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A stranger here

๐ƒ๐จ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž?

This week marked a significant anniversary for Monic and I.

12 months ago, we arrived in the Netherlands.

Those months have simply flown by, so incredibly fast.

We have travelled throughout Belgium and the Netherlands, visited with lots of family, reacquainted ourselves with many old friends, made many new friends from all across the world and testified of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in many towns and cities.

Yesterday, we met up with fellow Scot โ€“ Mark Stewart, an Area Authority Seventy, as each of us fulfilled assignments to speak at The Hague Stake Conference in Zoetermeer this weekend.

Reflecting this morning, I was reminded of a scripture in Ephesians 2:19.

At the time the Apostle Paul was fearlessly traveling into lots of different lands and meeting many new people.

Writing to the members of the Church, or Saints as they were called and are called today, he reminded members of the Church of the blessings of belonging, when he told them, โ€œYe are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.โ€

What do you think of when you think of โ€œstrangersโ€ or โ€œforeignersโ€?

Mark and I are both Scottish, growing up on opposite sides of the country.

Speaking last night, our mother tongue, dialect, cultural background, and lifestyle may be different from the Dutch, but we were no strangers or foreigners โ€“ we were indeed fellowcitizens with the household of God, the Saints, here in the Netherlands.

In our day, in these turbulent times in which we live, strangers and foreigners are coming to us – daily.

We donโ€™t have to look far. They are all around us.

Are you welcoming?

In fact, I was a stranger here not too long ago, yet I have always felt welcome here.

I know that no-one is a stranger to Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8:16-17, the Apostle Paul explains furtherโ€ฆ

โ€œThe Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.โ€

Try as we may, we cannot separate ourselves from each other.

As children of God, we are not strangers to one another, we are all in fact brothers and sisters.

I hope that we will remember that we are all children of God and part of His family.

Have you ever felt like a stranger?

#HearHim

Be there!

๐๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž!
Whilst on a video call last night with our three grown children, my mind drifted back to when they were all much smaller.
In my minds eye, I was holding hands with our youngest daughter, walking through our beautiful park in town.
It felt like only yesterday, but 10 years have swiftly passed by.
Those tender moments are one of the sweetest, most enjoyable parts of life.
Suddenly โ€“ growing older, there can come a sense of having been there – and yet knowingly perhaps, I should have enjoyed the journey much, much more.
Iโ€™m sure those old like me, or older even โ€“ will understand my sentiment.
Life is going on all of the time.
Sometimes we are so focused on the next big thing, that we miss much of the beautiful scenery along the way.
Time with loved ones, the holidays, the picnics, the walks, the challenges are all part of ๐›๐ž๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž.
There is purpose and meaning to all that we experience and undergo in this life.
We should enjoy our children when we have them around us, as I know now, they wonโ€™t always be with us.
Back then when they were young, they not only needed us, they also wanted us too!
We live through each part of our life only once, we donโ€™t go back, so it is vitally important that we ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’†!
There are few sweeter memories than your childโ€™s hand in yours, walking with you.
Wherever you are, ๐›๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž, be present and enjoy the moment, our life after all, is only a nanosecond of time.
How can you focus better, be present and be engaged in the here and now?

Lessons from Juggling….

โ€œCan anyone juggle?โ€ I asked.

A few raised their hands and I invited them forward.

I gave them three balls each and asked them to show us how.

Admittedly, they were a little rusty, but after a few attempts, the basics returned.

โ€œWho would like to learn how to juggle?โ€ I asked.

A few raised their hands and I invited them forward.

I gave those who could juggle the assignment to teach those who came forward how to juggle.

The challenge – they had only two minutes to show them how.

After their time was up, the novice jugglers showed us their rudimentary skills.

The result – it wasnโ€™t very pretty, with balls flying everywhere โ€“ but it was great fun!

After a few attempts, one even managed to complete a cycle of three balls through the air.

The Lessons โ€“

  • Learning takes practice.
  • Growth and Development takes time.

As we grow older and develop in life, we have to learn how to juggle many responsibilities. Frequently, it can take lots of practice to get things right.

That day, I gave a new set of juggling balls to the willing learners.

Pleasingly a week later, one by one they told me of their significant improvement in their juggling skills.ย  Each of them had taken time to learn the techniques of throwing and catching a ball. They had practiced with 2 balls and then ultimately juggled with 3.ย  With lots of continuous practice, 4 balls wonโ€™t be a problem either.

