Thursday, June 30, 2005

Gospel Tangibleness

It has been over two weeks since my return from Peru. I had hoped so much that the trip would not have been over so quickly and yet it is. I think I am running on adrenaline right now—it is the end of the school year. The first year as an employee and not just as a student. It has been a year of changes and maturity and now there is a lull. I saw it coming—with every great goal there is a let down when it is accomplished. Going to Peru, visiting Joanna, was my greatest goal in years. I have been so consumed with surviving one day at a time, on getting my family through the next crisis that I had forgotten what it was like to set a goal much less achieve one.

It is often the small things in life that some how always end up meaning the most. Even the small hurtles over long distances end up building more character and leaving more lasting impressions than big events. On that note I have been thinking and writing a lot about friendships—what a tangible means of gospel grace. An application for growth and maturity. There is something at once freeing and terrifying about some one knowing you so very well. While every fun story is familiar to them so are all idiosyncrasies and pet sins. All is laid bare. True friends are those who call out the best in you especially when you yourself count it as the worst. Friends are most often the cause—or more like the inspiration—for our boldest ventures. We may doubt ourselves, give up, or never attempt things outside our comfort zone and yet friends seem some how to find a way to lay aside all our greatest hinderances. Maybe that is part of the maturing process from Individualism to Covenantalism that I was reading about the other day. It is not about me and yet the very nature of covenantalism takes into account the individual—to grow us up in wisdom and action.

Why do we focus on the individual even after we acknowledge that Christ came to redeem all mankind from sin. Even when we acknowledge the church triumphant—across the ages and around the world—we still focus on singular evangelism. Which reminds me of a comment Mr. Wilbur made in his blog a couple of days ago about “evandalism”—people defacing property just so that “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life” can reach that one person that might never set foot inside in a church.

The phrase for the day, though, seems to be “Individualism matures into Covenantalism”. That is the nature of redemptive grace. The goal is to move away from the solely individual, just as babes grow into greater awareness of people and things outside themselves. Friends come into our lives for just that reason. They tend to take the focus off ourselves, whether in terms of self-pity or self-glory, and make us aware, through fun and familiarity, that there is a bigger picture to life and that we can be a part of it. What an achievable goal—with help!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Rethinking Pensiveness

Why are the stars on the American flag white and not yellow or gold? Why is Mary the Mother of Jesus always seen wearing a blue dress? Why is it that Kleenex is a brand name but we shall always ask for one when we need to blow our nose, just like we assume all Zip Loc bags are Zip-lock bags? Who came up with the random idea to have red and green be the prominent Christmas colors? Why do all traffic lights sense when you're in a hurry and automatically turn red? And pets, why do they love on you all the more when they sense that you dislike them? How do babies learn to smile? Why drink a Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and 4? How many times has Elizabeth Taylor really been married? Is airplane food really safe to eat? When you swallow watermelon seeds do they really sprout inside you? Does gum make your insides stick together? Do grandma's dentures wind up? Is "out back" like behind the shed at the slaughter stump where they got the name for the steak house? If you were an inch worm, how long would you be? Should the toilet paper come over or under? Is there a difference in dental care performance if the tube of toothpaste is squeezed from the end as opposed to the middle?

Questions: These are the ordinary profundities of life, are they not?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Creative Outlets

I've decided that this weekend I'm going to take the opportunity to explore creative outlets. There's so much one can do with a blog, change typeset, add color, show the world the tasty delicacies of Peruvian chicken-foot soup. So many options, so I'm going to make time to explore at least some of them starting right now. It's time for a face lift!

What better place to start. What better time to begin!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tryin' to Figure Out

So, I'm trying to figure out what I'm trying to figure out. I've always been interested in the Socratic method. I've always had a fairly logical mind. I've loved studying random aspects of Scripture and tying them into random aspects of theology. Here I go again. So I figure that if the devil has no stories and all grand and glorious things that fallen man has been known to accomplish have just been rip-offs of God's perfect accomplishments and plans, then such is probably the case with the Socratic method.

