Sunday, November 26, 2006

"I am 28 going on 29, I know that I'm naive..."

I'm not sure what to call this post. I'm still in the desert and it's not really getting any easier. But that's ok... I mean... I feel like I can use this time to strengthen my faith muscles...no matter how often I feel like I'm just really alone. I'm not sure why my heart feels so heavy still but it has made me pray a lot for many people that I know are going through "real" hard times. I just heard a song on the radio that really touched my heart, and as I knelt down to pray I heard Psalm 40. I didn't really know this Psalm so I looked it up and it was so cool. Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil. Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha. Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified. But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Today is my last day as a 28 year old. I must say that I think it's the first time in some years that I'm actually looking forwards to the next year... 29 in this case. I know I'm getting older and older and what not... but I'm just so excited about God's plans and all that He would like to do in my life and in the lives of those around me. Getting older for me just means more years to walk with Him and the thought of that makes me very happy. I don't know what the Lord has in mind, but whatever it is I know it's going to be great in Him and I just hope that with the years how many they may be... that I will just grow more and more in Him and be wiser each time.... please Jimena!!!! The Lord is good and I do rejoice in Him. He has indeed "put a new song in my mouth" which has been a blessing to sing and play... it's amazing how it just lifts our spirit to just sing to God. I know He has heard my cry, I have had the opportunity to share His good deeds with others lately, and at the same time reminding myself of the great things He has done in my life. My heart is heavy because of my iniquities, but "behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment." And then the Pharisee who saw this thought, "Ha, if Jesus was a real prophet he would know what kind of a woman this is... for she is a sinner!" Remember? And then Jesus said :"There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed 500 pence, and the other 50. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?" The Pharisee answered correctly by saying that he whom he forgave the 500. Then Jesus said :"Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."
So in a way I could say that because of my many iniquities I have the ability to love much, for much has been forgiven. Well... I don't know why I'm writing so much... I should go enjoy the last hours of 28-hood.

Ha... I just got a pre-B-day call from somebody that wanted to wish the Purple Princess a Happy B-day!!!! Cool... Thank you so much! =)It's the first pre-Birthday call I have ever gotten in my life! The Princess is happy!

God bless to anyone that made it all the way to the bottom of this post! God bless!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Desert Lessons

Dear Friends,

We have finally made it... that's right. I write you from the burning desert where all you hear is the wind blowing, the lifting of sand, where the sky is clear and the sun just never seems to get tired of doing it's job and where there is absolutely nothing in view... at least not where I am. What am I doing here? Well, a lot of things so far, but mostly just learning to turn my heart to God, to quiet my soul and hear Him speak. I wasn't really planning on such a trip... when He suggested we go I said...

"Great! Let me get..."
"He's not coming."
"Oh, then let me tell..."
"She's not coming."
"Then... we surely must take..."
"Nothing...just come :)"
"0_o..... hmmm, I think I have to gooo"


What am I really saying? Just that the Lord loves us so much, He knows what we need and when we need it too. If our prayer is to be closer to Him... to have more of Him... but if we are already full of ourselves, then how can this happen? God takes prayer seriously, He takes us seriously and if we say "Oh Lord I want more of you in my life"... then He'll probably have to take something out of you, to put more of Him. No? In a way I think that what we sometimes mean by this is really, Lord bless me with more things that are good for me. Give me, give me, give me. This morning when I woke up, still a bit dizzy from the whole trip I said. "Lord, what do we do? Where do I go from here?" First off, the basics... love, forgive, give thanks, and something I seldom do, lay it all out before God and man if necesary. Why? because if I carry things around when I'm trying to focus on Him... I can't really, because I'll still feel the burden of my load... so that's got to go... "Ok cool...what next?" And here comes my first Desert Lesson.

1. When we pray, "More of You", that actually means, less of me... and that's how our prayer will be answered. Then when we say... "Lord, why do I feel so empty?" He will lovingly remind us that we do indeed seem to have a new hole, a new emptiness, but that He's here to fill it and He will...we just have to follow Him and trust that He is good and all good things come from Him.

