It Ain’t Over till the Movie is Over!


This week I received two emails that said, “We are dropping you as one of our partners.” It felt like this negative flow of computer screen ink was sinking through my eyes into my very soul. I wanted to appeal, beg for more understanding, but I knew it wouldn’t avail for much. Bad news from close or from afar can really cause a chain reaction of negativity to overtake one’s perspective. The brain responds by sending false signals convincing us that we need to find the nearest coffin warehouse and make an early reservation because its pretty much over!

How do we avoid making hasty departures both in moral and in the now when the negative occurs not just once, but twice? An answer might be to look at our lives as a movie, not as a single scene, or two. We call it seeing the ‘the big picture’. Every great movie worth watching has to have crisis scenes in it. There are the antagonists, the zombies, the evil destroyers that are about to bring an end to civilisation. There are the crucible time-to-choose moments that inspire the would-be hero to rise up or melt down. This is what makes for good films.

Yet all movies are made of single scenes. And your life is made up of blooper scenes, messed up lines, poorly played responses, mistakes, bad news; each challenging circumstance can be a reminder that this is just one scene and not the whole movie.  I had one of those moments today that made God’s promises look more like pretences. I’ll probably have similar versions of that again real soon. The show must go on and there’s another scene about to happen. With a creative (renewed) mind you can let your imagination (faith) loose and find a way to escape the negative zombies, find a new day and walk away feeling good again.

There’s just no other way to go about life, you have to reverse the negatives into positives. And remember, in every good movie there’s an awesome supporting cast that you can count on too. Let them back you up, take some hits, and encourage you. We are going to make it. So lets lose that negative outlook, shall we, and get ourselves a new one. Cuz’ the movie isn’t over until the credits are scrolled.

Moviemaker

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German Junctures


All my life I’ve been a little hesitant to fall in love with Germany. My mother’s parents, my Opa and Oma, were killed during the Second World War in Holland when a bomb fell through their house killing them instantly. I have held a grudge ever since! Yet this Germany has played quite a role in my life at many junctures! After being born in Roosendaal, Holland, I left with my parents for Germany, I was ten days old! My dad was in the Dutch Army as a musician and Canada was searching for recruits to create a new army band. Seventy young dutch men responded to that call. They went to Germany first to be processed there with their families at a Canadian Military Post. Not much later there was a long boat ride for all of us from German soil all the way cross the ocean to the shores of of Montreal, Canada. I was ten months old.

ImageMy next German juncture was to visit friend from Chiang Mai who became a Thai missionary to reach out to Thai women who had either married German men or worked in the night clubs. I flew in to Frankfurt and took trains to see her. I was a little ill at ease trying to find my way around all the train stations, as English was not widely spoken. I heard words that sounded so much like my native Dutch tongue, but my smattering of dutch was of little avail. Finally late in the night I arrived in Emden. There I met Thai women who struggled with living in Germany. I could see why as the language, food, weather and culture were so different from the Thai ways. As I spent hours visting, encouraging, and then hours on trains traveling through the countryside of Germany it never crossed my mind that my heart was softening towards this proud and talented nation.

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Pratumtip loves Germany and I saw that in her. (center back)

My next experience with Germany would be life-changing. I flew from Bangkok to Hanover to get a tricky brain tumour near my inner ear removed on December 11, 2012. For seventeen days that hospital room was my home until I was well enough to leave. Another train ride, this time southbound to the famed Black Forest, where a house awaited me. I needed to spend a few weeks to recuperate in an ancient village called Badenweiler before being permitted to fly again. This time I was able to share Germany with my wife, two daughters and my second son who doubled as chauffeur. I began to fall in love with the landscape, the people and the bread!

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Cool scar, huh?

Each day I would take walks through the forest lush with green moss and gurgling streams. I was here to regain my balance and hopefully get over the nasty headaches of brain trauma. Two days before my departure date a question popped into my heart, “Could I ever leave my beloved Thailand and make Europe my home?” Could I? It seemed impossible. Yet with courage I asked a man I greatly respected the very same question. Without blinking he said, “Absolutely!” I had resigned myself to the thought that this might be my last visit to Germany. But now I realised that one day I would come back and visit this wunderbar-country again. Something had definitely shifted in me.

