In April I spent one week helping and serving in a refugee camp in Lesbos. My friend and team leader Evi wrote a report about our time there.
She summarizes it very well, so I recommend you read it.
You find it here.
It is a dream to live on a river, look out on the water and rub my eyes every morning: Is this true?
It is. I love my life. All the pain of renovating this old, rusty former Army ship was so worth it. For myself and for others who come here.
One of them was Evi who had lost her job in a ministry she loved just a few months earlier when she came for her first visit. At the end of the first visit she said that she now feels hope for the first time.
Seeing as I always seem to do the opposite of my new year’s resolutions: this year I’m going to smoke and drink more, exercise less and go far deeper into debt.
So that raises the question: Should we formulate New Years resolutions – yes or no?
The answer is: It depends.
NO: If they are unrealistic and vague.
YES; If they are routed in your personalty and values. And specifig.
key to really good new years resolutions is to answer three questions
WHY? Why should I do this? In what way would it enrich me and/or the world?
HOW? With what kind of attitude and what values?
WHAT? What exactly do I want to do? What is the specific plan?
One of my resolutions for 2017 is
[WHY] I believe that I can and should inspire people in the world with writing. [HOW] So I want to reliably and diligently work on improving [How exactly] by spending the first two hours of every office day with writing and reading books or taking online courses that will help me improve my skills.
In a nutshell: All general resolutions usually are of no value. And you can kick them out and plaster the way to hell with them as we say in German. Because not fulfilled resolutions tend to make you feel frustrated, shameful and so on. We all do not need more of these hellish feelings.
But good, resolutions who are anchored in your personality and deepest needs really empower you.
And there are times when it never seems to end. After 4 and a half years of building the ship is still not finished. That is what happens, when you are dependent on gifts, volunteers and miracles. They do come – all three of them – but not always at the time and speed that I would prefer.
But nevertheless – many parts of the ship are already beautiful and functional.
And one of the big lessons I learned during building is that things do not need to be finished or perfect to be useful.
Many people – especially those who grew up in a place like Germany – think that everything needs to be perfect before you can even start. Perfect finances, perfect plan, perfect setting.
In the ship I experience:
God lives in the imperfect, in the unfinished, the not yet ready…and uses all of this to meet people.
Like Evi, a wonderful, inspiring, passionate woman who came to the ship last weekend for a time out and a time of meeting one another and fellowship. I love what Evi wrote in her blog about her time here on her blog and took some great pictures.
Today marks the day of the memorial celebrations for the life of Debra (Debbie, mum) Jones. I miss her. And I miss being with friends and family at the celebrations in Portland.
I wrote down my thoughts and prayers for Andrew and of you Elizabeth, Sam, Abigail, Hannah and TJ and Jenna on this day.
I am thinking about you all a lot – feeling very close in my heart. But cannot be there in person – mostly because after a two month break my shipbuilder has returned three days ago and he needs my instructions as to how to continue build this ship into a haven for people – what it already is, but we try to make it nicer for those who are not so much into „camping style“.
But mostly because my brother, sister in law and my dad are coming to visit in a few days. My dad is getting old and fragile. And lives far away and finds travelling hard. So coming with my brother might be one of the last times – maybe even the last time – that he can come and visit. Knowing how fragile life is – and how soon it can end – I simply felt I wanted to spend these precious days with him – although I so much would have liked to be with you at this special time. I wanted to honor him and this rare time with him – although it means missing the time with you.
I feel very sad about it. And would have loved to be with you at this time of memorial, thankfulness, grieving, but most of all transition.
Thinking about this day I kept having two words in my heart. “Old normal” and “new normal”.
Today marks the day of the shift between the OLD NORMAL and the NEW NORMAL…
The old normalwas that Debbie / mum was somehow there in THIS physical world with you and us.
At times she was there very close in person and in heart – cooking, warming, sharing, listening, working on something, touching with her words or hands.
At other times she was away – in her own world of thoughts or geographically far away – in a distant place.
But – no matter if she was close or more far away – the old normal was that she was there in this world of ours. And there was a knowledge of her presence here and a knowledge of more meeting, sharing, interaction and growth.
Today marks the letting go of the “old normal”.
The old way how life used to be – with Debbie being present somewhere in our physical world has passed. And won´t return. It is my prayer that you will find the grace to find acceptance – acceptance not meaning that you like it or think it is good. That would be crazy. It is violent, harsh, brutal to loose a wife, mother, friend, comrade.
But acceptance in the sense of not fighting against reality, but being able to say „Yes – it is what it is. This is what it is like now!“
And then walking into the NEW NORMAL.
The picture of the new normal I see in front of my heart is like waves at the sea shore. There are high waves to surf on – memoriest hat lift you up, moments, thoughts, treasures that you remember and that give you strength. Or that might even make you giggle and laugh.
