Sunday, September 28, 2014

Raphaël & Camille

Here's a wonderful picture I thought you'd like of the whole of the Neve family upstairs -- what a gorgeous bunch, such a good sample for their younger brothers and sisters, and such a delight to their parents!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day-trip to Chambord

Today, being such a lovely day, Rebecca wanted to spend a little time with Amos (aka "Samoo" to his friends) so she had a day-trip set up for just the two of them to Chambord, with a picnic lunch and everything fun!

Apparently Samoo was tirelessly interested in everything she could explain, historically, about the castle and its famous occupants and they spent three hours solid running up and down stairs and visiting all the rooms -- without the slightest complaint of tiredness!

Afterwards they rented a small motorboat and messed about on the water just in front, near the moats.  When I saw her pictures I just knew you'd love them!

Here are three of the best ...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Enjoying ourselves!

Some might say we didn't have a lot of heat this summer but since the first of September, this month is satisfying everyone!  Almost no rain for three weeks!

Raphaël & Camille decided to take the children to the closest beach to us and take advantage of the wonderful weather by a dip in the sea.  So off they went with their caravan and spent this weekend at the Île de Ré.  This evening they sent us a picture with this message as we were wondering what time they'd be back:

"Don't know if we'll manage to talk ourselves
into starting home!"
Amos, Ruben, Susanne, Claire, Paul, Junia, Christine, and David!

Friday, September 19, 2014

How should a 22-year-old invest time?

Here is a wonderful piece I discovered on Quora, the online forum of questions and answers from around the world.

I thought this question was astute and the answer perfectly said. (If you're not familiar with Quora don't waste any further time before you get to know it!  It exists both as a a web-based or Android application -- both have their place and the content is the same.)

The author is a certain Muhammad Rizwzwan Aseem, a Canadian accountant from British Columbia.  I have only taken the liberty of minor editorial changes.

How should a 22-year-old

invest time?

What are things one should be worrying about? What are the things one should not be worrying about as a 22-year-old?

by Muhammad Rizwan Aseem

When I was 22 years old, I spent time going out with my friends, talking to my girlfriend all the time, spending time smoking-up, and generally being an a$$.

10 years later I discovered a secret that helped me achieve and learn more in one year than I had in all the previous 10 years.

Here's the secret for you to apply in your life and get results and success that you've never even dreamed possible.   Invest your time in the following activities and you will gain more power, money, friends, love and affection. 

Your friends will look up to you for your courage to do the things that they've only just dreamed about, your family will look up to you and be proud of your many achievements.   Your colleagues will become jealous of your stratospheric success. They will look towards you for advice on how to become successful like you.

If you don't do these things, ten years down the line you will wonder where all your time went, what you did wrong to become such a failure.  Your friends will forget you as a has-been, and your family will treat you like that 'bum-sibling' they have.

Here are 5 things you should invest your time in everyday to become a success.  But first a WORD OF WARNING...

If you try doing these things at the same time you will fail. So pick one of the things mentioned below.  Learn how to do it. Figure it out. Then spend 1 month to learn how to do this better. Practice it every day for one month before taking on anything else.

After the first month is over this will have become your habit and you will be able to do it unconsciously. Then when you add another thing from the list below it won't seem very hard.   Within the year you'll be doing each of these things unconsciously and will have developed an arsenal of habits that will support you for the rest of your life.
The Power Of Creating Good Habits

The biggest secret that man has discovered over the last few decades is the power of habit. Once a habit is established it lasts for a life time.  Developing a habit in the beginning seems hard, but once you master something and include it in your habits, it will be forgotten and you'll just do it easily.

Think about tying your shoelaces. How do you do that? Do you loop each lace and then knot them, or do you loop one and then knot the other lace through the loop.  Each of us ties our shoelaces differently. But once we get this, we'll tie them each time the same way, without even thinking about it.  This is the power of habit. This is the first thing you should invest your time in.

A habit is usually formed when you repeat something in the exact same manner everyday for at least 21 days. Some habits take longer, some shorter.  So to average it out - invest 30 days to establish each habit.

Now, The 5 Most Powerful Habits That Anyone Can Learn

These 5 habits will support you throughout your life.  Whether you decide to become an academic and do multiple Ph.Ds, or are an athlete looking to become professional.

