Our Holiday in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Recently, my wife, my son and I were incredibly blessed with the opportunity to holiday-vacation in Tenerife, Canary Islands (which is just off the northwest coast of Africa). We had an amazing time, as I suppose one would only expect. It was beautiful, it was warm (one day it got up to 41 degrees Celsius, 106 Fahrenheit), it was relaxing. Not much else you could ask for.

We stayed at a beautiful resort centre – Santa Barbara – on the south coast of the Tenerife Island. Here is a picture overlooking the resort from our balcony.

We mainly spent time at the pool of the hotel, as the beach we were closest to was more of a rocky beach than sandy. But no complaints here. Here are some shots from the pool.

Though we spent most of our outdoors time at the pool, we went a couple of days to the beach – one time at the rocky beach near the resort centre and another day on a sandy beach in the north of the island (we rented a car that day and drove around the island). Here are a couple of pics of our son, Caleb, enjoying the beach.

On the day we rented the car, we drove up to El Teide, which is basically the volcano at the centre point of the island. The first pic is from our drive up the mountain, the second pic is from our drive back down.

So, there we are. A brief description and a few pics from our amazing time in Tenerife! Truly a provision of God for some time to rest and relax, and soak up some rays.

Going on Holiday to Canary Islands

I must be honest. I am quite excited about heading out on holiday on Thursday. A week away in any place would be nice. But a week away on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands will be fantastic! And even more fantastic that this is my wife and I’s first more proper holiday alone since our honeymoon, not to mention our first official holiday with our son.

The Canary Islands are set just off the northwest coast of Africa, but they are actually part of Spain. The island of Tenerife is the largest of seven islands and it has a volcano right in the middle of it. You can see pictures below.

I’m sure there are many things to do on the island – visiting the beach, driving to the top of the volcano, going fishing, shopping, restaurants, etc. But I would not be disappointed in the least if we simply sat around the pool most days, soaking up some sun rays, reading a good book or two, going for a swim, and sipping on some nice drinks like a Mojito. Wouldn’t be upset in the slighest.

I have set for two articles to be posted during the time I am away. They can be considered ‘Prodigal Thought classic re-posts’, meaning they are articles I have posted before but ones I consider worthy of a re-post. They will be central to my heart.

Enjoy. I know I will while I am away.

My Belgian License Plate

I suppose most will be quite aware of my good, no, great news! Most would be familiar because of recent Twitter and Facebook posts, as well as email to family and friends. But, in case you are not in the know, I now shout as loud as I can via the virtual world:

I have now received my Belgian license plate!!!

The reason I shout it is due to the incredibly long process – about 3 weeks shy of a 2-year process, that is. I guess I should have known from the beginning it might be a long process when the US export company first shipped my car to Germany, rather than where I live – in Belgium. Then, once the import company in Belgium received my car, they tried to charge me all of the taxes, which totalled the better part of €2600 ($3350). I had to prove to them that I did not owe the taxes because I owned the car at least 6 months prior to moving to Belgium and that this was part of moving my personal effects with me to Belgium. The Belgian law states that, if this is the case, then I owe nothing.

But, during that whole exchange with the import company, while they had written custom clearance papers as if I were paying the taxes, they did not rewrite the custom clearance papers for my current case in which I did not owe the taxes. So I left with the car, but no custom’s papers (I didn’t know I needed new ones at the time). Thus, I, first, spent 6 months trying to find a way to get those.

Then, once I got those papers and officially cleared customs, I believe I waited 6 or 7 months for the Ministry of Mobility (Transportation) to send me the first document from their office to set in motion the process of getting my car officially registered in Belgium. After receiving those first Ministry papers, I headed multiple times to Controle Technique (where they examine your car to make sure it is up to Belgian standard). Each time I was told more changes needed to be done to the car. I finally passed Controle Technique on the fourth time.

Following that, it took about 6 to 7 weeks to receive the last bill to pay to the Ministry of Mobility. Once I paid that, they sent me the final paper to set in motion the process to pick up my license plate, which happened this past Monday, 16 August 2010.

The funny thing is that I had not been driving my car for two and a half months, as the local police said I could no longer drive the car with my Tennessee US license plate. Understandable, but frustrating knowing I had been trying to do everything I could to get my Belgian plate. So, after affixing the plate temporarily to my car, I started it and put it in reverse to back out of my friend’s drive. But the back, right tire would not move. The brake had rusted and the tire would not move. So I couldn’t even celebrate on that day by driving it.

