He commands the rain (or the dogs)

14 December 2020

Some mornings, when I wake up, I can hear the rain playing on the roof. It is a very pleasant sound while I’m still snuggled up. But. I’m on the morning dog walking duty. And I’m fine with the winter cold, but I do not like getting wet. And neither does the dogs. And on top of that, when they do get wet, they stink like, well, wet dogs. And then I need to wash them and they need to be combed out. Drama, which I can do without on a Monday morning before my workweek starts.

So, I have often prayed for a dry moment in the mornings, for a break in the rainfall, for a ray of early morning moonlight shining through the dark clouds. And I’ve sometimes felt a bit of selfish guilt at my request. It sometimes feels like a very selfish thing to ask to stay dry when others have much larger problems.

So this Saturday morning, the dogs woke up at 5h30. I’m a morning person, but really, 5h30? But Leo starts barking & now I’m awake, no way I sleep through that. So, I start the perculator up to be sure there’s coffee when we come back & we set out in the darkest hour of the day. I put on some Hillsongs on my phone, turn the volume up higher than usual because no-one is around to hear me singing, and I worship the God of Creation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfVd5x9W1Xc. I returned to a nice cup of coffee and quality time in God’s word.

At 7h00, which would be our normal walking time, the rain sets in with a ferocity that I have not seen in some weeks.

This morning, I wake up with the words of another song repeating in my head (Miracles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vt9n4vvtxg) as I go down to the living room for a cup of coffee and time in the Word.

The One who made the blind to see
Is moving here in front of me, moving here in front of me
The One who made the deaf to hear
Is silencing my every fear, silencing my every fear

I become just became aware of the sound of soft rains on the river. And I realize that

The One who makes the dogs to sleep
Is pouring out His blessings over me

The rains have just stopped, and I can hear the dogs stirring downstairs. We will go out for our walk soon. They slept an hour & a half later than on Saturday. Both times, seemingly in order to miss getting wet. Thinking back to the last 2 weeks, I realize that it rained almost every morning. But not once did we get wet.

We serve a God of miracles. Nothing is too large for Him. And apparently, He also works in small ways, organizing the rain, or the sleep patterns of my dogs, in order to allow me to stay dry. And I wasn’t even asking for a miracle, yet He supplies for the ones that He loves in their sleep (Psalm 127)

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Parenting is for thinkers

The Thinker, well, sort ofIn the mornings on the train, I am reading Mathew Henry’s commentary on the complete Bible.  It can probably be considered the heaviest non-technical reading I have done in my entire life.  And it will take me a bit longer to complete than the 18 months it took me to read through the Bible itself.  (If you must know; for techy stuff, I frequent an appropriately named website http://www.lightreading.com)

In the afternoons on the train, I am listening to some audio books – Dr. James Dobson’s Bringing up Boys and Bringing up Girls.  We did a video course for Boys at Logos once, but some of this material sounds brand new to me.  Last time, I believe that I slept through at least the statistics. Maybe more.

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Is your church relevant?

CLC Den HaagI recently responded to a Facebook post by a good friend in South Africa who asked to tell more about the church that we attend in the Netherlands. I honestly believe CLC is fulfilling the purposes of God for this generation in this city; because I see the blessings that God is pouring out.  But, it is impossible for me to put label on the thing that  could sum up what CLC does that brings all that blessing. I suspect it is not a thing, but a heart attitude; I’m going to call it a culture in this post, for lack of a better word.

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Is marriage meant for divorce?

Wedding Rings, there is no end. They are round.Another discussion at the office.  Since recently, I have an Indian colleague.  So, one day during lunchtime, there was a seven and a half second discussion about marriage.  The public opinion would have it that statistics prove that arranged marriages in predominantly Hindu countries last longer than other marriages.  In the United States, which is predominantly Christian (!), more than half of marriages end up in divorce.   The outcome of the discussion is that love is a bad reason for marriage, because love does not last.  Now there.

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Hillsong in Zoetermeer

Hillsong United - God is AbleI witnessed something last night, that I have never seen before. The Hillsong United band from Australia gave a concert in Zoetermeer.   We really enjoyed the worship & we sang along with all our hearts.  I listen to their music often, so I knew almost all the songs; but I was amazed, when the lead vocals would step away from the microphone, the crowd would simply continue with the song.  The band were stunned by this.