I'm trying to find my answer in Christ's method of teaching, i.e. His proverbs, parables, and rhetorical devices. I'm thinking that I'll have to do a study of Hebrew literature and techniques to even begin to begin to figure out what I'm really looking for. But then again, the process is half the point, isn't it?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Home Again with Random Thoughts

Almost 20 hours between leaving Peru and getting home leaves one with a lot of time to think. Some would argue too much time. I’ve just returned from taking myself out to dinner and a movie. It struck me as strange that I’d do something like that after having just returned from where I’ve been, but then I have just seen and left my best friend again so I thought it would distract my thinking about that little detail. Being the classically educated student that I am, I got to thinking about how all that goes together and applies: Batman, Peru, and life…

What defines who we are? Is it what we do, or “what is underneath”? Which comes first, being or doing? What is being? What is doing?

I have often heard it said that God wants us to be all that He has called us to be so that we can do all that He has called us to do. As Christians we get so caught up in doing that we often forget that doing is not only our instinct, it is our nature. Reflexes, reactions, revolutions. The knee jerk effect is a part of who we are as fallen man. It’s so simple and natural to do. It’s so uncomfortable and irregular to be. If what we do defines who we are I should think it obvious that we are all hopeless bumblers, liars, and hypocrites. Even the best of intentions are tainted. But if we look at being apart from anything but the gospel, that too is hopeless because it requires our doing in order to be something.

Missions in an isolated place can often be a daunting and doubtful undertaking. Any ministry for that matter with the purposed intention of spreading the gospel can come to that place. We realize that if we do things correctly, biblically, and reformationally we will not see fruit for quite some time if at all. While the vision is sound, the slow change over time often gets monotonous…we have too much time on our hands to think. Think about how little we see happening, think about how little we feel we are doing. And the urge comes to do something drastic—just to speed up the process of reformation and cultural change, mind you.

There is something to be said for bettering yourself so that you can better the community. We must not mistake that for a rebuke of selfless piety or as a call for intellectualism. In the New Testament, Christ not only made an acknowledging commented on the tree that bore no fruit but cursed it and it shriveled up and died. All through Scripture the purest of wells were the deepest ones. The more shallow ones were often polluted by dust and elements, the water still able to be drank but bitter or unhealthy.

There needs to be something we can draw from. History of the past. Wisdom of those who have gone before. Helpful hints to avoid making the same mistakes as others. Pruning techniques to better grow. It seems to me that there is a fine line between being and doing. Bettering oneself through study and discipline is definitely a doing thing. But it also seems the more we take in, the deeper the well the Holy Spirit has to draw from in guiding us to what we are to do.

I don’t know the answer to which comes first, the being or the doing, or if they go hand in hand. But it does seem that the process is the point and not the end result. When it seems to me that I am not doing enough for the Kingdom, when I ask myself what good am I really doing here, or what should I do differently, it is later that I look back on those times and see that it was more than a lull, more than a time of doubt. It was preparation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Peru: Day 8

What a day. It continued in yesterday's train of exceptions so much so that it ended up being quite funny. First off Joanna had a meeting with a couple of her MTW co-workers to prepare for a last minute team that's coming in, oh, three days. She wasn't planning to do much, if any, work while I was here but this turned out to be a necessity. It was kinda fun getting to sit in on the meeting and see what all goes into bringing summer missions teams in from the states.

Afterwards Joanna wanted to take me to Pisac, a village that is about an hours bus ride from Cusco, to rummage through their famed market. The bus ride was the first exception...normally it would be so crowded that people would be standing up in the isles. So many people, I hear, that it would be all hot and smelly. So I hear. It was just Joanna and I for about the first 15 minutes...yup that's right...we waited that long and longer because the bus wouldn't go anywhere until it was well neigh full! So we get to Pisac and Joanna was wondering where all the market people were. Again, I had no expectations so I knew no better. I thought it was great! Joanna said that normally there would be people lining both sides of the street and taking up all of the square with things to sell. I did a little more shopping, but not too much. I'm not really the shopping type. Oh, we did see a wiener bulldog. The dogs here are so plenteous and inbreed it's hysterical!