Whether you are a mother looking to give your kids a better life, or a high powered business woman seeking venture capital investment.  These habits are universal.


No matter what you do in your life, you will do it in your body. You cannot replace it, get a new one, or trade it in. This is your body and your will live in it.   It might not be the perfect body that you want, but this is the one you have. If you take care of it now, it will take care of you when you are 60, 70 or 80 years old.

The way to take care of your body is simple: Eat less and exercise more.So spend 30 - 60 minutes each day exercising.

This does not mean that you have to join a gym and start pumping weights. It means that you work every muscle in your body.  Spend conscious time to move the muscles in your arms, back and legs. If you can take the time, join a gym and workout using your muscles. Do this because most of us now spend more time sitting on couches than moving around.

The human body was made to move around to do things. That's the first thing to take care of the body. Learn this habit first.  Spend 30 - 60 minutes each day exercising.

The next step in taking care of your body is to eat well. Treat your body like a home. This is the home where you live.  If you bring good things to this home the home will become nicer and you'll enjoy living in it. If you bring rotten stuff into this home the home will decay and you'll hate living there.  So eat good stuff. Eat as much fresh fruits & vegetables as you can everyday. Include a fruit and vegetables in your diet. This will give you the energy that you need.

Play a sport that you like everyday.  This is something that will help you relax your mind. That can get you moving physically and get you out of your head and present in the moment.  Do something that you do physically, like Tennis or Basketball. The benefit of these sports (or other sports) is that you get out of your head and get in the moment.

The rush of the moment will help your mind relax for a minute and focus on the right now instead of being stuck on analysing the past or estimating the future.

Additionally the competition will rejuvenate you. Competition in life is how we grow. The more competition we have the sharper, faster, better we become.

Unfortunately in the current job environment we work in we can't get immediate feedback on competition. Most of the time at work we are working in teams where we need the team to succeed. But our personal success is often based on the failure of other members on the team.

For example, you can't become the manager of your team if everyone in your team also becomes the manager of your team.  So taking up a sport will give you the immediate rush of competition, the instant feedback of success or failure and you will grow.

Avoid junk food. Junk food, as the name suggests, is junk. It's useless, worthless for the body. It doesn't provide the nutrition that your body needs.  If you feed your body with junk food, you will become lethargic, you will lose energy and over a period of time you will gain weight and lose health.

Eat food that is free of preservatives, sugar, corn syrup and overly loaded with salt and carbohydrates.

These sugar and carbs have an addictive effect on the body and will cause you to crave them more and more causing your body to become dependent on these foods.  Good foods will make your body strong and healthy. Addictive foods will make your body lethargic and rotten.


We are living in a time when we do most of our work using our minds. We sit at desks and computers creating for people using our minds.  Even if this isn't true for you, it is. If you are a construction worker who lays bricks, or a day care assistant who helps kids, this is true for you.

Your mind is the one thing that controls your thoughts everyday and the thoughts that you think create the reality that you see around you.  So take care of your mind.But how do you take care of your mind?

The mind, like anything else, has the characteristics of a muscle. You use it or lose it. And as long as you are using it, it will remain fit and healthy. The minute you stop using it, it will decay and rust.So you keep this muscle active by doing the following.

Read Every Day

There is no difference between the person who does not read the one who cannot read. Spend 30 minutes each morning and night reading.

Read motivational books. Books about philosophy, economics, politics, literature. Read fiction. Read self-help books. Read about parenting, read about health. Read about science and technology.
But read a book not a blog.

A book has a very permanent nature. It is written with a lot of thought and research. It is the gist of an author's life experiences. So read a book everyday.

This will keep your mind stimulated and open to ideas. You will get a number of ideas for each author that you can implement in your life. You will also get opinions from across the globe.  Ideas that would not have reached you if you only spoke to the people you met everday. So read a book. Spend 30 minutes morning and night reading a book.

Write Every Day

The only way to bring your thoughts to reality is to write them down. If you don't write them down they will be lost to the electric impulses inside your brain. So write your thoughts down, write ideas that come to you, write your philosophy about life.

Write ever day. This will help you clear your thought and formulate complete ideas.  If you have a problem. Write it down. You will be able to come up with a solution better, once you've written down the problem.