But then there will also be the valleys – where you feel the pain and the sadness intensely – where even the beauty of the waves of memories can crush you into a valley of despair…
Most likely the waves will be less intense over the years as new memories with other people the father brings into your lives to strengthen, bless, inspire and honor and care get woven into that carpet we call life. And in all of our lives Debbie has woven her unique threats… most of all in the life of you, Andrew and of you Elizabeth, Sam, Abigail, Hannah and TJ and Jenna…but also in the lives of all of us… for some weird reason the memory of sitting with Debbie in a tent at Freakstock and smoking water pipe (first time ever in my life…) comes flooding back to me.
I pray that you find peace in the NEW NORMAL… that starts tomorrow.
Peace and joy in the hilarious, joyful and beautiful memories… and comfort in the valleys… and most of all that you know that there is future and a hope as there is a loving, caring father God who will continue to walk with you – He is the ETERNAL NORMAL….
Today as I was on my way home from working on the ship I came by Tempelhof Airport. I looked out on the field, the tents, the hangars where thousands of refugees live. I just felt so sad that they have to live in these conditions with no private space, strange food, insecurity and many other things that cause stress. My heart was moved with compassion and for minutes I just kept praying: “Lord, bless your children, bless your children!” Hoping that Creator-and-Father-God would find a way to bring hope and change.
Then I looked up in the sky…and on a dark and rainy day the sun broke through the skies… and as it kept on raining I started looking for the rainbow and saw it. Bright and strong across the dark sky. It brought so much comfort to my heart as it reminded me of the promise that God gave thousands of years ago to one man – Lot.
“As long a the earth will exist the rainbow in the sky will remind you of my mercy – there will always be summer and winter, sowing and harvest.”
There is rain. There is sadness and tragedy in the world. Not only in Tempelhof, but even worse in other areas… but there is hope….
Right now one of my best friends is visiting… when she was eight years old she became a refugee, fleeing the war in Lebanon… it was hard… but now she does have a deep and rich life… and she is my friend… rain and sunshine and many colors in the sky.
A day ago a friend sent me a quote that made me think – and feel – a lot.
The shortest way I can summarize it:
When we express anything good to an other human being – tenderness, love, care, help, honesty… we are expressing something of God´s character. His nature is flowing through us. And as it flows through us it also touches us. And the encounter with the other human being can also be an encounter with God´s nature.
Here is the full quote
“A hug or supportive physical touch at the right moment, changes everything. Just as a word can bloom when given and received from the heart. Find the good soil in one another and plant there. It’s wisdom to bless others well, not just how you yourself get blessed, but how God is blessing them. Make your helping others a way of getting to know God. Encountering and reflecting His orientation towards other is the key to lasting ministry into others.
It’s important not just to have His information for the other person or situation, but His (Gods) Tone and Orientation of Love towards them. God gives particularly. (If we ask for a bird, will He give us a snake?) So should we.
God is not just loving people, He is loving people in specific ways. Partnering with Him in ministering His Life to others, is another way of getting to know just how awesome and specific His loving really is.
Ministry, then, is just a way to get to know and love and appreciate more of God. It’s another medium through which we meet Him.
Without the specific nuances of His Love, we can become nothing more than resounding gongs, useful only to ourselves–sort of narcissistic ministry (ministry to meet our own needs, even the one to feel useful to others), instead of ministry as a way of spirituality-of knowing and therefore overflowing and revealing God to others.”
During the last few weeks, I’ve been preoccupied with the question of how I can deepen my inner connection to Jesus. On the search for answers, I pulled a book out of my “To-Read” pile: Gestillt (Satisfied) by David Zindel from Neufeld Publishing. The subtitle “Night conversations with David” explains what it’s about.
At first, I was irritated. As a publisher, it is important to me to have a good framework for a storyline, and this was missing. A stressed-out and unhappily married man writes letters to King David, and the author barely even makes the effort to create a framework for it other than an introductory letter that communicates to the reader how the publication of the letters in Heaven is contentiously discussed. I think there should have been a little more creativity. I would have described, perhaps, how the good man reads Psalm 23 “I shall not want” in the evening and then writes a rather angry retort to the author, lays it in his Bible, and is astounded the next evening to find an answer on the back of his letter… actually from David.
After the framework, I was further irritated about the stupidity of Reinhard, the writer. At the beginning, he is presented as someone who blames all of his marital problems exclusively on his wife. I know contemporaries, men as well as women, who primarily see the cause of problems in the other person. Yet, I don’t think anyone could be so dumb as to have zero self-awareness like Reinhard at the beginning of the book – at least I hope not!!!