So, that's all the time I have for right now to write. I have a lot of blanks I want to fill in and a lot of random thoughts I wanted to randomly think through. But I guess they'll have to wait until I get back to TN on Friday. It's been fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Peru: Day 7

Today has been a day of exceptions...or so Joanna has told me. I've had no pre-conceived notions about anything she wanted to do today, so I can honestly say that everything far surpassed my expectations! She wanted to take me to a few markets of which was closed for cleaning. 1) Joanna's never seen it closed before in al the time she's been here and 2) for "cleaning" she took as a joke. The market we went to before the closed one consisted of fruit and meat. The meat being rows and rows of raw ribs, skinned cow heads, intestines, chicken feet, cow bellies, etc. The closed market was supposed to be so much better in the sense that it had more and it had a roof...which meant that the nasty heat induced smell would be amplified a great deal. I'm really feeling like I missed out on something grand so I'm trying to get over it! After the markets, we went back to Pallpanccay for home work time. Joanna said that there were very few kids there and there were only two regular teachers, her and Nolan. That too was irregular apparently. On our Way back from homework time, Joanna wanted to stop and observe the stars she's been telling me about since she first moved to Peru. I thought they were spectacular, especially since I had a different perspective being on the other side of the equator. But Joanna said that there were normally 3 times as many stars out. Alas, a lack. I knew no different. It was beautiful. After eating dinner at her house, Joanna wanted to take me to the place with the best chocolate cake in all Cusco. The bakery style for the place was like nothing I'd seen in Peru until then, but sure enough, when we asked about the chocolate cake...they were out. The substitute place--which didn't have chocolate cake or anything of the like--was open despite my jesting that it would be closed simply because we wanted to go there and everything else tended toward the exception today. It was there that we worked on my Spanish. Pretty fun stuff. I had written down on a piece of paper the words that I knew I knew, so we talked out some other words that I should know or have heard a good bit since I've been here and pieced some phrases together. I think I have enough to keep me busy for a while, Spanish wise! If I really study it, I should be able to pick up on a lot more than I currently know. I'm starting to wish I had a little more time to pick up on some more Spanish...but boy, has this been an incredible crash course.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Peru: Day 6

We just got back a bit ago from Macchu Picchu and hiking up the neighboring Wayna Picchu. Joanna told me once that the view from Wayna Picchu was the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. After climbing straight up the mountain and seeing the view from the top, I couldn't put it any better. It was beautiful.

I thought I had seen all possible kinds of mountains until Peru--North Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Washington State. The mountains here are just different. When I first flew in to Cusco I tried to find the words to describe them. The best thing I could come up with was a kind of draped blanket--they just looked like folds. No jagged edges or covering evergreens. So, to experience these incredible and insufficiently described mountains all the better, Joanna took me hiking up Wayna Picchu to get a better glimpse of the Incan ruins below. Between the hundreds of step-like rocks going virtually straight up at times and the fact that Peru is at a higher altitude than I'm used to, I literally huffed and puffed my way to the top. It was by far the guttsiest thing I've done to date, and if Joanna hadn't kept me going I might I missed out on the view from the top. It was definitely the most worthwhile venture I've ever taken. Definitely worth the physical exhaustion...being in the middle of some of the highest points around, seeing neighboring mountain tops covered by clouds, and a few mountains a little further off topped with snow. Truly amazing!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Peru: Day 5

