Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Chronicles of Salamanca: Secret Assimilation, The End is Far Away

It's winter now, as I sit inside the poorly-heated school building with my fleece gaiter and down jacket on. I've heard the horror stories of the Salamanca winter, and now have begun to get my first glimpse of their reality. Things have been moving, progressing step by step. This weekend, a few friends came to visit from Atlanta, Corey B and Emily Kohl. Emily's in for the week, and Corey took off yesterday to get back for a Chic-fil-a opening. It was wonderful having Corey around, he brought a sense of home to this place that still feels a bit too foreign sometimes. I love that guy.
But, I've begun to assimilate more and more into the lifestyle prescribed. Eating dinner after 9 pm and staying out with friends until well after midnight has become somewhat of a regular occurrence. I believe this to be the greatest struggle of living here in Spain: the schedule. But, as stated, it's progressing and I'm very pleased.
Let's see. This past weekend, we went with a group of ten or so to see the local soccer team play. It was a blast, I bought a scarf and learned new ways to curse at the visiting team's players. It felt very Spanish, and was a terrific experience. I hope to return, maybe with a Spaniard or two that can teach me the songs and chants and such.
En Vivo is moving along. We have had excellent attendance over the last few weeks at both our Tuesday night "Conexion" meeting and Thursday's "Cafe Ingles." There are several relationships that are in beginning stages that potentially will grow more and more intimate as time progresses, and I am excited at this prospect. Christ clearly has something in mind, and I am growing more and more convinced that it is something specific and intimate; one relationship, one conversation, one spoken word. So, my prayer is to remain available, to give of myself every opportunity I have while practicing discernment, never fixing, only listening and loving. The communication of love is a great casualty of the pronounced language barrier. While I can communicate that I am a nice person; that I like whomever I am speaking with, communicating love is an entirely different venture. I have to trust that my time and broken communication are being used by Christ to speak of love and redemptive community despite how difficult it is to clearly communicate in this foreign place. But, such is ministry, I suppose. There is life to share, and it's a blessing to share it with these people, and from another perspective.
So, as the winter takes over, we are moving forward. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and letters and emails. He is good, and he is working tremendous truth in the face of disorientation and occasional alienation. More to come. Go Cards and God Bless.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exploring the Depths of Ron Paul

I just spent entirely too much time reading a comment thread on a CBS article on Ron Paul's plan to cut $1 Trillion in government spending. It seems, categorically, that people that are "anti-Ron Paul" don't ever have any real arguments against his policies or beliefs. I haven't heard many, at least. It's mostly just enthusiastic Ron Paul supporters and angry people that simply make fun of Dr. Paul and his supporters. I don't necessarily want to go head first into being a RP supporter without having a clear understanding of the problems with his policies and expectations, but it's been really hard to find any actual and worthwhile rebuttals to his views, again just angry people saying angry things that aren't actual arguments. Anyway, below is my favorite comment from the night, that sums up what Ron Paul supporters seem to be saying.

You do realize that Ron Paul has been a sitting congressman for 30 years, is Chairman of the Finance Committee, and has been a fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Economics for like, decades, right?

There isn't a single soul in Washington DC who will take on Ron Paul in a debate about economics or finance, except Ben Bernanke, who would almost rather commit suicide than have to sit in front of Ronnie for 10 minutes under oath.

Did you know any of that or are you just spewing ad-hominem attacks like the rest of the putrid schills doing the legwork of the mainstream media? We understand...it's the only weapon you have against someone with nothing to hide. Go ahead, namecall. Poor dear. Sad marxists are sad.

anyway, bed now. Politics are frustrating because change doesn't seem possible inside the political system in place. Guys like Ron Paul make sense, but don't seem to have a shot at succeeding with the way the media and government run things. I guess we'll just have to let it collapse and stand up when the time comes to rebuild. Here's to that not happening. Good night.

Oh, and Bill O'Reilly is a dumbass.

Read more CBS Article on Ron Paul's Economic Policies

The Chronicles of Salamanca: Run-on Sentences and Sensibility on Tap

Well, here we are once again. I've noticed more and more how distinguishable the foreigners are. I learned a new phrase, "Guiry." It essentially is the same as "Gringo" as it describes foreigners that are clearly out of place, either by clothing or action. So, I've made it clear that my objective for this semester abroad is to be able to blend in seamlessly with the locals. I'll let you know how that goes.
But, the culture here is a specific one, as are all cultures. I'm compiling a list of universal cultural nuances; things that I thought only existed in the United States but are proving themselves universal. I'm excited about the completion of this list, and I'll post it as soon as I have it together.
But, on my list of things to accomplish this semester are a) make good enough friends with people from major cities in Europe, (i.e. Paris, Milan, Munich, Amsterdam, etc.) so that I might be able to stay with them in future travels. Utilitarian, I know. But, necessity and a settling reality that my school schedule will make extensive travel within europe difficult on this trip have driven me to extremes of Utilitarianism, I suppose. Also on said list is to find myself an affordable pair of boots of Spanish leather, throwing my fear of being cliche to the wind. Truth be told, I think that Bob Dylan was a major reason that I decided to come to Spain, though making that into a sensible argument might take some time.
But, let's see. Ah yes, I've begun to play soccer regularly with a group of European exchange students from France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, you name it. It's proving a difficult task to make friends with Spaniards, as most of them are perfectly content in their already-established lifestyles and communities. It is we foreigners that are putting forth the effort to establish relationship on some meaningful level. Almost all of the folks that I hang out with out here are not Spanish. They are Portuguese, Brazillian, Argentinian, Italian and Japanese. While the cultural as well as linguistic diversity are some of my most favorite elements of my community out here, it is a bit of a shame that it's a such a challenge to experience Spanish culture from the inside. Challenges, eh?
Perhaps I should make conclusion from this chaos. Ah, here's a thing to chew on:
"If I understand the Gospel, it tells us that we are to spread the Good News to all four corners of the world, not limiting the giving of light to people who already have seen the light. If my stories are incomprehensible to Jews or Muslims or Taoists, then I have failed as a Christian writer. We do not Draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."
- Madeleine L'Engle "Walking on Water."

