being full of the Spirit’ calls us outside the doors of the church world. That with the Holy Spirit’s help, the good news there is in Christ, should be making a difference in our neighbourhoods and work/ study places. I would have linked this with a couple of Bible verses.

Then the bombing happened yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan… killing 80 and injuring 100s. Many families impacted.

Reported in the media though unlike with the Manchester bombings, there does not seem to be much being said by political leaders in outcry!  (Not that I mean by that to take away from the tragedy of what happened last week in Manchester)

May be we become all too familiar with attacks in places like Afghanistan or Syria. Or for those of us living somewhere like Netherlands, a city like Kabul seems very remote and disconnected from our lives here.

Yet whether it is those mourning in Manchester or Kabul or those Coptic christian families attacked in Egypt last week, whether it is people caught up in the on-going tensions in Venezuela or the Philippines … these are real people, however quickly the media or political leaders may move on in their focus.

How to respond? Perhaps for some fear or despair can take a grip. For others, it is a rallying call to wipe out extremism and work for a more peaceful world.

As followers of Christ, how do we respond

  • in prayer?
  • in the way we speak about such situations?
  • in our actions?
  • in the way we treat those that are different or even that we disagree with?

What does a Holy Spirit led response look like to what we see in the news? What does such a response look like for colleagues, friends, family or neighbours going through a tough time? How can we be ambassadors of hope even when it seems there is none?

In Matthew 9:36, we can read of Jesus, “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…” May we ask Him to give us such a heart for the world around us.

In Christ, our lives are secure – we do not need to fear troubled times or even death. I don’t write that glibly or to mean that troubles won’t impact us. But rather our lives are ultimately in Christ –

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35

There is hope for this world in Jesus Christ. Amid all the complexity and challenges that humanity faces – there is hope. Amid all the divisions and misunderstandings- there is hope. Amid the pain, anguish and grieving- there is hope.

What does such hope look like in a meaningful way?

This post may well generate more questions than answers. Yet I encourage us to grapple with such questions as we pray and think about how to respond to what we have seen in places like Manchester and Kabul.

Andy

 

Love our neighbour(s)?

The photo above is part of the street where we live. It is a peaceful street generally – though there was one occasion a few months ago where near this spot, a plain clothes policeman grabbed a guy who ran past me and bundled him into a police car!  But generally it is a peaceful street, in many ways an ordinary street, certainly not a famous one or a road that appears in the media.

What do you think about where you live? Both literally the street where you are, but also the immediate neighbourhood and the town/city?

Is it somewhere you see that you are just “passing through”? Is it just somewhere incidental to what you do in life?

ICL’s key Bible phrase is a “planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour” (Isaiah 61:3)

Can I encourage us all to pray about having a sense (if we don’t have it already) of being ‘planted’ where we are living?  Even if you are only in the Leiden area for a few months.

Also let’s take time to consider how can we actively reach out with the love of Christ to those in our neighbourhoods (not just in our work/study places or families). Not that I mean this to be an ‘extra’ to add to an already impossible list of things to do! Rather I encourage us to consider how can we build connecting in our neighbourhoods, into the rhythm of what we do already?

For instance,

  • Pray for our neighbours
  • Take a walk in the neighbourhood and pray.  Be open to chatting with others (and if you are the only international, don’t worry – many Dutch people speak English at least). I get it if you are an introvert that it may feel more of a challenge – I am an introvert too and do not always find it easy.
  • Invite some neighbours round for a meal (you have got to eat regularly anyway)  Let’s not worry about being top chefs! If it is a real worry, invite them round for a drink and cake instead.
  • Pray about other ways to be a ‘blessing’ in your neighbourhood.

Now that the weather is hopefully generally better, it is particularly a time where perhaps we are more likely to connect with others. Let’s be actively open to being a ‘planting’ that makes a difference and displays the Lord’s splendour where we live, work and study.

Andy