Efrem at the top of a playground slide

 

"Want to hear what your son did tonight?" is a phrase any parent dreads to hear. Efrem has a classic raggedy andy style doll with thin yarn for hair. May a few evenings ago heard Silas, the informer, warning her that... Efrem was shoving baby's hair up his nose. She pulled a piece of yarn out of his nose. Then another was showing, which she pulled out, and another, and another. She eventually got out the tweezers and dug out 8 strands of yarn from the boy's right nostril! What, oh what was he thinking?! We've been in Getting Things Done mode lately. You know what that's like, when your to-do list has categories, subheadings, and chapters! We attack that list with fervor, but today May and I both realized we're burnt up. We want to just do nothing for a change, but that's plain boring. I wonder what God thinks of us sometimes. Maybe sometimes He says, "What are they thinking?" even though He already knows. We run out of fuel and don't know what we're supposed to put in our tank.

Pictures of our new apartment

 

Madame Hardy met Yannick and me in front of an old church in Rennes. We had no idea where we were going. Casually we strode beside the church to a large glass doorway near the back. It opened into a long hallway. The fairly new looking elevator took us to the 2nd floor (if you count the ground floor as zero), and we walked the long hallway again. I had waded through some very nasty apartments earlier, but this one was surprisingly clean.

This apartment had been remodeled only five years ago. White ceramic tile covered every inch of the floor. The windows looked out into the abbey courtyard. The kitchen was small, with an opening to put a clothes washer. On the far side of the living room a wooden stairway took us to the bedrooms. There were two, but a mezzanine area could possibly serve as an office. The bathroom was small but they managed to put in two sinks. Again I was impressed by how clean it was.

When Madame Hardy started to explain the parking she quickly gave up, thinking it would be best if we saw it ourselves. The parking lies beneath the church, with a ramp that drives underneath, turns, then ends with width enough to park four cars. But there really isn't enough room for a car to turn around, so they installed a turnstile to drive onto. At the touch of a remote it turns the car for you. I think the boys will love it. Then, to double the parking capacity they installed moveable 'shelves' for cars to park on. The two shelves move together, so that either the top or bottom shelf is accessible at a time. With the turn of a key and the press of a button four cars can be raised or lowered. This will be a little annoying, but we'll have to deal with it. It must be worth it to have a parking space in the city.

What's best about this apartment is that it's right beside a large beautiful park, right in the city. We'll be able to explore Rennes and still get in a little 'green time.' Plus, finding a clean apartment in France is rare. We're really blessed to have found this.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Silas' eyes gleamed over his yogurt.

"I'm so glad my classmates get to hear about God."

He was looking at his cahier de vie (life notebook) sitting on the breakfast table. The story started about a week earlier. We were celebrating St. Martin's day with Silas' class, each child carried a hand made lantern on the end of a stick. A candle flickered inside the thin colorful paper. They sang traditional songs in both German and French. "Daddy," Silas said. "I don't think many of the kids at school know about God. I would like to tell them about God in my cahier de vie."

Every Monday morning the students bring in their notebooks and share something about their weekend or life in general. They draw pictures or paste photos and write their thoughts. We translate what Silas says into French so his teacher can share it with his class. Silas was very serious as he worked on his project, drawing a cross under a blue sky. This is what he said,

"I would like to tell you about the Lord God, Jesus Christ. You can read about him in the Bible. I would like to tell you a verse from the Bible. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life - John 3:16. Jesus is the most important thing. If you believe in him and ask him into your heart you will be saved from your sins. Sin means doing wrong."

Sincere care for his classmates and the hope of sharing his faith put an enormous smile on Silas' during breakfast. Later that day, Silas came running up the stairs, his eyes were wet and his voice cracked as he spoke.

"Daddy, we have some bad news. The French government doesn't let people talk about God in school."

It was as I'd feared. Silas' teacher couldn't share his notebook with the class. The director of his school explained to me today that even though that is in Silas' heart, at school we have to leave religion at the door. Secularity is an untouchable pillar of the school system. The spiritual oppression we know all too well in France squeezed me. I wanted to ask him how he thinks it feels to tear your heart out every morning, to be asked to lay aside an integral part of who you are.