So there it is, for now. Salamanca is beautiful if not beginning to feel somewhat claustrophobic. Soon we shall all see the light. Thank you for your prayers and love. Go Cards.

Listening: "We Are the Tide" by Blind Pilot (in which the lead singer uses the word "spake" as lyric.)
Reading: "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art" by Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

been watching battlestar gallactica lately. stop laughing.

"There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Chronicles of Salamanca; Sore Joints and Subtle Victories

So, I'm in Salamanca, Spain. I've found myself five thousand miles away from anything familiar, with a well-intentioned, if not ill-advised, desire to make friends and communicate love with the people I meet. Giving myself over to a semester of service in a foreign country was a decision whose consequences I was only partially prepared for. Visiting foreign countries, working in short term missions, vacationing, etc., are one thing. Settling down and living life for a (somewhat) extended period of time is an entirely different monster, as I'm realizing. I have to adapt to the schedule, I have to get used to the food, I have to really speak the language, I have to establish a routine and make coffee dates and pick a favorite soccer team. This time abroad has taken on a new face, a new sense of being. And, it's unlike any I've experienced before. I've lived in Colorado, in California, in Georgia. I've had to make a life for myself, to "get plugged into the social pipeline." It's hard. It's really, really hard. The amount of effort and courage that it takes to insert yourself into a brand new society is tremendous. Doing that in a country that you're familiar with is difficult enough. Doing it on an entirely different continent is an entirely different thing altogether. But, here I am, in the trenches of not only student ministry, but of attempting to establish a lifestyle and sense of identity in a town that has no conscious need of me. It's hard. But, God has been extremely faithful in his care of me. Today, I played soccer with about 25 European university students from all over the continent. I've been trying like mad to find some type of pick-up soccer to be a part of, because it is there that community is accelerated among strangers: on the sports field. And, thankfully, I finally found a group of guys that play together regularly. It was awesome. I was the lone American on the "pitch," doing my best to not embarrass myself or America. I think I kept up pretty well. But, more importantly, I met Kristian from Germany and Ivan from Lyon and Oliver from Brugge. In order to be effective at relational ministry, you have to have relationships. That's a process that takes a lot of time. And it should, I think. It's not one that I would want to be instant, given the depth that I want to reach as a minister with these students. But, Lord willing, today I started that journey with some new folks. The list of people that I've begun to get to know is a long one. And, as the sun sets on another day in Salamanca, I am acutely aware of God's great love for me and for the hands that are carrying me through the subtle difficulties of loneliness, unfamiliarity, and inability to communicate. He's got me and I feel it out here.

I would like to write about the culture that I'm existing inside of, as well as the details of my weekly schedule. But, that must wait until next time, as the dinner hour is upon us, and you faithful readers are growing tired of reading this blog post. So, until next time. Thank you for your prayers. Send mail. Go Cards.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


and its only several minutes from the door
i'll walk like Tutenkammen
all proud and highly regarded
now put me in a box, let me transcend time
aren't we all floating
aren't we alive
in our broken senses
and those tiny inconsistencies that make it hard to breathe
the sky.
the sun holds the key
to the chains on my hands and feet
the sea has my nickname
wrapped up in its swells
and the future hangs over my stream of waking
like a free standing sentiment
take, breathe
see this world for what it is
and see yourself inside it:
only beautiful.

from "Walking on Water" by Madeline L'Engle

Hamlet is. When the play has been read, when the sustain goes down on the performance, Hamlet still is. He is, in all his ambivalence, as real as Byron; or as the man who cried out, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief! or as Ivan Karamazov. The flight of stairs up which George MacDonald's princess had to climb would be tehe whether or not MacDonald had ever written The Princess and the Goblin. The storm still rages around King LEar. The joy of Bach's gigue at the end of the Fifth French Suite does not depend on a piano for its being.
But the reality of the outcome of all annunciations is a reality which is scoffed at by most of the world. It is one of the greater triumphs of Lucifer that he has managed to make Christians believe that a story is a lie, that a myth should be outgrown with puberty, that to act in a play is inconsistent with true religion

more blogging to come. Spain is nutz.