Once I was over the first hump, the book began to fascinate me. King David writes from the perspective of eternity looking back on his life, and he’s learned a few things. I liked how he encouraged Reinhard again and again not to seek fulfillment/satisfaction in things, rather in interacting with God. He wrote and explained this over and over in various ways and nuances… it was very good for me.
A few of the most beautiful thoughts from the book (quoted from memory):
The quality of satisfaction can be known by its aftertaste (A very wise thought, I think. It goes for food as well as events and interactions).
Pouring your heart out and allowing it to be refilled again belong together. One without the other makes no sense. (I thought this really good!)
Spiritually dry times are gifts from God. He is attempting to release us from our own not-really-rewarding attempts at satisfaction.
Obedience has to do with hearing. Obedience is the ability to hear.
God wants to wash our dirty laundry white, not to discuss the gray parts with us.
When we draw back from things, we can then receive and enjoy them anew as gifts from God – in a free way – as satisfied people, not as longing, insatiable, unsatisfied people who imbibe everything and, because they remain unsatisfied, must continually increase the doses.
David, when looking back from Heaven on his revenge acts: “Only now do I know that a happy life is made of settling the balance immediately, in emergencies from your own pocket.”
Thankful, I lay a good book aside… the valuable thoughts from it will accompany me for a while still.
– See more at: http://kerstinpur.de/glaube/gestillt/#sthash.7HXT8JFD.dpuf
“Each year in preparation for Easter, I ask the Lord if there is anything I should abstain from for Lent. This year the answer that I heard in my heart after prayer came to me as a surprise: Abstain from doubting.
Not doubting Him. Not doubting His goodness towards me – in spite of obvious challenges I was facing. And in spite of disappointments and broken dreams, the challenge was: Do not allow yourself the ‘luxury’ of doubt. Doubt is an easy way out. When you doubt you do not need to dare. Dare to trust. Dare to try new things.
And boy do I need courage. For 12 years I dreamt about having a space where I could host people: (young) people who would want to learn with me and from me, who would like to stay for a few days or weeks to learn, be mentored, and share life. Twice it looked as though the dream would come true, and twice it crashed again, painfully, violently. I cried. I couldn’t understand God. Wasn’t it His dream after all?!
In the last month the dream surfaced again, but not in the form of a flat that was big enough for living, hosting, and holding seminars, but in the form of a SHIP. It is simply cheaper to buy and renovate a ship than to buy a flat and so much more fun. I found a great ship on Ebay (!!!) – an old GDR army ship/torpedo boat that was later turned into a holiday ship. I bought it, I will renovate it and make it a place for sharing life, and most likely I will name it “Heart of Berlin.”
I am really excited about this project. It will have a seminar/coaching room, guest rooms for hosting up to four people, and a place for me to work and live. Looking forward to creating a space for disciples, learners, nomads, and people who want to grow.
Update April 2014
The last two years were years of tears, toil, and miracles. The outer skin of the ship is renovated. All the rust inside and outside is removed. The ship is insulated and has floors in some rooms and many new windows.
I experienced times of frustration when things were not moving as fast as I had hoped. I have seen miracles of provision, miracles of help through people and finances coming at the right time. I cried a lot, both with frustration and joy! One of the greatest moments was when one of the professional helpers decided to start following Jesus as a result of spending a few days on the ship with us.
Now it looks as if we are moving towards the finishing line and that there are only a few months of work ahead:
Putting in floors and walls
Putting in electricity
Putting in bathrooms
Putting in new doors and windows
Finishing painting outside
Do you want to share the dream?
The vision is to create a space where those who need orientation can find a place to rest, reflect, be restored, and receive professional help in Berlin, the capital of Germany where lots of young people are searching for answers. You can be part of the dream. You can make it possible in three ways: prayer, giving, and practical help.
I know how much can go wrong in any project, but I also know that the opposite can happen: things going incredibly smoothly, God’s favor on all sides, deadlines met. So I really do appreciate prayer for wisdom and God’s favor and blessing… and yes, I don’t mind a word of encouragement now and then. I write updates about once per month; let me know if you would like to receive them.
– Gifts and loans My friends and I work as much as we can on the ship, but to pay for the rest of the materials and the professional work, I still need about 50,000 Euros ($60,000). This is far more than I can earn as an author or publisher in a few months, and I also have to pay back loans that people have given me. I am incredibly thankful for every small or big gift or loan. The easiest way to donate is by using my paypal: Info @ down-to-earth.de (leave out those blanks – I just put them there to avoid spam).
– Practical help
To finish the work on the ship, I do need a lot of practical help – both from people who know what they are doing like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, ship builders, and from anybody with two hands – everybody can scratch off rust and paint a ship. So if you’re up for a working holiday on the outskirts of Berlin or know of people who are, let me know. This is also great for teams of volunteers: I have had several teams come and work on the ship for a few days, and they moved the project forward a lot!