If you have a crush on someone. Write it down. Write down the things that you like about that person, how it makes you feel, what you would do for them.  All these things when written down will help clarify your thoughts about love and life, about right and wrong.

Writing will help identify truths about your thoughts and define how you think. As you progress in your writing, read about writing better. Then write better.  The better you write, the better you will think.

Develop Your Mind In Other Ways

The more neural connections your mind has the better it is. The faster it can do things, the better it can fight against disease in old age, like Alzheimers.

You can create new neural connections in your mind by doing new things. The more 'new' things you try the more your brain will become developed.
Even if you do something badly - the experience of doing it, learning the rule, trying it out will develop your mind.

Listen to and watch things that will develop you mind. Instead of watching TV, watch TED Talks.  Instead of listening to 'distressing' music, listen to sweet, kind music. Listen to Mozart, listen to Beethoven.

Plan to learn a new skill every year. Pick up playing an instrument one year. Spend time learning this instrument like this will be something that you will play all your life.  The next year learn to play a new sport. Something that you've never tried before. This will both help your muscles improve and improve your mind.

Avoid Junk In Your Mind

Just like your body needs good food to run, your mind needs good fuel to run. If you feed your mind with junk 'input' like mindless television, excessive drama, or constant news coverage whether TV or newspapers, your mind will become lethargic and fatigued.  You will lose the will to do things, since your mind will associate doing things with depressing sad news.

So avoid all news, whether TV or newspaper. Avoid junk TV like dramas on TV. Avoid excessive emotional drama on TV. This will give you space in your head to do things that will help build up your mind.

ake a look at the world news for today. Pick up the newspaper and read the editorials in your newspaper. Then go online and read the newspapers of the country that those editorials were about.  The opinions in those editorials will be completely different.

So while it's great to be exposed to different points of view, you won't get them in the news. The news will only report the 'bad' news, using shock, anxiety and fear.

A better way to get exposure of other people cultures, mental stimulation, and discover what's going outside your own home is to travel, or meet other people.  You wont miss what's happening in the news - people will tell you anyway.

Avoid all of the news, political, celebrity, current affairs. Nothing in the news will impact your life on a daily basis. If there is something that impacts you - you will hear it form your friends and family before you see it on the news.

Excessive news will only stress a 22 year old and make them feel like they can't do anything, or become indifferent to the sufferings of others. A better idea is to discover issues afflicting the community where you live.  If you do see a TV show that is good - write down what you like about the show, then go out and experience that for yourself. Go meet people do some stuff in the real world.

This will give you the habit of becoming an action taker, getting in the game, instead of sitting on the sidelines watching others.
If you like House of Cards - go volunteer with a political campaign to learn what really happens there, instead of watching someone else version of real life.

If you like Mad Men, intern for an advertising agency in your town. Learn in the real world - not sitting on your couch. Sure your friends will have a lot of opinions about what 'cool' stuff you're missing out, but while they are warming the couches, you will actually be having more fun than they are.

You'll be living - not watching life from a couch.  So avoid junk food for your mind and give it the resources to build itself.


How do you get a friend? By being a friend.

You are born with very few people in your life. Your parents. Your siblings. Your grandparents if they are still alive. Your cousins if you are close to them.  Every other relationship in your life you have to go out and create. You make friends along the way. Some of the good, some of them not so good.

These friends that you make in your journey through life will become your support system. the people you meet everyday, from the grocer, to the kid working at the corner store.

Sure, at 22 you're probably thinking, 'Who cares about these people!' but down the line it is these people, these relationships that will matter most to you in your life.  Here's a way to take care of your relationships with others:

Remember Birthdays and Anniversaries

Even if your friends tell you they don't celebrate birthdays. Even if your family become sullen when you call them for anniversaries. Remember them.

Even though people say they don't care, everyone cares about their own special days. When you remember their birthday and anniversaries, they will remember your kindness.

But it doesn't end there. Remember the special moments in their lives. If they had a kid, remember the date and call them, or write them a card on that occasion.  Yes, even in the day of email, and texting. A phonecall or a card have a HUGE impact over a Facebook message or text. Over the years your kindness for others in the form of remembering their special days will snowball and you will become a powerhouse.

It good to know that some one cares about you - both for them and for you, when you are in trouble, or they are.  Remember when they had hard times in their lives. If they were close to their grandparents and they recently passed away. Remember them on that day. Help your friends get over these moments.  When you need them, when your loved ones leave you, your friends will be there to catch you before you fall.