I think I will learn a lot of things in the desert. God did many miracles right there... Jesus spent a lot of time there too. If I want to follow Him with all my heart I'll have to understand what the desert is, as it seems to be a very important place for God. I'm getting excited about this. I've managed to bring my Bible, my guitar, a pen... a study.... some chocolates (shhhhh) Everything else He will provide. Speaking of which, Happy Thanksgiving to anyone reading this today. Even here in the desert the Lord is going to provide a meal for me that I won't even prepare. The guys (just two really) from our Bible study are coming and one of them will cook. :) And we hadn't even planned to have a Thanksgiving Dinner... infact, I'll have to tell them that that's what we are having. :)


Cheers and God bless you where ever you are.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sponsored Links

I got an e-mail about the post I had just made and as I opened it the first thing that stood out where the sponsored links... don't you just love those?

A Thankful Heart

Some days ago I was reading an article and in it there was a prayer by a young woman. She had recently gotten married and was praising the Lord for how good He had been to her. He gave her a great husband, a home, a good family, a great job... many great things. This is good ofcoure and she does well in praising and thanking God for all this. But then I thought about it a little bit more and I wondered about thanking and praising God when all things seem against you. How about when you are weak and poor and ill and heartbroken, can we then praise God? I think we can, I think we should... I think I could. Tomorrow many people will be celebrating Thanksgiving. I have always loved Thanksgiving because it brings good memories of my childhood, and it has on some occasions fallen right on my Birthday. I remember going to church as a child and seeing family after family bringing in meals, desserts and drinks to share with everyone. I wasn't there with my family and I never got to take anything to give, but I enjoyed so much to see the love and joy in sharing... then in the middle of the meal, someone would stand up and say something he or she was thankful for... this went on for minutes, everybody just getting up to thank God for something... once I was even encouraged to stand up and you can imagine this little skinny girl getting up and saying "I'm thankful for my family". I am still that same little girl, and still this day I am thankful for my family... but as an adult woman my needs and desires are different from a child's. When my heart is broken my valley dark, no flower in vision... can I still give thanks?

There was a moment in my day when I just had to put my head down, and rest as I had no strength for anything else... too tired to cry anymore, no strength to call on the Lord, and then I heard a song. A new song. I am not a musician nor do I consider myself musically gifted. I love music and always have music in my heart... but this was a new song and this is what it said:

When I am weak I'll search you Lord
When I am weak you're strong
When I am weak you heal me Lord
When I am weak I sing

Oh Lord I come to you this day
And sing your praises high
Oh Lord your mercies and your truth
They shine a light in my heart

Cause you are my Strength
You are my Hope
You are my Strength
You are my Hope


II Corinthians 12:9 says:
"And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."


So even if I'm not that young woman that is being so blessed by all the Lord is giving her I can still rejoice in the desert because that's where God's strength is made perfect. I can be thankful for the heat, for the dryness, the pain because this is what is making me seek the Lord with all I have. Can this really be true? I think it is... I could keep you posted ;)

On a happier note, I got this great encouragment from a wonderful person, who said "You are a precious child to God. When you are brokenhearted, does He stand stoically by without His heart aching? No. That's why in the midst of our pain He asks us to "cast our cares upon Him, for he cares for Jimena."(That's word for word from my Bible! :)"
..... Hehe... I have to get me that Bible... THANK YOU!!! =)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blessed are...

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying...

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


Matthew 5:1-9

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hot Wheels!!!

For those who are interested. Two weeks ago my mom, brother and I went to the south of Holland, Limburg, to get a bike for me. Most people in Holland ride a bike to school, work, the stores, the park... everywhere. I used to bike well when I was a child, but after TM I more or less chickened out of it, afraid I would fall. But last year a good friend of mine really encouraged me to go bike, and I went with my dad to the forest and after a little while I realized that I could still bike quite ok. I never tired it in the city because my legs are not strong enough to stop a normal bicycle in a normal way... don't know how else to word it... you'd have to see me to get it. But... I found a Three-wheeler online (I refuse to call it a tricycle), for a good price and decided to go for it! My lovely family is and has always been so supportive of me and both my mom and brother went all the way down there with me, and my little brother managed to get the bike on 3 trains, a bus, and then he biked home with me on the back! =) Now let me tell you... it might look easy and simple to ride... but I assure you it is neither. It is not at all like riding a normal bike. You should come try it just for fun. When I first tried I almost ran right into a car, and then a tree trying to avoid the car... my brother... he did worse. But, now I feel a bit more comfortable with it and once I'm really good at it I would like to bike to work. It is getting kind of cold over here... but we'll see.

