Thursday, March 31, 2011

I took Andrew to "work"today. He's currently in the midst of English classes that he's giving to a photographer, one of the best here in Granada, in exchange for photography classes. So, once a week, I actually kiss my man goodbye as he takes the bus, or drive him to the other side of town, and come back home and get to be alone in my house. I know that sounds funny, but since Andrew works out of the home, and I go to work, this is a rare moment that I'm savoring this morning.

On the way home, I drove slowly, loving the moment of "commute"from La Chana to Zaidin, where Andrew and I live. Its only like 5 miles, and with traffic, took me about 15 minutes. Today however, is one of those incredibly clear spring mornings, when the sun rises over the Sierra Nevada and the snow glistens on the peak, La Veleta. All I could say was, I live here...and enjoy the moment.

Why do we live here? For the last two or three years, our live has been rather topsy-tuvy, but as the dust has settled, we've had things brought into focus, especially for me the last several months and weeks. Last spring all we could do was come back to Granada and try to lick our wounds. Last summer we continued with whatever God put in front of us, with not a whole lot of long term vision. We just taught classes, and spent some time relaxing.

This fall, I started a new project and thought things were going to take off. By Christmas, I was exhausted, and suffered with bladdar stones. It was not a Christmas to remember. Since then, my load has been greatly reduced and I've been enjoying a slower moment in my life, while Andrew picks up more and more students, and walks through more and more doors.

To refocus, a dear friend in Ireland recommended a book to me, and this week I"ve devoured it. It's called The Tangible Kingdom, and talks about a real, nitty gritty way of doing this thing we've labeled ministry. It talks about day to day activities, but with a purpose, to live our lives and show God's love in whatever that means.

So for us, what does that look like? It means going to a barbeque at a friends house, and meeting whomever is there, including the English guy that's looking for meaning, and so he and his girlfriend have left home to live in a far off land (especially for the English).

It means Andrew going to study photography at a little studio near the hospitals of Granada. It means teaching English to bratty Spanish kids, and teaching them its not only words and grammar and pronunciation, but Culture, and ideas, and philosphy of life instead.

It means having people in our home, for lunch, coffee and dinner. It means having couchsurfers stay with us and having four hour conversations about life, culture, language, and happiness late into the night. It means running into our neighbors and letting them gift us with grapefruit. It means marching with 2000 men, women and children, Catholic, Protestant, and Moslem, on a Sunday morning in solidarity to raise money for the poor.

And it means being Jesus in a place that's got a poor view of God, Jesus and the Church. Instead of seeing Christ as a statute, we want them to see God amoung us. Instead of seeing the Church as an institution, we want to see the Kingdom of God lived out in a community that sacrifices and serves. Instead of seeing ourselves as the marginilized evangelical Christians in Spain, we want the world to see us as real people, who love God and others with all our heart soul and mind.

If you ever want a change of pace, come stay with us, see what this is all about. We welcome your visit. Come, join us.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This weekend Andrew and I wandered down to a town called La Linea, a town across the way from Gibraltar. A friend of ours, one of "our" students that was here 3 years ago, got married.

The youth from our church had retreat this weekend, so many were unable to go. We went as representatives to a beautiful wedding, but I get ahead of myself.

Tamary, the bride, had been in Granada for just one year. Her dad would come and visit every chance he got, and he was so dynamic, so fun, we just adopted him as one of our own. He would come to every event he could, and joyfully stood and worshipped. They came with us on church retreat, and rejoiced with us as we baptized new believers.

10 months after that great retreat, Tamary's dad was brutally stabbed while walking away from the doctor's office. A case of mistaken identity. A senseless death.

We had always wanted to go and visit the family, but we were unable to do so. Our own family drama was unfolding.

Finally, we were able to go to the wedding. It cost money, gas, hotel, gift to the bride and groom. Sigh. But, it was honestly worth every penny.

We tried to find the little church in this maze of a little ugly town by the port. We couldn't. We were lost. We prayed and suddenly we pulled up next to a young guy dressed smartly. We told him we were trying to find our way to a wedding, could he help us? He said, "Tamary's wedding? Follow me. I'm going there." We laughed as he turned about 20 times as we followed him. We could have never found the place.

We got there early with all these people miling about, waiting. Andrew sent me inside to find a place to sit, and he waited for the brideg and groom. I was inside when I heard a joyful yell, and we turned and there they were, walking down the aisle to get married.

I've not been at such an enthusiastic or happy wedding in a very long time. They laughed, sang, and prayed and said their vows in nervous happiness. There were giggles as it was a "live" event and it was so good. I've cried like that in a while at a wedding. The bride sang to her new husband, and we all cried and laughed and rejoiced.

Then we drove to the reception and we seriously partied. Food, drinks, dancing, we drug ourselves away at 2 in the am, sad that it was over. We left shortly before the bride and groom did, exhausted with happiness and joy.

This wedding, was a perfect picture, of what we long for the next life. That nervous waiting, the beautiful gowns and suits and hair and shoes and shawls and hats and makeup. The roar of happiness when the bridegroom comes. The tears and happy moments and the dancing until your feet hurt. The food and the joy, the sighing and the conversations. Can you wait? After yesterday, I can barely wait.