Learning something new?ย  Donโ€™t get too disheartened and throw in the towel too soon!

Remember, practice and time are key principles in our learning, growth and development.

You….growing older.

It is later than you think.
Remember how short our time is.
It is a characteristic of youth to suppose that life is long and time is in abundance.
Growing older is never easy.
There comes a time in everyoneโ€™s life when confronting ourselves with ourselves is mandatory.
โ€œThere is an old man (or woman) up there ahead of you that you ought to know.
He looks somewhat like you, walks like you.
He has your nose, your eyes, your chin.
And whether he loves you or hates you, respects you or despises you, whether he is angry or comfortable, whether he is miserable or happy, depends on you.
For ๐’š๐’๐’– made him. He is ๐’š๐’๐’–, grown older.โ€ โ€“ Author unknown.
What kind of narrative are you writing for your life?

Time

As a teenager, only moments ago, I had time aplenty. However, youth moves quickly to maturity.
Now, in my mid 50โ€™s โ€“ Iโ€™m acutely aware of my mortality, my time here on earth is running out!
Families that were once young, are then grown, and then gone.
If we have lived through half a century, a quarter or even a fifth of a century, we know how quickly time has come and gone.
Like me, if you have lived through half a century, then youโ€™ll know as I do that two times our lifetime isnโ€™t very long at all!
Time is so full and yet so fleeting, and upon its use depends all the possibilities that there are.
Sometimes we can think of the past as a thing quite apart from the present. Really they are one eternal round.
As Goethe put it, โ€œthings which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.โ€
Jack N. Gerard observed โ€œWe live in a world of information overload, dominated by ever-increasing distractions that make it more and more difficult to sort through the commotion of this life. Unless we take the time to reflect, we may not realise the impact of this fast-paced environment on our daily lives and the choices we make.โ€
As I flick through TV channels, or scroll through social media, too often I find a world saturated with incessant noise, much of which is too loud, garish and crude. We need to pause and contemplate what we choose to do with the precious gift of time, before we fritter it away in frivolous โ€œtrivial tripe!โ€ said James E Faust.
We donโ€™t need more time. We have all the time there is. No one has more of it than each of us has. We must manage ourselves accordingly, rather than allowing conditions to manage us. Step back from the world – ask yourself how will I measure my life?
Words may change, styles may change, the man-made manner of life may change, but the stars in the heaven retain their course, and I know that our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth and all things are, remain in command.
โ€œTime is clearly not our natural dimension. This it is that we are never really at home in time because we belong to eternity. Time, as much as any one thing, whispers that we are strangers here.โ€ Neal A. Maxwell.
Treasure your time, value it, use it wisely. Much will come from very little effort if we slow down, observe and see.
How will you choose to use your time allotment today?

Interruptions!

โ€œWill I answer that?โ€ I thought.

It had been an extremely busy day.ย  Our schedule was packed full.ย  On arriving home around 3.30pm yesterday, I said to Monic that I was going for a walk to get some fresh air, stretch my legs and generally chill for half an hour.ย  I asked if she wanted to come, but she needed to attend to some other things.

So, off I strode, along to the canal side to enjoy a pleasant stroll and clear my thoughts.

Pausing along the way to enjoy the nature and the windmill, I pulled out my phone to take a picture.

And there it was, the phone was silently ringing, some young missionaries were trying to get a hold of me.ย  And then came the thought above!

What is it about a ringing phone that compels us to answer it?

I was so enjoying my little walk!

Interruptions!ย  How do you deal with them?

So, I chose to answer the call.

โ€œDo you have a minute?โ€ย  asked the young missionary, โ€œI just have one quick question. I can call you back if it is not a good time?โ€

Smiling, โ€œon you goโ€ I said.

We spoke for 10 minutes and resolved the immediate matter at hand.ย  We talked, shared, asked questions, problem solved and above all I listened.

How many times a day do you hear those fateful words?

Frequently, one-minute turns into 10, one question becomes several, and you can end up losing big chunks of your day.ย  Balancing the need to be accessible and productive is a challenge that we all face at times.

All that said, I enjoyed our conversation.ย  We resolved a few things together and followed up later with an email to address the main concern.

Interruptions happen, so it’s how you deal with them that matters.ย  Over the years I have learned to expect them!