Aahh, the joined pleasures of getting to sleep in and go to church! 11:00 AM services are so very nice! I told myself that I was going to pay the utmost attention in church today and not zone out. My Spanish is pretty much limited to "hola", "gracias", "muchas gracias", and "mui bien"...and that's all I can get out verbally so I'm sorry if I spelled any of those incorrectly! Since I've been here I've picked up on a few other words, but comprehension definitely isn't happening too often these days. I do love it when words sound similar in English and Spanish. That's helpful. It took me a while to figure out that a lot of words are incredibly alike, they're just pronounced a bit differently. Today's sermon, for instance, was from the book of Esther. It took me a good 15 minutes to figure out that I really was hearing the names Esther, Haman, and Mordichai, just with a unique emphatic twist! It was so much fun to follow along during Scripture readings just because a word here or there sounded the same or because it was a word from my limited vocabulary that I recognized. Now, the singing. I've never found overheads to be more beneficial! I had no idea what I was saying but I figured that if I was participating with a church group I could count on the words being ok sing. There were a couple of tunes that I couldn't pick up on so I just looked around at the people on all sides of me. I guess you could say I got a glimpse of eternity. The speaking pastor this morning is from England, many of the missionaries are from all over the states, and then the Peruvian families, all joining together in song to "Senior Jesus". It was a pretty amazing sight.

It's awesome to see the gospel at work outside of what we often make to be the confines of our own experiences, our own families, our own churches. While it's true that God interacts on a personal level with us, we often forget the larger picture. God's plan across time has always been to bring the nations to Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. Merging worlds and reforming confined notions is a part of the gospel's transforming work. That I'm beginning to understand even with a limited Spanish vocabulary.

Random Midnight Thoughts

Education is a transfer of a way of life. There's something to be said for how Joanna's gone about this missionary endeavor.

I've always shirked away from the missions trips to far off places that last for a week to 10 days where youth or church groups do little more than play tourist. I remember one of the last youth trips I took as a teenager to the Bahamas. To the Bahamas. That I hate to admit in the first place. But I was told on that trip that it was cheaper to take a cruise ship from Florida than to fly, so we cruised to the Bahamas. That was "sufferin' for Jesus" if ever there were such a thing.

While there is a great deal of good that can come from such short term missions endeavors--to places like the Bahamas or to Peru--it's just refreshing to see someone break the mold of text-book missionary. I mean, who says everyone has to have in class training or pre-foreign language experience to make an incredible missionary. I'm amazed at the courage Joanna has shown in picking up her life in the states and moving to Cusco, Peru to dedicate at least a year of her life to a group of people whose language, until quite recently, she couldn't understand. That fascinates me. What motivates that kind of selfless guttsiness?

If the gospel is true, I suppose it best manifests itself as a genuine transfer of a way of life just as Christ demonstrated in His short time on earth. It takes hold when you share your life with some one by living with them rather than living around them. When you eat their food--no matter how many talons are found in the chicken foot soup. When you hold their hands--no matter how many warts you may get. When you listen to their stories--no matter how long and even if you can only understand half or less. To be submerged in the lives of the people she's trying to get to know, I'm sure, is among the chief and most lasting impressions Joanna will leave in the lives of these people. It's so fun to be a fly one the wall for this brief time. But I'm taking notes, because this is stuff you can't learn in missions 101!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Peru: Day 4

Yeah. So pretty much I've been pretty non specific when I write so I've decided to just tell everything we did today and then go back and fill in the description if I have any left over time. The morning started out by going to San Jeronimo (where Joanna's church is and where she lived last summer) to play with the kids at the park. Saturday's been park day for Joanna ever since I can remember so it was neat to see what all they did. I will give one detail just because it's so humorous. So the little kids here call Winnie the Pooh just "Winnie Pooh". Joanna's friend, Nolan, has called it Winnie Poof a few times. But today at park time, a little girl got all excited when we pulled out Pooh Bear coloring pages and she called it "Winnie Poot"! Joanna and I laughed so incredibly hard!