Here it is! This was at the airport where we were waiting for a bus. Please excuse the model; he's lovely and I do love him and all but he gets all adolescent and cranky/cool when it comes to pictures. Kids...

It's not a big bike so it's just perfect for me! As you can see, you can also sit on it while it's still and... NOT fall!!! (btw) C.D. I hope you don't mind I posted some pictures of you without asking you first... :s

I feel like this is truly a great blessing for me, and I'm also very thankful to God for the kind of family I have and all my caring friends that are always trying to find a way to encourage me and see me do well. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another good-bye

Well,
I have moved to another place once again... Two years ago at a costume party I dressed up as a Pirate but everybody thought I was a Gypsy for some reason... That's kind of what I've become in a way. In the last two years I have lived in 5 different places and I just keep moving from one place to another for different reasons. But I do long for that one place (in the near future I hope) I will be able to call my "real home". The kind where you can draw on your own walls and it would be ok because you are the boss. For now... I must say good-bye to my old place up in an attic. I will miss...

Dinners with Ben...


...my work spot...


...early morning views from my little window =)... (you can even see one of my old colleagues getting to work!)


...the way I had set up my things...


...my wonderful... well, you can see...


... and walking by this beautiful canal each day.

But, no worries. I am now living in a pink building on the 19th floor, so that should also be interesting.

God bless.... =)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Biiible?

Here is something that made me Smiiile :)

Enjoy if you are like me!

Apenheul

I went to a Monkey Zoo with my mom a few weeks ago... it was a very nice day and the weather was great. Just wanted to share a few photos!

I don't know what these were, but they didn't look like monkeys to me.

They can look so tame...

... or a bit scary.

Way up high!



Family. :D

Whee!!!

Relaxing by the water.

Holding babies.

And last but not least... and definitely not a monkey, the lovely Mrs. Cervantes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Update... on old news...

I don't know why it's getting harder to post... I guess because I have just been thinking too much lately so, I still have to process all my thoughts. But here is an update on some way old news... my trip to Peru.

Well, My desire was to post some pictures on some 'online photo-album' thing, but I sort of chickened out at the last minute. So... I'll just post a few here.

I would like to say that I highly recommend Peru. I had a blast, and I absolutely loved the people. Honestly, they were the best part of Peru in my opinion. My friend Mariel was an excellent tour guide in Lima, Limon... and she is just "super cool". Gracias Mariel!!! Then Machupicchu was magnificent... I couldn't get enough of all the mountains and the air, the smells, the mates de coca and the kids... there were kids all over the place... cute ones.

I'll just let the pictures do the talking. I won't post pictures of Lima this time or Mariel for that matter because I didn't ask her if I could... but if she gives the 'ok' then I'll put a picture of her, especially as she loves being in as many pictures as possible.


MachuPicchu in all it's glory.


My dad in all his... glory.
note: I went with my dad on this trip and I must admit that I had a very good time with him, although it was sort of a challenge at times... for example, he wouldn't always let me eat pizza when I wanted to, or he still sort of looks after me as if I was a 3 year old... you know like... making sure I could find my way back to the hotel which was about... oh, 0.5 blocks away from where I was.... little (BIG) things like that. Besides that he too can sometimes have his "super cool" moments... really.


I don't know ya'll, but I think I look as cute as a button in this picture, if I may say so myself.... ah, a true adventurer... well, at least I know how to stand like one. NOTE to Myself: make sure your next post is about humility and about the women in the O.T. that gave away their mirrors for God's glory.


This was a great parrot I saw. He or she was great because, when I went to say hi, she/he came right away to where I was to say hi too I suppose, and when I wasn't really sure about her/his intentions I put my finger really close to his/her beak and he/she didn't bite me. So that was cool.... the super kind.


Now, this was just one of the many beautiful kids I saw there. She was so amazing. I took some really nice pictures of her, but this one shows some of the background as well.