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Reflections of Rome

The Pantheon in RomeI have never been to any place on earth that has such a rich history and so many references to things I have only read of and some I hold dear. Granted, I have not been in Israel yet. But neither has Obelix and Astrix.  But they did go to the Colosseum, and so we went there too.

But the gladiators had plastic swords and made jokes at the tourists. The wildest animal I saw amongst the ruins was a small cat. Cleopatra apparently gave some cats to Julius Cesar as a gift.  But he was allergic to cat fur, so he set them free to roam the streets, which they still do to this day!

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God loves us; Or does he love rules?

‘Does your church also forbid the smoking of wiet (marijuana)?’ I am asked by one of my Amsterdam colleagues. And then he goes on to explain that Jesus drank wine, and wine is so much worse for you than wiet.   And Jesus did not drink beer, so maybe we should stop that too?


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Why should they believe

I often wonder about one aspect of faith: How do you make it relevant to the next generation?  I knew full well that my gandma believed and that she prayed for my salvation every day.  And I’ve written previously about who my dad was. He was a faith hero, in my eyes anyway.  But even with their examples, I still chose a very destructive lifestyle which required a direct intervention from God’s side.  I know why I believe and it is due to a direct encounter with a living and personal God.

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The miracle moove

Quickly… Define LIFE. You have 15 seconds. No, no, no. Not THE MEANING of life, we’ve covered that last time. LIFE itself. I tend to think of life as the things that happen to you while you are making other plans. LIFE just happens. You can influence it, even to a great extent, but then you have to focus on something; your dreams, your purpose, something. Otherwise life just, well, happens.

I almost lost my job when the company I worked for at the time went through a massive restructuring. I simply could not find a job in Cape Town, and we were not willing to move north. Life was happening in all the wrong ways and there seems very little we could do about it. One day someone asked “If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?” and we realized that there was one thing we never did, but both still dreamt about: living in Europe. We thought to ourselves, hey, if we EVER want to pursue that dream, then this was our opportunity.

But why the Netherlands?
When Maric was small, her aunt had the most amazing range of Delft blue crockery and often told her stories about her trips to Holland. Maric started dreaming of going to Delft herself.
When I was born, a mistake was made at my registration and my surname registered with the original Dutch spelling (van Rooijen) instead of the more African way (van Rooyen).
While decorating our first house, we decoupaged a picture in several places in the kitchen – a picture of a little girl feeding swans in the stream in front of an old windmill. It looked like such an idyllic place – and now we have been to exactly such places, complete with swans.
On top of that, it just so happened that Maric’s brother were transferred from the UK to the Netherlands, and chose to stay in the Netherlands. Shortly before we booked our flights to the Netherlands, he changed jobs and moved from Amsterdam to a village 5km from Delft.
Are all these things just happy coincidences? Looking back, it almost seems like we were being prepared for this journey. We believe they are planned by a very personal God in heaven.

So there we were, prepared for this journey and the promise of a new start waiting around the next corner. So we packed up and left and here we are. And we all lived happily ever after. Whoooa, not so fast! Much water has to flow under the bridge before a good idea becomes reality. Just because there’s no jobs in Cape Town doesn’t automagically qualify you for the next best job just anywhere you choose. Live is a journey, not a destination. Here’s some of the highlights of the journey that was about to follow:
Find a job. While you are busy, find two.
Get visas, pack up and Go, go, go. Find a place to stay, settle in, find a church, find a school, find after school care, buy a car, see the world and save the whales. Or something along those lines.

Finding a job in your own country was hard enough. Finding a job in a strange country is just short of impossible. It would seem that it does not matter who you are and what skills you have, but who you know…. and we know the author and perfecter of our faith. For some time, there was nothing. A whole lot of nothing. Complete weeks of not turning up a single opportunity. But then it happened all at once:

At the time, Maric was working for Mars in Cape Town and she stumbled across an advertisement for a position at Mars Netherlands. The position seemed to have been created just for her. They flew her over for some gruelling interviews and offered her the position even before we flow back to South Africa. They even offered to pay for relocation of our house contents and our flights. They employed the services of Team Relocation, who did an amazing job at organizing so many things for us in the finest details. What a blessing.