After the park we went to pick up our Machu Pichhu tickets for Monday. Then we came back to the house and ate some of Marcia's left over yummy Recoto Rellenos (peppers and rice) for lunch chased down with some of Peru's own Inca Kola. Then Joanna took me to all the good Saturday markets. The interestingness started when we came across what I thought to be cooked guinea pig. When I pointed it out to Joanna, she informed me that it was pig fetus. Yeah. So I promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in the touristy trap of buying trinkets for all the friends and family back home, but yeah, sure enough I got caught a little. I keep justifying my purchases by least I didn't buy any of those little Smurff hats like Jesse loves, or those lama skin Indiana Jones hats like all the visiting missionary groups inevitably get! Any way. Needless to say, we were both shopped out by the time it was all said and done.

Then we came back home so that we could finish up our "Shasta" card game and so the pain of me beating Joanna's butt for a change could be quick and as painless for her as possible. Then we talked to her family on iChat for a while. It was really really strange being on this side of the camera. The Grants were sitting in the very place that Caleb, Rebecca, and I were sitting just weeks ago to talk to Joanna. It was more than a bit strange!

So for dinner we went to eat Alpaca in down town Cusco. It was delish. Smothered in a mushroom sauce with a kind of mash potatoes that were heavenly. Ahhh. Yum. I love experiencing a culture by eating their food! And then we came back and I kicked her butt some more in a couple of rounds of Rummy! I think being away from the states has dulled her card playing abilities!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about the most detailed and yet not that I've been since I've been here so there we have it!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Peru: Day 3

I've been told this is day 3, but I'm too tired to remember so I'm just going to agree with Joanna and the title of yesterday's first blog. Today was a lot of fun. We were going to go on a three hour horse back riding trip through some of the ruins around Cusco with Sara and her friends but a flight delay for one of them sent Joanna and I off to explore on our own. She was telling me before we went that the tour guides like to hike the price for "gringos" (a.k.a. white tourists) because they pay not knowing the difference. She had some idea of what was reasonable for a guided riding trip like this but I think we were still taken advantage of a bit. Oh well! 35 soles divided roughly by 3 (it's about 3 soles to 1 dollar) is $11.50ish for the both of us. I couldn't complain, but Joanna's been here long enough to think that's a little high...especially if they'd charge less for Peruvians!

This afternoon we went to the small village of Paiipanccay where Joanna, Sara, Nolan, and Melissa help kids with their homework. The kids stared at me for a long while, being a new gringo and all, but we broke the ice with some "Holas" and some eyebrow-crazy faces. I basically sat back and watched the whole time in amazement. Joanna says her Spanish is really bad but she sure has me fooled. Plus she's pretty much mastered the art of picking up what she doesn't know by asking. Towards the end the kids started teaching her words in Quechua.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Jonanna's Entry

I wish I wasn't so wordy. Yeah. I've just rediscovered that I can't be concise. I've just spent one blog talking about avacado on burgers for heaven's sakes! So I've asked Joanna to write a piece so that you can know what happened AFTER 11:30 yesterday morning:

So yesterday was Christmas. No really it was. Not only did Santa bring me one of my best friends in the whole world, but he also brought me Dr. Pepper, Blue Moon, goldfish, and the list goes on and on. Amy brought two 70 lb bags filled with goodies for all the missionaries here, then she brought a carry on for all of her clothes. Now that is a real friend.
Amy hasn’t even been here 48 hours and we have already gone to a Cenciano futbol game, eaten chicken foot soup, and gone river rafting. The soccer game was fun, but our team won 6-0, so we kinda felt bad for the other team. The chicken foot soup is actually good and I think she was surprised. Now the rafting…have I ever mentioned that I am below the equator so it is winter here while summer in the states? Also have I ever said anything about being 12,500 feet up? Lets just say it was cold. We had a blast once we couldn’t feel our skin anymore. I was really scared, but it ended up not being that bad. I could do it again now that I know what is ahead, but at the time I was scared. I think I annoyed everyone in my boat, but hey that’s me…you either love me or hate me. I think the best part of the whole experience was the wet suits. Oh yes I said wet suits, it was that cold. I can’t wait to get those pictures developed! The only good thing about the wet suits was that everyone was wearing them, otherwise it would have been way to embarrassing! When we were first getting in our suits in the changing room, some girl from England said “well I wonder how many times these have been peed in.” I hadn’t even thought about that, but then the rest of the time I was in the suit (about 2 hours) that’s all I could think about. Good times!!!
Tomorrow is horseback riding and later “homework time”. I’m sure Amy will have plenty of stories to tell when she gets home. We will just have to see if she is still my friend after all the stuff I drag her through. Not only has she never been to South America, but she has never left North America…so we will see if she still loves me when she goes home!!