Amazing eh?... oh sorry Mariel, that's your hand!!!!



Now, of all the things that I saw, this was the one thing that impressed me the most. It's a sacrificial table. you can see the three little steps on the one side, and the little hole on the other side was to tie the sacrificial animals. The reason I was really impressed is because of this. See.... when I was in school I learned quite a lot about the Incas and the Mayas and Aztecs and so forth... and I never really understood the whole sacrificial deal. The killing of people so appease the gods or, for whatever reason. I always thought of them as cruel people and that's it. But I had been a few days in Peru and I had been reading a bit about the Incas and I was really impressed by their constructions and their knowledge of astronomy and agriculture... their language, art... noem maar op. But here was not just one sacrificial table but, there were many in fact... I remember seeing at least three and I didn't even see the whole place. There was a neat one in the shape of an eagle, and you could see where the blood was supposed to run though. But when I saw them I was in awe because, they looked like very important places, were very important things happened. As I thought about it more and more, I wondered "How can such advanced people make such sacrificial ceremonies involving animals, people.... children!!! How come?" But then it hit me.... there is no other way! See.... these people knew exactly what it was about... the blood. To most of us blood means death and pain and horror movies. But I think that blood can also mean the opposite, which is life. We need blood to live. I tell you these were very intelligent and wealthy people, but in all that glory and knowledge, they knew that they weren't the greatest. There had to be a God, the Sun god for them and that the only thing that was pure enough to offer to him was blood... everything else they could make or do would fall short in God's sight. Why... because God is pure and powerful, and someone to respect. And why care about God? Because they believed that all they had came from God. All their wealth, all the wonders in the sky... in their knowledge they knew that God had to be the answer and if all these things where from someone so big, they better be on His good side. To them the only really pure thing they could offer really, was blood, especially children's blood. They needed blood to celebrate, to give thanks, to be forgiven, to ask for help... All this sound horrible? Here comes the good news... or well, first a little bit of more bad news... this whole thing still applies today, and to each of us. If we want to come and be close to God, and be on His team... or on His good side at least, we'll need blood. Mind you, God only has a good side. He doesn't want all your money and riches, He doesn't want your super cool Ferrari... if you are a good singer, great! But He's got angels singing to His glory, and I bet that's more impressive. You think you are a pretty good guy or gal... ? That's a lot of good,... but how much good do you reckon is enough to please God? I could go on, but let's get to the good news. The good news is that, because God loves us and wants us all to come to Him, He sent His Son Jesus, who offered His life so we wouldn't have to pay the price...not even try to. He sent his Son (who was perfect, pure, good, without any blemish) so that through Him we could be called sons and daughters of God. As I stood there looking at this stone... and imagining a sacrifice I imagined someone running up to where the priest, the crying mother, the amazed onlookers, the brave or scared sacrifice were, and yelling... "Stop... we don't need to do this anymore... ever again! Stop... the Son of God has died, so we could have life....forever."

"What wondrous love is this?"


"Animal sacrifices accompanied many important Inca occasions. Each day witnessed many sacrifices to celebrate the sun's appearance. Human sacrifice occurred in times of natural disaster, other great times of distress, and important occasions; children were often sacrificed. In order for a child to be sacrificed, the child had to be perfect, and be free of any blemishes. Usually the finest young children were taken from each village to Cuzco to meet the emperor, and were then taken to the highest mountains and were then sacrificed, most often with a blow to the head. The children were elaborately adorned with fine clothing, and jewelry. This process left many mummies."



Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Break... or the return thereof

I'm back from my Summer Holiday!... It's funny but when you haven't posted for a long time you sort of don't even know how or where to start anymore... I'm feeling kind of shy here and this is my own blog! Well, I guess most of you know that I've been to Bonaire and Peru these last weeks. I had an almost perfect Summer... almost prefect because it just wasn't long enough. But I'm glad to be back... (I'm sure I'll be glad if I keep telling myself that over and over again.)

No, but.. seriously, The Lord is good. The verse I had in my heart through my trips was this.