But, the next day I had a garage come out and unlock the brake. And the following day they cleaned out the brake, as well as properly affix both the front and rear license plates to the car. Now we are able to drive anywhere and everywhere. I almost want to just drive around all of Belgium showing off my new license plate. But, alas, no one would car, not to mention I need to conserve gas-petrol. But I did kiss the license plate as if I had won the championship! You can see in the pic here.

In all, I did learn a lot through the frustrating process. I did learn patience. So much that, by the end of the process, I tried to take everything in stride as part of the process. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned quite a lot through it all.

Change Has Come

It’s been quite a while since I last posted an article anywhere in the blogosphere, especially at my home base here at The Prodigal Thought. That’s a bit of an oddity for me, since I love to write. It has been a passion of mine going strong now for just over 2 years. So for me to not post anything in 9 days, well, that’s not usual.

But I suppose the usual and the norm for me will change.

Why? Because change has drastically happened to me.

Actually, I’m not sure what the norm will be with regards to blogging. Nor do I know what the norm will be for me when it comes to reading. Reading is my second passion. I’m always reading: theology, devotional, fiction, or maybe even other things here and there.

But, with not blogging for a week and a half, and only reading the better part of a handful of pages outside of Scripture, well, again, those who know me would wonder what is going on. It’s not the norm.

So why the lack? Again, I can only describe it as radical change has come to my life.

But what is that change?

Well, I had posted a few times on my blog that we, at Cornerstone, were hosting two training conferences this summer: 1) VMI, which had to do with music and worship training and 2) Fast Forward, which had to do with more ministry-leadership training. Both times were simply excellent. You can listen to or download all 12 speaker-teaching sessions from our podcast site.

During these two training times, there were purposeful gatherings of worship, times of waiting on God to hear from Him, deep prayer and intercession, as well as hearing God speak revelations via prophecies of who He is and His purposes into the Brussels area and beyond.

For some, this sounds off-the-wall crazy. But, oh well. I can only say that God truly made Himself known – not just in the teachings, though those were excellent, but also in the times where space was created to hear from God and respond to Him.

But, the ironic thing was that, for me, the most radical, life-changing moment came for me the following day with both conferences already concluded. My wife and I were having a nice Thai dinner together with some friends when God decided to reveal Himself to me in a most significant way.

During our conversations, and at one particular moment, God decided to give me a renewed revelation of His power. It was nothing insignificant with a little nod as I stated, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’ The conversation set something in motion where I could only sit there a stirred man in awe of the power of God.

He specifically brought to me a renewed revelation of His power – the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of His kingdom, and the power of the gospel to change lives. I was already aware of these things in my life, and Scripture definitely testifies to God’s power in these specific areas! But this past Wednesday evening, as I joined together with those close friends over a meal of Thai curry and Pad Thai noodles, God made His power so real and clear to me.

Therefore, I cannot expect my life to ever be the same. I am not one to hype up things nor ‘jump on a bandwagon’, as we say in English. So, for me, this is not just emotionalism. This is knowing the clear reality that God has revealed Himself, and revealed something significantly at that.

I cannot say I know what it will all look like. I simply know that God has spoken and I must obey. For as Scripture says, ‘Today, if you here His voice do not harden your hearts…’ (Hebrews 3:7-8). Again, I have heard and I can only obey what He is saying.

And I am very aware that God will begin to work such a reality into the Cornerstone church community, the Brussels area, even into Belgium and beyond. That is how real this revelation is, this is how real God has made Himself known to me.

Within the first words of the book of Acts, we read about two very important characteristics about the people of God:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

We are to be a people empowered by the Spirit, and as we are, we will be His witnesses. It’s not that we might be or could be, but that we WILL BE. This is the empowered church!

Therefore, I can no longer simply be satisfied with maintaining the status quo. That is not what God has called us to. What I mean is that, in every situation of life, there is a way things are supposed to happen. At work it might be that we arrive at 9.00, have coffee break at 10.30, lunch at 12.30, and so on. That is the status quo. And while this is not bad, I am very aware that God is not calling His Spirit-empowered people to simply maintain the status quo. Life in God is about so much more. No, God is not calling us to confusion. But God is calling us to obey what He is saying and doing.