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I loved the crisp climate and the brisk walk each day. On my last walk it finally snowed.

When I arrived home to Bangkok I shared with my wife the question and answer I got from the director of the Eurasia Region. Our conversation over breakfast opened our hearts to something so unexpected and quite unsought. It really did scare me in a different way than the tumour did. I wondered after twenty-two years of living in Thailand, if I could ever be at home in yet another continent. My wife and my girls were ready for a change of continent, language and culture. After lots of discussion it was felt strongly that we would move to Paris and maybe be a part of a church planting endeavour. My first goal was an attempt to gain Dutch Citizenship. Refused. Then another obstacle faced us, the incredibly high costs of educating our girls in Paris. And so we sought after a creative solution to getting a European visa and for a cheaper schooling option.

This nest paragraph is going to sound incredible, because the answer came upon us so fast. In fact, my girls were the ones to do a little searching and found a cheaper place on-line. It was Black Forest Academy, a boarding school quite near to where I recovered from the surgery. We applied, but there was a slow response from the school as to whether the girls could find a space in the dorm program. Many emails later we were asked to Skype with Calvin who ran the Resident program. And in less than fifteen minutes we were praying to consider filling in the gap for the need of dorm parents. If we were willing the girls would indeed have a space for this year and so would another group of guys. I should have been in shock, yet surprisingly I had peace.

It is not like me to just jump into the unknown like this. But I had been studying the call of Jesus to Peter to go out deeper and throw his nets. It made little sense to Peter and those watching. And here I was making a move that didn’t seem to make any sense to anyone. Now since August 2013 I find myself in Germany once again, with my wife and two daughters to be a spiritual father (Dorm Parents) to twenty teen-aged boys who are here because of the difficulty to receive a proper education in their own parent’s mission fields of service.

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On my very last Sunday in Bangkok Thailand, I had the honour to baptise a missionary’s son, we call them MK’s for missionary kid. I remember so well how he stood in a blue garbage bucket and as I poured water over him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I was crying and laughing at the same time. I knew that in a short while I would be serving in the midst of a people group in Germany that lived, breathed and loved the MK’s from around the world. I would be a dorm dad to twenty teen-aged boys and someone like Joel Brunner whom I had baptised would be there too!

As we drove up and down and around the curvaceous roads of Black Forest in our first week, Patricia kept laughing and saying me and our daughters, “Isn’t this the most cool, outrageous, and wonderful gift from God? We are in Europe!” I smiled in my heart, because I knew it was true. I was living in the now. I was like Abraham not knowing where we would be next. This was a gift that only God could have given us. It is in some ways outrageous. To think of all those junctures where Germany came into my story; as a baby, visiting on a mission’s trip, brain surgery and then this. Here again, now. Germany is where I serve the mission cause until we find ourselves in Paris!

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Here we are in front of our dorm with our staff (Resident Advisors).

Finding the Fear-Take-Away Treasure


“Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.” Richard Rohr

Growing up I worried too much about what others thought. Sometimes I try to figure out when that fear began to loose hold on me. I know it took way too long. That’s why I love it when the ‘fear of others‘ disappears in people’s lives. We humans work so hard to impress. We even resort to editing our own story in order to gain more approval. It is a trap that slowly strangles our True Self and covers it in fears, lies and false worth.

Fear of others is actually a struggle for value. If others approve us and applaud our worthy efforts we feel a bit of relief. If they don’t we try harder to prove ourselves worthy. Technology only increases our self deception in order to cloak our unease. We can now resort to twitter and Facebook to create a persona that may but most likely may not be real. “Ah world, look at my most impressive self.” This isn’t much different from the Pharisees parading their goods before the populace in Jesus time. So much of this grandstanding is born out of fear of loss.