"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." - Jeremiah 33:3

Call to me says the Lord, and I will answer you... so, I called to Him, where ever I was... and I did indeed see great things... and mighty things which I knew not. The greatest thing I saw was Machu Picchu, and well... my desire was to see the Lord in all that I saw, and He answered me. I'll write more about Machu Picchu and Bonaire and all that, but right now I'm working on adjusting to time again... so it's way past my bed time.

But here is a little preview of what I saw during my Summer Holiday :D.. Yay!

{right to left.... I'm learning Hebrew now}

1) One of the many cute kids I saw in Peru
2) Sunchi, my little bundle of JOY and a few fleas here and there!
3) Little stones and sand in Bonaire
4) A Lama and I
5) My dad :)
6) Moi in Machu Picchu
7) Machu Picchu
8) Cusco
9) Mate Coca

God bless!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Still here...

Ok, well... as some of you may or may not have noticed I have not been posting for a long time. It's because of several reasons. ONE, I didn't have internet for a very long time, TWO, it was taking forever to download, THREE, I've been busy with work, FOUR, there is this whole World Cup going on, FIVE, I like to watch Football, SIX, I didn't have internet for a long time, SEVEN, I felt like nobody was reading my posts anyway, EIGHT, well, I knew some people do read my posts, but you know how you like people to tell you to do something that they enjoy from you, but you sort of have to hear it first before you do it, but then nobody lets you know that they actually do want you to do it?, NINE, my favourite number, TEN, I didn't have internet for a long time, ELEVEN, it hit me last night that perhaps the reason it takes a long time to download is because of some HTML errors, TWELVE, I had also been a bit ill for sometime, FOURTEEN, I was actually really sick actually, but I'm feeling better now, THIRTEEN, I didn't have internet for a month or so.

What have you been missing out on? A lot, there is the World Cup thing going on (which isn't much of a "World" Cup right now), and France is about to win the whole thing just like that. Holland is still using ORANGE as their representative colour and I couldn't eat Tangerines for a long time... But they are out now, because of the Portuguese who are also out now because of the French, who are about to win the whole thing if the Italians don't stop them. I can't think of the Brazilians, who are also out because of the French, without feeling sad, but as I'm a good sport I have to admit that the French played better, and that the Brazilians played, as my uncle said, as if they were playing against their mothers. Then the poor Germans were kicked out of their own party by the Italians. I wouldn't invite any of those countries again if I were Germany. Anyway... I haven't just been watching football the whole time though. Today was my last day of work. The kids have a long 6 week break and some will go to other schools, while others will stay for another year. I'm also on vacation now, but I think I'll do a bit of work on Monday and Tuesday before I go away on vacation!!!! Anyway... a lot of things have sort of changed, but I'm happy to say that God doesn't change and that's why we can alwasy trust where He said He would be, what He said He would do, and who He said He is. Tomorrow I will be moving out of my rooms for the Summer.

A Happy Summer Holiday to anyone going away on vacation. God bless...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Jimena's Thinks A-Z

Apple animals ball beautiful believe better Bible big blue Bonaire brothers children Christ church come communicate complete content crepes dad days dinner down eat faith family father Flamingo flowers forget France french friend garden girl God good guy happy heart heaven Holland help home hope house interesting Jesus jimena keys Lekker life like little live Love mean mom morning mother music nice notify objectionable old one paint paragraph Paris peace peacock people person pretty pictures pleased Pray prayer present previous profile ¿Que? quiet read remember right room sad sand school seemed share sing sister song sun talk text think thought three time tree trip Turquoise two uncle vicky wallaby walk work Ximena yes year you young Zebra


Some words taken from my posts so far. snapshirts will also do it for you, but I thought I'd type mine ;)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Crepes, Taize and thoughts on Love: day 6

Ok, I'm really almost done with my Paris posts, but there are still 1.5 days to go. I was happy that there wasn't really anything planned for day 6, at least not until later in the evening. I spent the morning reading, and not doing much else. Delphine suggested we have crepes for dinner and Raphael thought it was a good idea so off he went to the kitchen. I can't really generalize but I think most French people enjoy cooking. I'm not sure, but I do know that French cuisine is famous world wide and that this family loves to cook. They enjoy cooking together and love to sit around the table to eat and talk, laugh and drink. I think it's one of the reasons they are such a close family. Delphine was busy with school-work so Raphael made the crepes. I was supposed to help but I was more interested in observing and taking pictures. I love crepes. My favourite kind are spinach with cheese crepes. Lekker! There is a very nice restaurant in Paris where you can get a whole menu for 8 euros. You get a dinner crepe, a dessert crepe and a jug of apple cider. Anyway.. here are some pictures I took.