Silas cried when his teacher told him she couldn't read his cahier de vie. Maybe he felt left out, but mostly it was because he wanted so badly his classmates to hear about God. I don't remember the last time I shed tears for those who don't know the Lord. Jesus cried out over Jerusalem, "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." How heavy the weight of eternity can be. Let's make a difference in someone's life!

A spoon of sugar

 

"Daddy, eating sugar does not make you sweet." Silas' voice was serious and determined. Just days before, May had him stop putting sugar in his yogurt. Now I am the only one left who insists on sweetening up my plain breakfast yogurt. Justice won't be served in Silas' mind until I also stop putting sugar in my yogurt.

"Really?" I asked Silas, "What does make you sweet then?"

"Being good makes you sweet," he replied.

Ah, but then I drove the question deeper, "And what makes one good?"

"Not eating sugar."

Well, it was a silly statement in the first place. You're trying to plow through breakfast while being bombarded with questions like, "Why do you put so much sugar on your yogurt. You don't even think they're really listening so you say something clever - oh it makes me sweet. Even when they're young, they don't necessarily forget.

But it's really a theological question: what makes us good?

Jesus asked the rich young ruler, "Why do you call me good, only God is good." It's far too easy to trust in our appearances. Sure it may look like we have our act together, but we are far from good. I have the luxury of having a wife who is an excellent planner. She's been working on Christmas presents for months, and our cards are already in process. Everything runs like a well oiled machine. But I know better. I'm not good, I'm broken. I wrestle with fatigue, am blindsided by pride and struggle with temptation. Every day I need to crawl to God and pray that he fill me with His Spirit, be strong in my weakness, fill my gaps and hold me together.

My hair hasn't been cut in three months. It might be longer than it's ever been. It stands out in a curly sort of way and people comment on it all the time. I say what I feel, that it's just reflecting the stress in my life. The stress of finding apartments, packing, moving, unpacking, settling, learning a new environment, adjusting to a different language is frazzling. BUT, God is graciously holding me together. Thanks God. And thank you for praying for us.

Who can hear the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger? I was beyond belief when Aric, a college friend, told me that he actually thought of William Tell. Who or what do you think of?! During Silas' home school, we read a book called The Apple and the Arrow, recounting the story of William Tell. Did you know Tell played a role in Switzerland gaining its independance? How much of his story is history and how much is legend really can't be known, but it's a remarkable story. "Do you know that William Tell had an overature written for him?" I asked Silas. Here is a clean slate, I thought. Silas has never seen the Lone Ranger, so I can put the correct association with the music! With much anticipation, for both me and Silas, I put on the famous overture. Silas listened with intent. Finally he spoke, "That music is from Thomas and the rocket engine! That's what they play when he's being pushed by the rocket!" Aaah. My plan foiled, there was nothing I could do. The creaters of Thomas the tank engine had gotten to him first!

Stonehenge

 

Stonehenge is a magnificent structure. Why was it made? How was it made? We still don't know. Maybe what's most remarkable about Stonehenge is that it's still here. There were many other henges built, some were circular ditches in the ground and some with wooden posts. But for some reason, thousands of years ago, someone with the vision and ability said, "I want to make this structure out of stone." And it's still here today for us to walk around holding the audio tour to our ear.

Being from the United States I learned a lot of American history growing up. In Europe, however, you feel the depth of the history. You can walk on stone streets laid before Christ ... or see ornate stone churches that still stand after hundreds and hundreds of years. It's not that America's history is absent, it's just that those living there hundreds of years ago didn't build with stone. We don't have a real long term mentality asking what will this building look like three hundred years from now.

Then I think about my life. What am I building with? We live in an ephemeral age, holding our photographs on disks that may not be readable in 50 years, writing on web sites that may not exist past this season. What will our grandchildren's grandchildren say about the 2000s

What am I building that is in stone?

Peter writes to those who believe in Christ, "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4,5)

In the spiritual realm, Jesus is stone, and so we become when we believe in Him. When we share Christ with others, we help build a spiritual house of stone that will last forever.