Peru: Day 2

The altitiude still hasn't gotten to me. I was accusing Joanna even before I got here that she was trying to kill me...taking me rafting THE DAY after I get here. I remembered her stories of how the missionaries wouldn't let her carry her own bags when she first got here last summer because you're really supposed to do nothing until you get a little more acclimated. And then I remembered how her group went on some big hiking expidition a couple of days after she had arrived and she was really feeling it...shortness of breathe, light headedness, throw in may be a little nausia. Yeah. That type thing. So that's why I thought she was trying to kill me. But I was fine. I think I'm so used to running on little sleep and not really being in shape that if I did have any side effects from altitude acclimation in all blended together so I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

So yesterday, Joanna, Sara, Sara's friends and I went downtown Cusco for lunch. We went to Joanna's favorite burger place...the burger was heavenly and I'm pretty sure when I get back I'm going to be trying to put avacado and ham on my burger when we grill out Sunday lunches! And the bread was wonderful! I need to put in a little side bar...Joanna ahs made sure to tell me that they rarely go out to eat so I was specifically told not to think otherwise when she takes me to the places tht they've been to and liked. The two places we've been to so far are great...ok...enough about food. I'll write more later. I need to play cards now!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Da Bunnie, et al

I'm here! And Joanna's baby bunnie Pichi is helping me blog. It's been Christmas here with all the stuff I brought in my 170ish pound of luggage. It's been fun...and I'll write more later when I can think and have slept!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Globe Trotter (Vicarious & the Like)

It's been said that travel is an integral part of a truly classical education. It broadens perspective, encourages imagination, and more firmly strengthens foundations. So I've been told. But I've never really traveled abroad. Well, other than the cross country trek in a Buick Lesaber with three grown persons, two car seats and a 5 year old. But I feel especially privaledged this year. I've traveled vicariously to London with Der and the FCS seniors. I say vicariously because they've all been keeping me up to date on where they're going and what they're experiencing. It's rather exciting to get a call from a phone booth Trafalgar Square from one person while another person sitting by a fountain in the same square sends me a text message. Or to have just picked up and e-mail from someone while in Cambridge talking about the anticipated Evensong service, and then get a call giving the Cambridge book and tobacco shopping side of the adventure. It's been a lot of fun traveling "with" these guys. I kind of wish I could be there.

But I'm not because I get to travel non-vicariously in T-3 days.

Peru. The land of perfect picture taking, Inca Cola, alpacas, and best friends. On Tuesday I'll be embarking on the greatest solo adventure to date...traveling by my self to Cusco, Peru with a rather long layover in Lima where they don't speak my language. And I say, bring it on! My dear friend Joanna has my time there all planned out. From rafting the day after I get there --forget whether or not I'll be acclimated to the heightened altitude, I'll be busy tackling rapids--to trekking through ruins, to horse back riding through the hills and mountains. Sounds like fun! I've just gotten done packing my large roller bag with all the things she had me get while we went shopping in Wal-mart via phone.

I'm eager for rest. I'm eager for change. I'm eager to see my friend. But more than that I'm excited to see how stretching this could be...body, mind, and spirit.