In the end, from a human perspective, it is much easier to try and control the situation as best we can. It really is so much easier to not learn to be a people who rely completely on the Holy Spirit, looking to see His power at work in our midst. To consider such can make us uncomfortable. But I can no longer try and control what He is doing, for I do not want to be guilty of grieving the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30).

And so, if you haven’t sensed it yet, I am completely gripped with the reality of the power of God. Again, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God’s kingdom rule and the power of the gospel to change lives. And I cannot make apologies for what my life will look like from here on out. I don’t know the specifics of what it will all look like. I expect to be surprised after receiving this fresh understanding of His power. I expect to see lives changed. I expect to see healings and miracles. I expect to see people drawn to Christ. I expect to see major impact. And I expect something to start stirring and shaking beyond me and my church community. This will move into Brussels, into all of Belgium, and even beyond.

Matter of fact, since last Wednesday evening, the phrase that God keeps impressing upon my heart is – God Is Alive. I believe this is a specific message that Brussels, and Belgium, and even western Europe, needs to hear afresh. A land which has had a rich heritage of the things of Christ, such a reality has now fallen to the wayside. And people here need to know just this – God Is Alive! A God who is powerful is one who is truly alive, and a God who is alive is one who is truly powerful. There is no one like Jesus Christ!

Consequently, as I’ve siad, I know my life will not be the same. I must proclaim the powerful message of Christ and His kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 1 Corinthians 4:20), the powerful work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4), and the power of the gospel to change lives (Romans 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). I must proclaim to the people in Belgium that God Is Alive. He is alive and He will again show His power.

So, as to blogging (and reading), at this point, I don’t know how often. I haven’t really wanted to do so much at all, which is another pointer as to how real and deep this truly is. I’m willing to lay aside such for a time, or for all time. I am not sure at this point. It’s just not as important as proclaiming that which God has made known. I cannot see myself doing anything else.

If you would like to hear more of what I shared with Cornerstone this past Sunday, as sometimes verbal media is more helpful than typed media, you can click on the icon below. Or you can download from our podcast site or iTunes.

Time Away and the Chimay Abbey

This past week, I had a wonderful opportunity to go away for a few days. I didn’t go far from my Brussels-area apartment, driving only some 90 km to the little town of Froidchapelle in the French-speaking part of southern Belgium. But the reality to get away was a treat. We rented a nice, cozy house. It needed to be cozy as it was cold and snowy all week.

Such time away allows for extra reflection, rest, reading, prayer, listening to God and just simple relaxation. Of course these things are a plus! And every time you have an opportunity to enjoy a few days like this, you always have high hopes of doing it again within the next few months. But so many things pop up, extra finances are not always available, and you just feel you need to get on with ‘the list’. So my prayer is that we take the opportunity again soon.

While we were away, we took a visit to the Scourmont Abbey just outside of Chimay, Belgium. I’ve only had the opportunity of visiting one abbey so far, the Orval Abbey, which I enjoyed. But I was looking forward to visiting the Chimay Abbey since they are responsible for making one of my favourite beers – Chimay Blue.

I have shared in the past on my theology of beer. I like beer, and even as a church leader, I don’t mind revealing such. I am not given to drunkenness or any such thing. That would be unacceptable. But I do enjoy beer. And I can only imagine the graciousness of God in sending me to a land with such great beer, all 1,498 of them. And, no I haven’t tried them all, just maybe 30 or so.

But, I think we all need to admit that those monks do know how to make their beer. Chimay is specifically known as a trappist beer. There are only seven of these in the world – six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands. They are known as trappist beers because they are made by trappist monks, a specific order of monks originating from La Trappe, France. You can read more about it here.

The interesting thing as well is that these trappist monks, at least the ones of Chimay, are also known for making cheese. And, just as the beer, the cheese is mighty fine as well (though a bit smelly). Both of these are a delight to enjoy at the restaurant not even 1 km away from the abbey. Yet, they are also available throughout Belgium, a good thing for me.

So, the time away was excellent, as it was much needed. Hearing from God, prayer, studying, reading, sleeping in and enjoying some of the Belgian culture. There is quite a lot available in this small land. I’m glad I’m sitting right in the midst of western Europe to enjoy as much as I can.