Forgive Them Before They Ask For Forgiveness

In the long scheme of life small things don't matter. It doesn't matter if your friend forgot to tell you first about their new job. Or they didn't tell you about the girl they were proposing to.

Be a gentleman and forgive them in your heart even before they ask for forgiveness. Then let the incident go. They will realize you are a big hearted person and treat you like that.  But when you do this - don't resent them after. Really forget the incident and forgive them.

This is more for you, than for them. If you keep holding onto every single hurt that any one has done for you then your baggage will become so heavy you won't be able to go through the door.  You'll be stuck inside your own head and no one will want to be around you. No one will want to trip on your baggage.

But if you do forgive them and forget the incidents you will be free. Your carefree nature will be reflective in everything that you do and everyone will want to be around you.

Avoid Emotional Vampires

No matter how good you are to people, occasionally there will be some who are vampires. They suck all the time and energy out of you.  Sometimes you will encounter them at your workplace. Some of them will be your childhood friends, or even a member of your family.

No matter what you do, you can't change them, you can't help them improve, you cannot guide them.  So the best thing to do with people like this is to avoid them. Though it might hurt you in the beginning, the best thing for you and them is to avoid them.

You can be kind and make an excuse for not meeting them, but that will only last so long. So take the bigger step and let them know that they are an emotional strain on you - and you'd much rather hang out with more positive people, like people who support your goals, your dreams, your aspiration. People who share your ambitions and values. These are the people who will really help you grow.

The vampires will get hurt - but there is no better way to deal with them. The sooner you take care of them the better.

Really dig deep and find out the people who bother you in your life like that and then stop meeting them and hanging out with them.

CAUTION: If it turns out that everyone in your life seems to be a vampire you either need to change them all, or look inside yourself and change yourself!  Most likely, the conclusion will be to change yourself and your attitude towards them.


No matter how you grew up, in abundance or poverty, it is your duty to take care of your own finances.
Even if you parents have taken care of them for you, even if you have a trust fund, even if you have an empty bank account: you are responsible for it. It is your responsibility to take care of your finances.

If you take care of your finances starting today they will take care of you when you most need them. When you are old, or sick, or sending your kids to school, or helping a parent through sickness. Your finances will help you.

If you don't take care of your finances you will end up in debt. Your shoulders will droop and your mind will be gripped by thoughts of money. You will end up living the life of an indebted servant, where you have to work to pay of your debts.  But how do you take care of your finances?

Get Positive Cashflow

To begin taking care of your finances you need to have more income than you spend. You need to have more money coming in to your bank account than you are spending.  Most people don't learn this until after they get their first job or after they've maxed out their first credit card.

As long as you have a positive cashflow you can get other things in your life a lot easier. If you don't have positive cashflow in your life spend the next year or two getting a positive cashflow.

Spend the next 15 minutes figuring out how much money you spend, include rent for the house you live in (or your contribution if you're living with parents), utilities, groceries, car, internet, other monthly expenses, insurance, and monthly spending on shopping & entertainment.

Once you have your expenses take them out of your income. If you have no income - then you have a negative cashflow. Do whatever you can, teach other people, pick up a second job, mow lawns. Do whatever you have to do to get this to positive cash flow.  What do you do after you have positive cashflows?

Pay Yourself First

Every cent you earn will be spent by other people for you. The government will want its cut in the form of taxes. The bank will ask for the mortgage payment, insurance, car payments... and so on until you don't have anything left in your account.  So before this happens, pay yourself first.

Get into a retirement scheme where they take 5 - 10% from your salary and put it into a gratuity and provident fund. Then when you get your salary, take another 5 - 10% and put them into another account.

This account is your retirement account - also known as 'Hands Off' Money.  This is the money that will give you the courage to say no to anyone you want to.  Because you have this money sitting in your account - you won't become a slave to anyone, no one will control you.

But a word of warning... You can't just get a small amount and then stop. This is a lifetime practice. You have to keep adding to this account. Until it become big enough that you can invest this into assets that make money for you.
This is money that you only spend on assets that make money. Like a house you put up for rent, or government bonds, or dividend funds, or buying a profitable business etc.