He made two kinds of crepes. Salty crepes for dinner, and sweet dessert crepes. Each type is made with a different kind of flour.

This texture looks so playful and innocent. Oh, if dreams were but only made of things as these. I find it fasinating to see how things transform.

This was my only contrubution... apart from eating of course.

He didn't actually mix the ingredients but put them in the blender. Might be a guy thing though.

Oops, maybe he did mix after all. I think I was too busy taking pictures that I can't remember why he first blended and then mixed... never mind.

It was put in the fridge for a few hours. A few hours because we left to go to a Taize prayer meeting before dinner.

In the evening we all (except Delphine) went to a church where they were having a Taize meeting. A Taize prayer meeting is basically a meeting where people come together to sing songs from Taize, and silent prayer. I went to Taize some years ago, and found it all very interesting. There were a lot of young people and I liked the music. The songs are a line or two taken from Scripture and they are sung in different languages. After singing they have a quiet time when you can pray. The first time I was there the prayer time was a bit difficult, because it seemed like a very long time and it wasn't easy for me to sit so quietly, but by the end of my stay there (5 days) I realized that I could actually pray about a lot of things during this time and it didn't seem that long anymore. I was enjoying the quiet time to just talk with God. There weren't a lot of people at the church, but there were both Catholics and Protestants there. We all sat down and sang a few of the songs. Some people read Bible verses and some prayed out loud. I had been feeling quite well. My trip to France really was a great blessing and I was very thankful for it all and these were my thoughts that evening. Then we had the prayer. I started my usual prayer... "Thank you Lord for this day... bless so and so, and so and so, thank you for this and that..." and then all of a sudden I felt like I was being stopped. I had my eyes closed but in my mind I was remembering acts of love... I was remembering times when people had been kind to me. There was one person sticking out in particular; he was sitting right behind me, playing the flute and clarinet that evening. I could see his hands helping me when I needed help, or a shoulder I could cry on if I was sad, or encouraging words to lift me up, and it was as if I was hearing the Lord say, "Why do you push me? Don't you know all good things come from me? I can't describe it but I was crying like a silent baby. See... how many times does this happen? Sometimes I take love for granted, or feel indifferent about it because I'm too busy with my own thoughts and my own life. When somebody cares for you and wants to give you a hand to help you or comfort you in Christ, isn't rejecting it or not being thankful for it, like pushing Christ away? I was really sad because in my heart I was saying... "No, I wouldn't push You away, I do love You." But, if we love God, we are also to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Being with Him is an intimate relationship, but... even though some of us see and intimate relationship as being a "just the two of us" kind of relationship... as soon as you are getting all comfortable God says... "be right back" and in come a hundred people, because God loves His people and we are to love them too, and rejecting them, or pushing them away is like pushing Him as well... I don't know if this makes sense, and I didn't really understand all that was going on inside me that night, but it did make me realize that we are here to build each other up in Christ, and this means that we must do so even when those people are not present. We are always to speak words of kindness about them, and not joke about them in any way that is meant to make me look good, or strong, or put them down or so. It's about standing up for each other like a close family would. It's about seeing them just as Christ sees them, in His light. It really is about loving them. Anyway, the prayer time didn't last very long, or maybe all this was happening too fast, but I know my heart was touched that night. At the house we had the crepes, and later on when all was quiet I was able to ponder all this in my heart.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"The Pursuit of God"