Each of us oftentimes face many random factors in our day. They will control you unless you control them. Itโ€™s your choice.ย  And yesterday I chose to take the call, and I am glad I did!

My advice, if you do need to interrupt someone, give them the option of turning you down without appearing rude. For instance, instead of โ€œI just have one quick question,โ€ ask โ€œIs now a good time to talk?โ€

Enough!

Okay people…. seriously, when is enough, enough?
Are you chained to a to-do list for today and gauging your personal value and self worth on its completion or not?
There is hope!
Don’t beat yourself up, why not slow down andย  show some self-respect!
What does that mean?
Simply – not being overly self-critical, judgmental, or restrictive!
Start today and practice making purposeful shifts toward self-kindness.
Why not say to yourself as you finish one particular task and consider the next – “I could choose to do this, or I could choose not do it. If I choose to stop now, I will allow whatever I have accomplished today ๐’•๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’†๐’๐’๐’–๐’ˆ๐’‰.”
Enough definition “a sufficient number, quantity, or amount”
Let whatever you get done today – be ๐ž๐ง๐จ๐ฎ๐ ๐ก!

Signs of Progress

How do you measure progress?
After 9 weeks of immersion in the culture of Belgium and the Netherlands, something significant, yet very subtle happened in my head this week.
For several weeks, I hear the Dutch language and then translate what I hear into English.
In order to respond, I then translate my English thinking into Dutch.
This week though, things started to change – just a little.
I am beginning to think in Dutch… ๐Ÿ™‚
What a difference it makes!
The result?
I am even struggling to recall some simple English words and replacing them with Dutch ones!
The transition is starting to happen!
Don’t get me wrong, I have still lots of learning, but genuinely feel after some tough weeks, that I am making some progress.
So how do you measure progress?
…One day at a time! And then recognising the change.
When I’m dreaming in Dutch – that will be a real sign!
And for our new missionary arrivals next week, remember to speak it every day – that is so crucial. There is hope!!

Slow Down

This is my watch.
…For a while yesterday, time seemed to pass by a little slower.
…It felt a little unusual.
…By late morning, I discovered that the battery was running low.
…What I thought was 11.00, was nearly 11.45!
…We tried to find a new battery, without success.
…At first the slow passage of time was annoying.
…Now, looking at the second hand, time is going slower.
…I am enjoying the l-o-n-g-e-r passing of s-l-o-w-e-r time.
…What a joy.
…I just needed to slow down and enjoy every moment.
…My mobile will keep me on time today.
…Do you need to slow down too?

Perfect Pizza!

“It’s the centrifugal force” I said, as my daughter Cristi gave me a bit of a strange look!

In attempting to make home made pizza at the weekend for the first time ever, I learned a lot about the key ingredients and the due process of making the dough. Both are essential for perfect pizza.

The Ingredients

Strong plain flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, warm water and a little warm milk mixed together create a perfect dough.

Then the fun begins.

Kneading the dough on a well floured surface for 5 minutes creates a smooth and slightly tacky texture. Then, you pop the ball of dough into a bowl, cover it with a wet cloth, leave it for 90 minutes, allowing it to rise to perfection.

Time to knock back the dough.

Gently lifting the dough out from the bowl, kneading it again, then leaving it for another 45 minutes to rest a while. The passage of time is key.

Now, roller in hand, it was time to roll out the dough.

The first two bases were impressive and I determined not to toss the dough, frightened that I’d make a mess of my perfect creation! However, on the third base, after watching a “how to throw dough” video,ย  I incorporated the toss into my routine. Gently balancing the rolled dough on my fingertips, I tossed it into the air, with a gentle rotating spin action at the same time and capturing it again on the back of my hand.ย  Performing this action three times, allowed centrifugal force to stretch out the pizza base to perfection!

Adding on the toppings, making sure the oven was on full blast, pizza trays were already hot and getting the oven timings right were crucial finishing touches.

The result.ย  Perfect Pizza’s!

However, it has to be said, although Pizza’s 1 & 2 were good, adding in the toss for Pizza 3, made the difference between good and great!

In my allegory filled mind, there are dozens of pictures forming about this due process.ย  There are multiple comparisons to be made and lessons to be learned.ย  Time, ingredients, process, heat, practice, that little extra toss.

What allegories come to mind for you?

To move from good to great, sometimes you just have to throw in that little extra…. (toss!)

Now to do it all again, this time Gluten Free!