Financial Sinkholes To Avoid

If anything sounds too good to be true - it probably is.  Here are a few things to avoid when you're taking care of your finances.

The Stock Market - Most people will tell you to invest in it - but don't. Only invest in a S&P Index Fund at best, if you really want to. Even though some friend of yours will tell you they have a big tip on a stock that could make you millions - don't invest.

Investing in the stock market as a habit is not a very productive habit. Some days you'll do well, other days you won't do too well.  When you do well you'll be on top of the world, when you don't do too well, you'll become anxious, stressed, even suicidal.

If you made 50% one year, did you make another 50% the next year. Probably not. Which is systematic. If you could make 50% each year, you'd be Warren Buffet.  It is the job of people on Wall Street to make money investing, yet they sometimes fail. They are professionals, very good at their jobs. 99 out of 100, professionals will beat a hobbyist.  On Wall Street you are always playing against a professional. In a sport you will play most days with people on your own calibre. So you’ll win some, you’ll lose some. In the stock market you’ll lose a ton.

Business Opportunity - If someone tells you that you can make a million dollars in 3 years by investing a small amount of money, or any other such scheme - don't listen to them. Shut the door, bang down the phone, kick them out. If it's a friend - stop meeting him again.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't do your own thing. If there is a business that you think you can run - go for it. Just don't fall for Biz-Op schemes.

Lottery Schemes - If you ever hear that you've just won a cruise, or are tempted to buy a lottery ticket, or that you will earn X number of points. Run away - don't walk, run away.

Credit Cards - Yes, even the lovely credit cards. These are probably the worst things invented since the dawn of time. Credit cards don't increase your spending power - they just make it seem that your spending power has increased. You still have to pay for what you bought, plus interest.

It's great that you pay your bill in full. Most people don't. This habit of paying for full on a credit card is great but there is a flaw in this habit...  The average credit card debt in the US is $7,000. Most people can't pay that off every month so someone is paying for very expensive credit card debt.

Someone did think that they could make the complete payment every month, then got stuck in and is now paying less than the whole payment.  Points, miles, bonuses is a way of getting you to spend on your card, until you get behind on payment. You might not - someone close to you will. The system is more patient and disciplined than you can ever be.

A better alternative is to save for what you want - then when you have the cash then go buy the thing that you wanted to buy.  This has 3 benefits:

1) The thing will in all likelihood be cheaper by the time you've saved for it

2) There will be a newer shinier model that you can now buy based on the money you saved.

3) You will realize that you didn't want it in the first place anyway and were buying it on an impulse.

These sinkholes mentioned are all just ways to get a single $1 out of you. Don't give them the dollar. It represents a part of you, of your life. You might think what's the big deal about a dollar, but a dollar properly invested can become the greatest fortune in the world.

Read the story about how the Native Americans sold Manhattan for $1, and how much that dollar would be worth today invested properly. Hint: It is worth more than the value of all the buildings, land, and businesses in those buildings on Manhattan - put together.


The biggest problems in the world arise because of mis-communication. People mis-understand each other.  Spouses fight because they don't understand what was being said.  Employees get fired because of a communication error.  Friends fight because of something that was mis-understood.

Communication errors cause major problems in relationships between friends, employees, board members and even countries.  So take care of your communication. Become a communication master. Become some one who can communicate clearly and effectively. Not just in your speaking, but in your writing, in your thoughts.  But how do you improve your communication?

Communicate At The 6th Grade Level

Yes, at the 6th grade level. This is one of the most important things you can do for your communication. If you can explain things to a 10 year old you can explain them to anyone.

You might think that most 'educated' people will get turned off by this. But the truth is even most educated people think at the 6th grade level. Only when they are reading research papers, or grading a  Ph.D thesis will they get into the 'educated' mind and think this is stupid.

Just by communicating at this level, your communication will be understood every time. Your kids will understand you, your parents will listen to you, your employers will 'get' you.  In fact, by communicating at this level every one around you will think you are wise that you are able to explain complex ideas in the simplest of manner.

Learn The Vocabulary Of Whatever You Are Doing.  By learning the vocabulary of what you are doing you will learn faster. You will be understood quicker. Your responses will be on point.

Every profession, sport, online forum, clique, has a different vocabulary. The faster you learn this vocabulary and use it in your conversations the quicker you will rise.

