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.

Pictures from Birmingham England and Rennes France

 

We had a fairly intense visit to Birmingham and Rennes. May says she's going to pay closer attention when I plan our travel itinerary. But we were only late for two out of three connections! I'm convinced that God actually delayed our flight home 1 hour so that we could be on it.

In Birmingham we stayed at the home of Andy and Tiffany Atkins, the national director for the UK. We were privileged to spend so much time with them, asking tons of questions, getting a feel for the culture and trying to picture what it might be like to live there. The time was intense, and we're still assimilating all of the information. Birmingham is a large, formerly industrial city that's finding its identity. The downtown is fairly newly built, and is amazing. What was more amazing is the Krispy Kreme donut shop we saw, and that there is a Costco there! Many of our questions were about British culture, since we've never lived there. We learned a lot, especially on the language side. A note to Americans who visit the UK, don't ask mention someone's "khaki pants" or refer to your "fanny pack". They have entirely different meanings there. Proper is a good word to describe the people there. One point to consider is that the cost of living in the UK is incredibly high. There would be a number of challenges and adjustments.

In Rennes we stayed with Francis and Marie-Carmen Didier, the French national director. They also invested a lot of time with us. We had fewer cultural questions in France, having lived there 3 years already, but talked a lot about the ministry. We met with some of the staff there and really enjoyed the time. We've known Francis and others there for years, but this was our first visit. Rennes is much smaller than Birmingham, yet has a large student population. The downtown area is filled with narrow, leaning half-timber buildings. We visited a large market on the square that fielded knight combat during the Middle Ages.

There are plusses and negatives - lots to think through. Thanks for praying for our time. The boys were very well taken care of, and seemed to have had lots of fun. Silas and his brother are extra cuddly with us back, which is nice. Efrem developed a new look that surprised us, a furled eyebrow "what you talkin about?!" kind of look. We'll try to capture it in a photo. A bruise on his forehead is thankfully all Efrem sustained from tumbling down a flight of stairs. Some of us make the angels work overtime!

Dan shoveling snow with the boys watching

 

It snowed 42cm, 16 inches here in Kandern in one day. It just never stopped. Unfortunately it was the same day that our friends, the Willers, drove down from Stuttgart to visit us! It was really great to see Dirk and Lisa and their little girl Katharina. We went outside with the kids to build a snowman on our deck. Now "snowmanman" as Silas calls him, is just an indistinguishable pile of snow.

We mentioned earlier that we're looking into a possible move. You might be wondering "why?" There is new Campus Crusade leadership in Western Europe. The leaders are re-evaluating our priorities. Reaching out over the internet is absolutely a priority, so our main job certainly won't change. But another priority is that everyone, no matter what level of leadership, be involved in a local ministry. Basically we're not supposed to spend 100% of our time behind a desk anymore. For us that means we need to be active in a local campus ministry, somewhere. They want me to lead from current experience with college students instead of looking back on my time in France. SO- from the 21st to 25th May and I are going to visit a couple of cities. Rennes is in the north of France and Birmingham, in the UK, not Alabama. Both Rennes and Birmingham have a local office to work in, plus they have campus ministries that we could be involved with. We'll be listening carefully for God's leading!

Silas posing in front of a Larry Boy poster, and friends wearing capes at his party.

 

Silas had a super-hero 5th birthday party January 11th. Each guest received their own mask and cape, complete with their own initial. Posters of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Larryboy and Buzz Lightyear, streamers and balloons added to the festive feel.

He and his friends tested their super-powers by playing various games: guessing the number of candies in a jar for x-ray vision, hide and seek for invisibility, stomp the bad guy (balloons with faces drawn them) for super strength, and throwing paper airplanes for flight. Was it as fun for the kids as it was for us who prepared for it? Grandma Judy made the capes. Dan drew posters, and he and May worked together to make the masks and sew the insignias.

Silas is a great kid. He's learning lots and lots in home school, doing simple dictations, addition, and some reading on his own. It's fun to see him learn firsthand. Recently he counted to 300 by tens and even recounted an entire book that we read to him. He is in to everything super-hero. Larryboy is his favorite, but Superman is really cool too.

Silas climbing on an American WWII tank

 

My parents visit was very fun, and very full. Aside from showing them around Germany we also visited Bastogne and Normandy. Both of my grandfathers were in the Battle of the Bulge, of which Bastogne is central.

Historical significance hung heavily about as we watched Silas climb on 60 year old tanks and we buried him in the sand of Omaha beach. Although they don't know for sure, the allies lost 2,500 men on D-Day. That's more in a single day than the cumulative deaths in Iraq. The heroism of the soldiers who liberated Normandy was of the highest degree. May the soldiers who fight to liberate Iraq receive similar respect.

Emotion welled up as I hugged Mom and Dad goodbye in the airport. They pay a hefty price, missing their children and grandchildren, for us to serve here. We miss them too!