There's an old charismatic song that rang through my head, it says, "be ready when the bridegroom comes..." I hope I am just as ready as all those men and women were yesterday at the wedding. They were so excited, I want to be that and more. And no matter how beautiful the bride was yesterday, her beauty pales in comparison to this strange thing called the Church. "be ready when the bridegroom comes..." Am I?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Today we officially enter the Lent Season. I grew up Protestant, and so distinctly Protestant that somehow I missed the whole, what is Lent season, until after I went to Bible College. I even sneaked through a course on Western Civilization without having it properly explained to me.

After I went to Bible college, I started work for an incredibly pagan man in the catering business. I became a server first and then ended up working in the office when they realized I had more than half a brain like a lot of the servers that were working for their next pot fix.

I worked for them for almost 8 months when Ash Wednesday rolled around. Since we always had tons of food (catering) we could eat lunch free. That Wednesday our mostly Mexican chefs served us fish and only fish.

I didn't realize what it was until one of my office collegues said, its Ash Wednesday and had to explain to me that today, we eat fish and we will eat fish every Friday until Easter. I found it strangely ironic that it took working for a man far away from God and even religon for me to find out what Lent is.

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, and I had never really realized what that was, until good ol' Wikipedia said, WE EAT FAT! and tomorrow we don't. Gleefully I made crepes (pancakes or crepes are traditionally eats I was informed)...and as I stood over my crepe pans, the whole idea of Christ's suffering crept into my brain.

I find standing over the stove a nice place to meditate, and as I meditated on the ancient words of Isaiah, "By His stripes, we are healed", I began to wonder again what that meant.

On my blog I always speak honestly, but today, I will speak clearly. With various events in the last two years, I have been wounded. Andrew and I have both been in different ways. People have disappointed us, we have had a lot of mud slung at us, we've watched someone painfully die, and we've seen how friends and family have not known what to do with us in our grief and pain. After a year and a day of grieving, the worst is behind us, but our wounds are still visible. Our bodies are weak and tired, and Andrew and I have gone between stomach flu and bad coughs and colds for the last three weeks.

When the woman came to see Jesus at Simon's house, Jesus had been greatly offended by his hosts. He hadn't been greeted properly, his feet hadn't been washed, and no one had anointed his head with oil. This is the equivalent of not answering the door when its rung, not shaking our friends hands or hugging them, and not showing them the bathroom when asked. Jesus was brought into Simon's house to be offended, and not to be shown good ol' Middle Eastern hospitality, which I've experienced and is by far the best in the world.

Jesus' wounds, his stripes, are usually thought of in the phyiscal sense, because it really did happen. He really did experience those stripes and wounds. But what if, those physical wounds were just a visual for us of the physcological and mental wounds he received far before that. He was called a glutton and a drunkard. A man that visited sinners. A man that let a woman touch him who was a sinner. A man who healed people that weren't Jews, who didn't deserve to know or even meet or even touch the Messiah like the woman with blood.

All these wounds, Jesus experienced. And when I experience the same, like He did, He heals me.

I stood over my stove crying over my crepes. When I am wounded, I identify with Jesus. I take up my cross. I follow Him. And then, He heals me, to do it all over again.

May this Lent Season help us identify with Him, and find healing. May we not focus on His suffering without realizing the redemption it brings.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Perhaps it seems to a regular reader of this blog is that all I ever write about is suffering and death. I have begun to feel like a broken record myself on this topic, but I want you to know that my desire is for my audience to understand the everlasting hope I have in an afterlife.

Yesterday our little church in Granada said goodbye to one of its pillars, a woman named Isabel. Isabel was only 78, in Spanish standards of life expectancy, is fairly young. However, for most of a decade she had suffered with various aliments, mostly heart related. Right as Andrew and I started to attend and particapate in this little church, she had a heart valve replacement, and we all thought that we would lose her. However, God gave her six more years, and she lived those to the fullest. She saw her daughter married,and both of her married daughters had children, all boys!

Finally, after her daughter had a baby last December, Isabel began to slowly fade, and for the last two months she has been in and out of hospital. This past Sunday night, Miguel, our pastor, asked us to drive him to the hospital, and when I saw him the next morning, he told me how he and Ana, Isabel's daughter, had commended Isabel to the Lord. At six in the am, Isabel passed through the veil and saw her Savior face to face for the first time.

In the Spanish tradition, we bured her on Tuesday morning, and about 15 or so from our church went, along with her family, neighbors and a few other friends from another church here in Granada. Here they bury quickly, usually in niches rather than in the ground. Her burial was no exception.

However, what was said and done before we committed her body to the niche was the exepction. We had a wonderful, glorious service in the small chapel. Her daughter Sonia sang, To God be the Glory in Spanish, and together we prayed publicly for the family, and thanked God for her life. We sang song that said...

Yo te busco,
Recibe mi adoraciĆ³n

Te anhelo, Te necesito, Te amo mas que a mi ser.

I look for you, Recive my worship
I long for you, I need you, I love you with all my being.

When Isabel was alive and could still come to church, she would always sit in the front and worship with tears flowing down her face. When we would have time for spontaneous prayers, she would always cry out to God for miracles, thank Him for the miracles she experienced, and worship him. It was always so wonderful to have her kiss my cheek and call me "guapa" after the service. She was always such an encouragement.

Even the hospital she continued to evangelize and preach to the doctors, nurses, orderlies and even the cleaning ladies...until she could no longer speak. And when her job was done, she slowly faded into the next life.

May we all experience and enjoy such a prayer life, a life of worship and a life of utter expectation such as Isabel.