I think I think a lot. And this morning I was thinking about God. I have been a bit sick for the last two days, so today I'm going to take it easy. As I was going down to have breakfast, I grabbed one of my favourite books, "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. It's really a great book in my opinion. Anyway, I went on to read the preface, which I tend to skip in some books, but I really like this preface, and as English is not my first language I seem to understand some things better or discover something else each time I read it. I read something that I hadn't understood before, and needed to hear. These couple of last days I have been sort of fighting with my Spirit. I've been discouraged by a few things, I have felt weak in my faith, and I have experienced how rebellious my heart can feel towards God for no reason! I had also been discussing religion some weeks ago, and this isn't always very uplifting. Many things were discussed and I learned some things, but God, and the things of God were missing in all that theology. I could just feel it in my heart. I decided on purpose to not get into a Bible quoting argument, because I wasn't trying to prove anything, I just wanted to understand where this person was coming from, which maybe isn't a good thing to want after all. I don't know my Bible very well, but I know that I feel confident in my walk with God. My confidence is not in me as I know how weak I can be, but in God's love towards me. It's about trusting the Holy Spirit guides us in our walk, and in being able to discern what is and what is not of God. So, I was reading the preface and this is what he says:
"Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the "piercing sweetness" of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing."
I think I can apply this to my life. There is this "program", this "order" that I can come up with or get from someone that will make me a better Christian, and I could stick to it and feel "safe", within my well structured and healthy program. And, well... it may or may not be safe, it's better than being indifferent, but will it really really feed me? Will it satisfy me? Will it make me grow?
"For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts."
To me it means that knowing God is not all about going through the motions, but about a personal experience, an intimate relationship, and just as any relationship we may have it can grow, improve, be lost, suffer, and so on. I like this, because it's about an interactive God. About a living God. I've always known that He was this way, but I have not always known or understood that it can also concern me, and these times. After going through this little short desert in the last days, I realize that when my soul is quiet and rests in Him, there is no better place to be, even if there is sand blowing in your face, and that we must be careful of all the mirages we may encounter in a desert. The only real oasis is in Him. The book is also online in case you want to read it. It really is a good one. "The Pursuit of God"

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." - 2 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, May 19, 2006

Still on day 5 :(

I was thinking that I should hurry up this mini France trip as I've been back for two weeks now, and a lot of other things are happening right here. So, ok... on day 5, which was on a Sunday, Raphaël and I went to church in the morning. I mentioned before that I was understanding French better so I was able to understand the message quite ok. I don't remember the name of the church. I figured I was going to go to a quiet church, where you sat quietly, sang quiet songs and listened quietly. The preacher that morning was a pastor from another church. I don't know where he was from as he didn't look French to me, but he spoke with a clear deep voice, his eyes twinkled as he shared and everytime he asked people to sit down he would put his palms up, smile and bow his head. He shared about Jesus' resurrection. I know there were two points he wanted to share but I don't know if I understood completely. I think the first point was about how Jesus rose not for himself, as in, not to prove something, but he rose for us. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't know if I have this right... but it was something along these lines, and the second point was about how Scripture supports this...?... I hope he doesn't read this blog. :( I don't really remember well as I couldn't really understand everything, but I was very blessed to be there. This church was indeed a very quiet church, but it was very active as well, and they even clapped their hands when somebody stood up to thank the preacher for sharing with them. Somebody else also stood up and mentioned how it doesn't commonly happen that they clap their hands but that he was (touched?) by the message... It's funny because before going to church I was hoping deep inside that I would get a chance to clap my hands in church. Anyway, these people were just standing up and sharing prayer requests, commenting on the message, reminding each other of the weeks activities, and it was all good. I was happy to be there.
After church we had some lunch and then went to meet Raphaël's parents and his grandmother at the grandmother's country house. When we had dinner with her some days before she had invited me to see her country house. The house is 150 years old, and it has every good thing you would want to find in an old house. A fireplace, a well, old books, wooden beams, old trees and much more. Here are some pictures.

The entrance.

Front of the house.

Mrs. Pinson working in the garden.

A well!!! A well!!!...

The back of the garden. I thought the little flowers looked so pretty on the ground.

The garden has several fruit trees.

In the grandfather's studio I saw some very old books! This history book is from M.DCC.XLVIII. (1748) To think that this is already a history book.