Richard Rohr writes extensively about finding the True Self. It is the treasure of great price, for when you find your true self you also find God there, he says. I quoted Richard above because it reminds me of how my third son once said church people treated him differently when they knew who his parents were. I guess we have had quite a lot of exposure to certain circles in Canada because of my travels. Instead of being proud to be counted among the DeWit clan my son resented that they treated him differently when they pieced it together. At first I thought he wasn’t proud enough of his heritage, then it dawned on me that his indignation was good. His feelings told me he was quite aware that he had a name too. And that name included his own story.

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Uncovering, dusting off, digging deep, exploration are all good words to use in our pursuit to find this priceless ‘Fear-Take-Away Treasure’, or this immortal diamond as Richard Rohr calls it. To find oneself is to finally realize that our name and our True Self have eternal underpinnings. There is God in our DNA. His fingerprints are all over who we are. Do all to find it, hold onto it, keep it, and don’t loose it ever. And don’t ever go back to  the covering of your True Self. You may get lost again. And if you loose it, it is like loosing your soul. Once  you have this treasure in your possession the need for constant applause and approval falls to the wayside. It is replaced by a new freedom to live only for one thing, the treasure of you and your maker. That’s priceless. Keep it!

Driving Faster in the Fog!


“Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog.” C.S. Lewis

I was told to drive faster by a man who had driven these roads for decades. Normally my wife tells me to slow down. These roads were narrow and twisty in old Black Forest, Germany where I now roam. “Did he say faster?” I asked myself. The rain was pouring, the night was dark, visibility not great and I was just getting used to driving a stick shift in an old van!  “Is there a reason why you are going so slow?” he asked. Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable with the the idea of increasing my speed. All I wanted was little safe dollops of slow. I wanted to see the contours, read the little writing on the signs, you know, get familiar with my surroundings.Image

Indulgence brings fog.  And I thought about that great observation by C.S. Lewis in light of my new responsibilities. It is so true that when we indulge in our own appetites usually someone else has to stumble in some sort of fog. Feelings of being unsafe caused by not knowing what the next blind curve will bring is unnerving, add some fog and it is down right scary.

My new job is about living with and caring for twenty teenage boys. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I said, “Yes, I’ll do it!” I do have to say that they are awesome kids. But I’ve picked up on a reality that most boys are okay with disheveled rooms and a lack of sleep. For me rooms filled with clutter, open drawers cascading with clothing and the sweaty odours  keeps me from wanting to enter. Enter at your own risk! How do they find things in that fog? Last night as I did my rounds in this 17th century bath house turned dorm to lock doors and shut off lights I saw it there again. I saw our huge jar of Nutella left opened for a second time on the counter with a knife thick with its sweet delight and an open bag of bread. Indulgence that says “Let someone else deal with my messy mist.”

“Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light…” I wonder if we all should just close our ears to the voices that say, “Go faster!” Open your eyes to slow down. Take the curves and the ups and downs of living in earth’s community aware what your conscientious attempts at virtue can accomplish. Virtue, in the end, is to think about the other. That is moral excellence. We all should be about creating environments to live our lives in places of honour, brotherhood and respect.

When I drive my old dorm van on a rare German day of sunshine, I can revel at the corn fields, the vineyards, the places to cut your own flowers and the villages that date back earlier than the United States and Canada. No fog. My passengers, especially my wife feel safe. She’ll even do a giggle-holler, “We are in Europe Peter!” Comfortable driving. Driving in the light. I am struck with this thought today, my virtue, even my attempted bumbling virtue brings to you and those in my circle comfort, safety and maybe even some hooting for joy.

Yes I did speed up some on that rainy dark night, just enough to satisfy my more experienced instructor. But if you were to drive with me on the narrow winding roads of the Black Forest I think you would much prefer to ride in the clear light more than me trying to beat the clock in the fog at dark. Of course this is not about my driving; it’s about living life. I’d rather learn this life lesson about slowing down to notice what is happening around me, noticing you  so that together we can relax in the safety of light and relish the surrounding beauty together. Isn’t that better than to be obscured by indulgent conduct.

“Virtue brings light. Indulgence brings fog.”

Good thought. So please close the Nutella jar and put away the bread before I do my final rounds!