Sunday, August 28, 2005

new beginnings

What do the following three items share in common: (1) a cup of coffee, (2) a cold-watered suburban lake, and (3) wine and cheese in the Sarphatipark?

I suppose it's pretty obvious to everyone, so I almost feel silly asking the question as it was some kind of brain teaser -- but yes, of course, the answer is that all of these three items represent new beginnings. And why wouldn't they? Nothing says "new beginnings" like a cup of piping hot java, a large body of water on the city outreaches, and a classic European picnic spread... Right? Seriously, though... This weekend has been an incredible experience of new beginnings in unexpected forms.

It started off with Elliot and I setting out for a walk in the beautiful Saturday morning sunshine. Just me, my son, the Reader's Digest, and The Story of Chicken Little. We meandered down the Middenweg until we reached our destination: the Coffee Company -- one of the few places in Amsterdam where you can get a good ol' American mixed coffee drink. And after ordering my Bambino Marz (Starbucks' Caramel Macchiato is a good frame of reference, if you really want to get the gist), along with one blueberry muffin, Elliot and I found our way to the leather lounge chairs to sit a spell. I enjoyed sips of my coffee while Elliot silently mowed the majority of the muffin. We simply enjoyed the moment together, silently looking at our reading material and pleasuring our taste buds. And it was in that moment that I realized how my relationship with my son was standing at a threshhold. I don't believe we had ever really shared such an moment -- just soaking up the silence together -- and even though it only lasted five minutes or so, the experience impressed upon me how much my boy is growing up. I don't know... Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a molehill -- and perhaps celebrating solitude side-by-side is a poor excuse for companionship. However, I couldn't help but feel a sense of new beginnings in my relationship with Elliot. New potentials, new possibilities, new joys, and new adventures.

Later that afternoon, I set out on my bicycle for the southwest extremities of Amsterdam -- wearing a swimsuit under my jeans and feeling excited for our church's fourth public baptism. It's a forty-minute bike ride from my home in Oost to the Nieuwe Meer in Nieuwe Sloten. But the weather was fair and the music in my headphones kept the ride interesting. And by the time I rounded the Spijtellantje and turned onto the Jaagpad, following the contours of the lake, my soul was filled with exhileration and freedom. The city's cobbled streets and brick buildings faded into grasses and trees, the sunlight danced with the boats out on the water, and I was bubbling with a sense of celebration for the young lives that have been changed and reborn in Jesus, symbolized and proclaimed through baptism. As the crowd of friends and supporters looked on, an Austrian named Thomas, a Swiss woman named Daniella, and a young man from Holland named Daniel shared their stories of faith and obedience to God. Then we waded across the slippery stones into the waist-deep water, and we baptized each one of them, individually, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Their heads went under the cold clear waters of the Nieuwe Meer (the New Lake), and they rose up again in dramatic sybolism of New Life and New Hope. As we finished in song and prayer for these three young believers, I couldn't help but feel a sense of new beginnings of God's stirrings in Europe. New potentials, new possibilities, new joys, and new adventures.

Finally, as the shadows lengthened and the light flattened in the evening cloud cover, our family pedaled the short distance from our home to De Pijp to join up with a group of our friends in the Sarphatipark, celebrating Bret, Jayla, and Asher's last Saturday in Amsterdam. A kind of family reunion in reverse, we shared Barolo, Old Gouda, and conversation as a means of saying good-bye to our dear brother and sister. And although it's certainly sad to part ways with the Poppletons, I couldn't help but feel a sense of new beginnings for both their lives and ours. New potentials, new possibilities, new joys, and new adventures.

It seems to me that new beginnings are not always easy. In fact, the road is frought with peril and uncertainty. A new beginning often neccesitates the death of an old way of being, living, or doing. But new beginnings can also be so beautiful. And so alive. And so free.


At 10:16 PM, Anonymous mom said...

Your comments on the baptism of new believers was so exciting & encouraging to me. It's helpful to me to know that the sacrifice of you all living over there is worth something. How exciting to have a part in all of what's going on there!!


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