We were barely back in South Africa, when an employment agent picked up my CV and introduced me to Ezwim. Thank you Dara! After the initial telephonic interviews, I flew back to the Netherlands about two weeks later for my interviews. I was offered a position in my field of expertise. There we were, not even started with the packing up of our lives, both with jobs requiring us to start on 1 February 2009.

When we talk to people about this, they are amazed that we were both able to get a position in our own field. Mostly, it turns out, only one member of a family moves to the country and works there for some time until everything is settled before the rest of the family move over. By grace alone, we were able to relocate the whole family all at once.

But then the battle to get visas approved on time started. Maric had plain sailing, thanx to Team Relocation. But the clown that handled my papers messed up big time. A couple of times. So there I was, sitting on the beach on 20 December, our whole house packed up in a container and on it’s way to the Netherlands. Flight tickets booked for 21 January, but my visa application was just submitted. I get a phone call, on the beach. Normally the process takes 6 weeks, he explains, but several people at eternal affairs were off sick and they don’t guarantee anything shorter than 3 months. It is too early to book flight tickets! But that’s long been booked; no turning back now.

So, time to phone up everybody. “Pray without ceasing”, the word of God says. And pray we did; in between spending some quality time with the sun; and then it happened, an all time speed record for an approved knowledge migrant visa: 6 working days. Totally unheard of. We don’t just believe in miracles; we depend on them.
We arrive in the Netherlands, straight from a warm summer holiday in Mosselbay, and BOY, it was cold Januari in Europe. We had only 2 weeks to organize our lives before starting work. Find a house, find a school, find a church, open a bank account. Oh my, what to do with the children after school? We found a house and a Christian school (!) within walking distance from home. And an au-pair to look after the children. A month later, we had to replace the au-pair. Which is when a miracle called Tamara walked into our life. Straight from the Hillsongs bible college Australia. She introduced us to City Life Church Den Haag. She cared for our children after school for most of our first year in the Netherlands.

After a year in Holland, we realized that we could save a lot of money if we bought a house, instead of renting. No, impossible, they say. You need to have been living in the country for more than 3 years + have a unlimited time residence permit. Impossible? In Luke 18:27, Jesus says “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” We found a perfect house, with a room for each of our children, a lovely garden, kitchen and an enormous basement room for a kids playroom. On 21 Januari 2010, exactly 1 year after we arrived in the Netherlands, we were handed the keys to our own home. Isn’t God amazing?

We are in Holland for a reason, of that I am sure. There are many more miracles that I can share about our journey through life. I am not sure whether we experience more miracles than other people; I think maybe we have just learnt how to recognize them for what they are. Hand picked moments where Almighty God reaches out into our lives & brings it in line with His plans for us.

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Why in heaven’s name are we on earth?

In Acts 13, we read about the first missionary journey by Paul & Barnabas. They were sharing the good news, and in the middle of a sermon, Paul says this:

“For David…served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36)

Now, I want to be successful.  Actually, more than that, I want everyone to know that I am successful.  And hopefully they’ll see it before I die?   But what is really the definition of success. Could it be that Success is in the fulfilling of the complete purpose for which God made you?

I read somewhere that the word used in the Bible for sin originates in the sport of archery – it is the word used to say that you have missed your mark; or missed the target.  I am here on earth to fulfill a purpose, and sin is when I do not reach that purpose.

But what IS my purpose?  What in heaven’s name am I doing on earth? Why am I here?
Maybe a study of the life of one of the faith giants in the Bible could point us in some direction; the life of Paul or David.  Or Jesus.

Jesus himself had a mission. He spend 3 years on His ministry & then prayed this prayer to the Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (Joh 17:4).  He finished his work, and that was before the cross.
In the life of Jesus, I see the following themes visible in all His actions and his teachings:
– He helped people to know God and to worship Him alone
– He taught them to love each other
– His whole life showed them how he expected them to live  & sent them out to teach it others

– He served His followers, taught them how to Serve God & sent then out to serve others
– He gave them a mission to bring the Good News: You can fulfill your purpose
So, maybe my purpose is to Worship God, Love His People, Follow His example, Serve Him and Spread the Good News.  What is YOUR purpose?
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