If you play tennis, learn every thing that the pros are saying. Learn their meaning and then when you talk to your friends at tennis using this vocabulary it will enhance your game.

The same applies to your profession. The sooner you learn the vocabulary of the profession the faster you will progress. But this isn't a technique, use it to enhance your overall vocabulary.

Putting It All To Work For You

These habits when put into action will enhance your life profoundly.

You won't feel it when you turn 23, or even when you are 24. But as you spend more and more time on this, you will progress and your results will multiply and compound.  Each day that you spend doing these activities your results will increase ten-fold.

By the time you turn 30 you will have more friends who love you, more employers who want to hire you, and more energy than you can imagine possible!  But on top of that because your life is built around a number of activities, not just your job, you will be more fulfilled and happier in life.

I know even starting at 27 yrs old and implementing these in my life - by the time I turned 33 the results I was getting was more than I'd ever imagined.

It still amazes me the way my life keeps changing every 6 months to a year.  Every year. The results will speak for themselves when you apply these tips.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Dutch Intellectuals Apologize to Putin

A letter sent by a prominent Dutch Professor to Russian president Vladimir Putin has attracted much media attention in Europe.  The letter was written by Professor Cees Hamelink and signed by dozens of Dutch intellectuals and professors. Below is the letter in its entirety.

Dear Mr. President Putin,

Please accept our apologies on behalf of a great many people here in the Netherlands for our Government and our Media. The facts concerning MH17 are twisted to defame you and your country.

We are powerless onlookers, as we witness how the Western Nations, led by the United States, accuse Russia of crimes they commit themselves more than anybody else. We reject the double standards that are used for Russia and the West. In our societies, sufficient evidence is required for a conviction. The way you and your Nation are convicted for 'crimes' without evidence, is ruthless and despicable.

You have saved us from a conflict in Syria that could have escalated into a World War. The mass killing of innocent Syrian civilians through gassing by ‘Al-­‐Qaeda’ terrorists, trained and armed by the US and paid for by Saudi Arabia, was blamed on Assad. In doing so, the West hoped public opinion would turn against Assad, paving the way for an attack on Syria.

Not long after this, Western forces have built up, trained and armed an ‘opposition’ in the Ukraine, to prepare a coup against the legitimate Government in Kiev. The putschists taking over were quickly recognized by Western Governments. They were provided with loans from our tax money to prop their new Government up.

The people of the Crimea did not agree with this and showed this with peaceful demonstrations. Anonymous snipers and violence by Ukrainian troops turned these demonstrations into demands for independence from Kiev. Whether you support these separatist movements is immaterial, considering the blatant Imperialism of the West.

Russia is wrongly accused, without evidence or investigation, of delivering the weapons systems that allegedly brought down MH17. For this reason Western Governments claim they have a right to economically pressure Russia.

We, awake citizens of the West, who see the lies and machinations of our Governments, wish to offer you our apologies for what is done in our name.
It’s unfortunately true, that our media have lost all independence and are just mouthpieces for the Powers that Be. Because of this, Western people tend to have a warped view of reality and are unable to hold their politicians to account.

Our hopes are focused on your wisdom. We want Peace. We see that Western Governments do not serve the people but are working towards a New World Order. The destruction of sovereign nations and the killing of millions of innocent people is, seemingly, a price worth paying for them, to achieve this goal.

We, the people of the Netherlands, want Peace and Justice, also for and with Russia.
We hope to make clear that the Dutch Government speaks for itself only. We pray our efforts will help to diffuse the rising tensions between our Nations.


Professor Cees Hamelink

Thursday, September 04, 2014

News from Evangeline

This blog helps us keep in touch with family and friends all over the world, and that sure is nice!  Last night I just got an inspiring picture and a little news from Eva over in Nepal so I thought you'd all like to see it!

She says,

"It's been nice to see all the recent posts on the blog! I've enjoyed reading them and seeing the photos, too. Thanks for reviving it :)

Attached is a photo of the girls and I doing a 500 piece puzzle together -- lots of fun!
Love, Eva"

And here is the picture she sent :

Please remember to pray for her and her darling girls!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

School friends

I'm starting to miss "little" Olly though it's only been a couple of days!  I'm going to pick him up Friday on the train to go through the ropes with him to make sure he understands everything.  I guess I'm a bit protective but I tell myself he's only 13 -- though he's mature for his age.

