The last few weeks have been crazy for me and I’m hopelessly behind on everything. I spent two weeks with the delightful couple above, Gert and Katia, who had it on their hearts for me to come to France and spend some time with their friends who are just seeing the French and Dutch versions of THE SHACK movie. They are native Belgians now living in the south of France. We had a 1200 mile odyssey as I arrived in the south of France and starting in Montpelier, we traveled together through Toulouse to Condom, north to Angers, stopped outside of Paris and finally arrived in Belgium for the end of our eleven-day trip. I went on to Holland for one day near The Hague with some friends before coming home Monday.
What a trip! So many conversations with so many people about so many things! Wow! And when you travel like that, staying with people every night, there’s hardly any personal time for rest or reflection, or even trying to keep up with email. However, each day was so rewarding. I have so many great memories of the people I spent time with, some I just met for the first time, others I’ve known from previous trips. It is always wonderful to return and see people growing in grace and love. I also had an encounter with a pastor who is not too fond of my books, or perhaps better said, how some in his family have responded to them. He said he wasn’t religious, but one of the the things religion does best is blind us to its tentacles shaping our lives. The next day we were with a young man who doesn’t know of God is real and in the midst of our talking, God’s love just overwhelmed his heart and with tears streaming down his face he got a taste of the reality he’s been seeking.
In addition, I got to stay in an old farm house (since remodeled) in the countryside of France that had been a winery, got to walk along the Angers river and talk about healing, and spent time contemplating the horrors of The Great War (World War I) in the battlefields of Belgium where cemeteries dot the countryside where the lives of 18 and 19 year old young men were cut short. All that was so moving. We were also in the field where the poem In Flanders Fields was written. I remember it from high school. Such a moving tribute to those who lost their lives and forever connected poppies and veterans. You can see some of my pictures below.
Then we had a showing of THE SHACK in Dutch at a congregation near Iepers and then a full day after processing some of the themes behind the theology of that story with people who were touched by it and others who had concerns about it.
Today I’m about to take a walk with Sara, my dad, our children (Andy is visiting this week from his new home in Denver), or grandchildren, and of course, the hounds! My dad is visiting this Veteran Day weekend. He is our favorite veteran. He was wounded in France in World War II. He’s visiting for a few days along with our son who has arrived from Denver. I am also celebrating my good health on the first anniversary of my open-heart surgery. I’m so grateful for what medical science can do and am back to full form. Also, Sara continues her recovery and now walks pain-free and has a newfound hope that she will get her life back. I’m so happy for her!
And between coming back from Europe and these festivities, I left for two days of a golf outing with old friends, who do this every year. We played 54 holes of golf in two days with some stiff competition. A lot of fun, but not so easy to leave Sara so soon and to fight the jet lag as well as the golf, but we had a great time.
So the weekend is full, including baptizing my granddaughter later today, a big family birthday party for our November birthdays, and then Monday I’m taking my dad back home to Central California and have a board meeting for Lifestream in Visalia. So things will keep backing up until Tuesday. These are all special days, however, and I wouldn’t miss any of it for anything.
And, yes, I know most of life isn’t lived here. Believe me Sara and I have our dark and challenging days in this broken world, which makes me appreciate seasons like this all the more. We are grateful that God is with us all the time–whether in joy or pain and learning to lean into him is the greatest joy of all. I hope you are learning that as well.
Here are some pictures from my time in Europe:
Azille, where Gert and Katia live, a small village set amidst the vineyards. Some great morning walks here through the vineyards. So lovely! I spent four nights here.
A conversation in Azille
The farmhouse with a winery in the garage in Condom, France
Dinner and dialog near Angers
Iepers, Belgium near the gate where they have been playing Taps every night since the mid 1920s at 8:00 pm to memorialize those who died in The Great War
One of the cemeteries in Belgium
World famous hotel on the beach outside of The Hague in Holland. No I didn’t stay there.
All in all these last weeks have been exhilarating and exhausting, warmly refreshing and incredibly challenging–all of it filled with joy and wonder. My heart is overwhelmed in gratitude for all that God is and how he takes shape in our lives.