Then I saw the cutest little house. This is the house where Raphaël, Delphine and their cousins used to play as children. It was actually a place to keep rabbits but they made it into a play house. It's been years since any children have actually played in it, but when I walked in and heard the stories I could just see it all before me.
You might have to close your eyes to picture this, but this little room used to be a restaurant. Yes, the chairs and table were used to seat and serve the costumers. You can see the kitchen in the back the menu on the counter. A busy waiter answering the telephone, making more reservations. But other times, this was a perfume factory, filled with flowers, liquids and little containers. I can see little hands smashing delicate petals to make yet another great French perfume. Of course not all perfumes could be just as good, so judges had to decide the winner! I can hear laughter, fights, songs, see tears, smiles, more yelling but most of all "fun" noises.

After the tour I helped Mrs. Pinson in the garden. She was telling me about birds and had me hear all the different sounds they make. It was funny because when I was busy planting I didn't hear anything, but as soon as she pointed it out, I could hear them all around us. The name "Pinson" is actually also the name of one of the birds they have there. I think the English name is Finch or maybe Sparrow, but I'm not sure as the bird doesn't really look like either to me. So, you would think it wasn't either either... right? That's the translation I get. Anyway, while I was working I was enjoying not only the sound of the birds, but there were worms in the ground as well. I was digging with my fingers and there were pink worms wiggling around. I had never experienced that before. I didn't take a picture because my hands were dirty, but then I took pictures of some mushrooms I found.

I had to press the grass down to be able to take these pictures. They look so cute hiding there.

When I was a child I only saw mushrooms in books, so I like to look at them.

When Delphine saw this picture she started to blow on the screen. You should try it.
That evening Raphaël was invited to go to a birthday party, so he invited me to go as well. I didn't take any pictures of the party but there are some things I do want to write about. See, I have been to France a few times and the scariest thing about the French to me was that they seemed to be so unpredictable. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was something soooo very... strange. But well, now I know that there was nothing wrong really. I just didn't know much about them, and now I've concluded that they are just peculiar. Back to the party.

When going to a French Birthday party (at least in Paris) know this:


1. You will be kissed by everyone. People that know you, know your friends and people that have no idea who you are. You will be kissed, twice usually, thrice if they know you come from Holland, and four times if they really like you or your friends. By the fifth time, if you are still standing there, they have either lost count, or there is something else going on. Most of us would offer a hand, but here it can be seen as being rude. Yes, I've been rude in France. But please note that if it is a business meeting you should not kiss the people you are meeting. This is not correct.

2. When you enter the house and are greeted by the B-day girl/boy, do not, do not give them the Birthday present you brought for them! What? Yes, it's true, infact... hide it as best as possible. Under the coats, under the table, under the couch, in the oven if it's not being used, or sit on it. If you are thinking, "Oh, they like to play 'hide-and-seek the presents' games"... no. It's just so that giving the present right away is not fitting. So you sort of walk in with a present in your hand, you 'kiss' and wish the person a happy B-day, and then continue to walk in as if you never intended to give the present. So when do you give the present?

3. Nobody seems to know exactly when is the right time to give the presents, so just keep your eyes open for the "right" moment. When in Rome do as the Romans do, or the Parisians in this case. In this party they turned off the lights and came with the B-day cake all lit up and sang a Birthday song. Then when the candles were blown out, the lights came on, and you could see the first gift concealer going back to his hiding place and soon everybody else followed. Coats flying all over the place, paper bags opening, tables being turned over... ok, maybe not the last part.

{4}. I don' t know if this is normal, but there was no music at this party. All you could hear was people talking and laughing and that was pretty much it. Little groups were formed and some people kept walking form one group to the other. But really, no music. I put this one in brackets as I don't really think this is a norm.

5. This one is for sure. If you happen to be the French person getting the present, you do not kiss the person that just gave you the present. At least not until you have opened it first. Which in my opinion is not really good for two reasons. First, it shows that you don't kiss because you got a present, but because you liked it, which you always must appear to have, as you have to kiss the person anyway! Which brings me to the second reason. Isn't it easier to kiss a person before you know what they got you, rather than after you've opened the present and you don't really like it? Oh, the complications of our cultural social behaviors.

6. The part I really liked was that most people brought something to eat to the party. I liked this idea of sharing very much. However, I don't know if people were asked to bring something to share, or if people just bring things without being told to.

I found everybody at the party to be really friendly and even met a few people who also spoke Spanish. This was one of the longest days I had in my trip. I woke up early and went to bed quite late, but it was a day full of good experiences that I was thankful for.