I was glad to see this picture that Rebecca took of him and a family friend Martin, last Sunday when we dropped him off.  I'm sure he's adapted by now and is having a great time.

I picked up his train tickets for the month yesterday ; he'll be taking a direct train from Château du Loir at 09:51 and arriving at Sées an hour and a half later at 11:23.  He's supposed to have eaten a picnic lunch by the time he arrives at school ready for his first class at 12:45.

The return is after the last class on Friday which ends at 15:20.  He'll have a little wait since the direct train doesn't leave before 17:47 but it's little quicker and gets in here at 19:08 -- only an hour and a half later.  I think the schedule and discipline will be an immeasurably good thing in his life.

I think instead of driving I'll take the train up there by myself -- a nice train ride on a sunny day won't do me any harm!  I'll let you kow how it goes...

Monday, September 01, 2014

Love the brothers

This was written by our Claire and sent out to everyone by email this morning. I can add nothing to this gem but gladly share it.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Something has been on my heart lately, and I have felt led to write about it to everyone. I don't mean to teach anybody anything they don't already know, but simply to encourage everyone.

I'll jump right in.

The thing about the truth is that when you know you have it, you don't mind if others don't fully grasp it. If we have seized this eternal truth, that God is love and that we as his children must love too, then we are liberated from trying to make people agree with us. We brothers and sisters don't have to agree. Seven of us makes a big family. With our spouses it will one day make fourteen, without counting children and in-laws. 
It would be difficult for us to try to stay in agreement on every point. But we don't have to. We simply have to love each other as fellow Christians, as brothers and sisters in the flesh and in Christ. Yes, it's fun to all like the same things. It's fun to have a family around you who understands the Bible the same way you do, who thinks the same things about health, science, history, politics. But it is not necessary. It is necessary that we love one another right through our differences and see the value each person has in the eyes of God. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Love people as they are. Don't try to change them in order to love them. Don't love them in order to change them. Just love. Love because God loved first, because God is love. Love Olly as he is. Don't make it your project to change him. Make it your project to love him and be his friend.

This is the most important issue of our lives. It is more important than our reputation in the community or with our friends, than the education of our children, than our health, than any of the choices we have made over the years for our lifestyle. Think of the importance which is placed on love in the New Testament. Think of how much Jesus, Paul, John and the others talked about it. Upon our love for each other depends whether we make a success or failure of our entire lives, for all eternity. Think how long we will have, after our death, to regret not having stayed close together in our spirit. Eternity is long enough to look back at every moment of our lives. It is long enough to bitterly regret and to ask : why? Why should we prefer our pride to helping our brother? Maybe it was because of reputation, maybe we were annoyed at him, maybe we had been entertaining thoughts unworthy of a Christian so that when the test came, we failed. And we have all eternity to regret.
But it's not too late yet. Every one of us is still here. Every bitter word, every offence can be undone. Don't let time settle on the matter. Don't let the devil rob you of your brother or sister. Each one of us has six brothers and sisters, plus parents, spouses, nieces and nephews. God has given them to us. If a quarrel has separated you from one of them, you are the loser and the devil has won. Your pride remained intact, but you lost what could have been such a wonderful blessing in your life. You'll never get a new one to replace him. You'll never have another brother or sister. But the old one is still alive. Go see him. Love him. Ask God for the strength to make up. He will grant it to you. Then you will have made a step forward and the devil a step backwards.

Love Raph. Don't wish he were some other way. Love him because he is him.
Love Lilly. You may not understand what happened. Maybe you never will. But maybe that doesn't matter. You don't have to understand to continue loving.
Love Roo. You don't have to think like him. You don't have to live the way he wants to live. You have to love him because God gave His life for him.
Love Becky.See everyone's wonderful qualities. Becky has childlikeness. Remember all the Bible says about being childlike. Maybe you think this wasn't what was meant. Never mind.
Love Becky.
Love Christopher. He is the only one of him who exists. He is so precious in the eyes of God. It's more important to live out our love for him daily than it is to raise animals, succeed at work, acquire new skills.
Love Olly. Though he is still a child, remember that he will one day be a man and that his man's memory will reach back to his childhood, to the kindnesses shown, to the acts of love you have done for him. These acts will seal him closely to us and ensure his place in our midst.

If anyone is going through difficulties and seems distant, we don't know when they will get out of it and become one of us once again. We don't even know whether they ever will. Because of this we must love them in advance.

Raph and Camille know what it is to have a big family. They know how much they would like for every one of their children to grow up loved and surrounded by the others. They want their children to stay close, even after they will be gone, as we all do. Let us therefore remember that we are the ideal towards which these children will almost inevitably strive. If we fail to keep our love alive, our children will not even try to do so, because they will firmly believe it is impossible, even if we tell them it is. And if in half a century, when Amos and Ruben are 55, there is no more love between them than there is between worldly brothers and sisters, for example, then our lives will have been a failure. We may still go to heaven, but we will have had a useless life. There is so much good to be done in the world. This is the reason we did not go straight to heaven when we became Christians.

Amos and Ruben are best friends, not because they are the same age, but because their parents are so close. Because their fathers spend their days working together and their mothers spend their days helping each other. If we adults fail to love each other enough, Amos and Ruben will most certainly follow in our steps. If David does not hear of Raph's love for Lilly his sister, despite all that happened, think what could happen between him and Susanne later on. These lovely children will one day be adults and our sample will either help them or hinder them in their challenges. Our sample will not be without effect. It will most certainly have an effect, for better or for worse. Christine must know that Becky loves Olly, or what might happen between her and Paul, when the angelic charm of infancy will be dispelled and the man will be revealed?

We have an enormous responsibility, not only toward each other, but toward our children. Raph and Camille's children will admire and follow us, and my children will admire and follow them. The consequences of how we act today are almost immeasurable. Let's not fail. too bad for our pride. Too bad for that extra thing you really want. Too bad if you're so sure you're the only one who's right. Maybe you are. Jesus didn't say, This is my commandment, that ye be right about everything as I have been right about everything.

On the eternal scale, when you will see your children and grand-children bickering and arguing, you will turn to your brother and say : " I don't care any more about what was my life-time project. I don't care about that issue that annoyed me for my whole life and that caused unkindness and contention between us. I was right about it but I don't care any more. I just love you." But you will be powerless to act on earth. You will have to watch and regret for all eternity. And that big all-important thing will seem so small. This matters more than the success of Microtec, more than building a house, more than learning to do all the interesting arts and crafts from before. These things must serve our main purpose, which is to live in Christian harmony. If they seem incompatible, we know which must surrender. Think then, on the grand scale of things, what a glorious and Christ-like action it would be, to be conciliative to such an extent that you would give up your life-project for the brothers. Lay down your life for the brethren. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another."

The good news is that it's easy. It's so much easier to love than it is to hate. Sometimes your pride has to suffer, but always remember that's a good thing. Jesus is humble and lowly of spirit. Ask him in when you know you can't love. The old man can't love, but the new man can't help loving. When Jesus comes in and overwhelms you, you can't help loving. You feel so free. You don't have to hold on to that grudge. You don't have to join a camp. It's so easy, so empowering to love. You don't have to remember the detail of what unkind thing he said, of how hurt you are, of how wrong he is. Just love. Love with child-like simplicity. Love each other for your own sake, because every one of us needs our love, whether they admit it or not.

Lilly needs our love. Camille and Debbie need our love. Christopher and Olly need our love. Love each other for our parents' sake. They forsook all and made themselves strangers for life so that they could raise a Christian family. We have been the purpose of their lives. Let's not disappoint them. Love each other for our children's sake. They need a model. When we will be gone, our good sample will remain to help them through the confusion of the world. Love each other for the world's sake, because they cannot believe in Christianity unless they see that it truly exists. Love each other for God's sake. Because God loves each one of us so much that we cannot love him truly without loving each other.

We love each other, not because any one of us has anything loveable in him, but because God loved us so much that he considered us worth dying for, so that it would be blasphemous to despise someone who means so much to God. Notice God doesn't love someone because they are good, kind, loveable or right. God loves every last sinner. God loves people because He is who He is, not because they are who they are. We all have terrible faults. No one of us is good, kind, loveable or right. Every one of us is wrong on at least one issue. Don't love your brother because there's something about him that makes you love him. Love him because there's something about you that makes you love him. It's not too late. Just do it. Crucify your pride. Love.