Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Small Stuff

I was going for something more profound, but then again, I think some of the best writing is just honest writing - the pure, unadulterated kind of honesty.

So here it is: I am very very grateful to be home tonight. I usually am grateful to be here, though, so I'm not sure why tonight is any more different.

Like most of the U.S. I was surprised to wake up to a bitter 8°F wind chill and snow on the ground this morning. So, I forewent my morning shower in favor of getting a head start on my lovely morning commute. As luck would have it, I spent more time at one stop light than I do on my normal commute, and even in my best effort I was still late. My new boss is very flexible with things like that, which is great; however, it was more of a personal blow as I'm striving to gain in the punctuality I generally lack. To boot, I wound up diving in head first to the new product I just completed training on. There's nothing that boosts your self-esteem like mistakes, misunderstandings, and all-around wasted time, right? In the midst of all this, my ring finger began bleeding profusely through my bandage from where I had a very persistent thick wart burned off yesterday. While my wedding band will now be able to fit, there is still a gaping amount of missing flesh that I'm concerned will not grow back within the next 25 days - that is, when I will be spending the day making love to my wedding photographer's camera and spending the night making love to my new wife. Yeah, I went there. So, maybe that's why?

Or could it be that I'm getting married in 25 days and this is one of my last opportunities to "bach it"? Or that it's still feels like 8°F outside?

At any rate, it wasn't a great day. Still, it's not like anything happened big enough to completely shake up my world. In fact, I'm pretty much over this day.

So why does this "night off" feel so much better than any other "night off" I've had? I'm still not sure, but this comes to mind:

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold." - Psalm 46:10-11

Maybe the point isn't to figure myself out tonight. What if I'm supposed to just see God in this, the small stuff? To trust that He will receive glory from my life whether I do right or wrong? That He will grant me favor with my employer when I mess up at work? With my fiancée when I don't live up to the wedding vows we're attempting to write ourselves? With my body as I wait for the missing flesh to be made whole where my wedding band will be taking its place? To simply enjoy Him and what He's given me (while it lasts)?

Tonight, it's Him & I, and I guess that's the plan.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It's trite but until I can process anything "life-related" on a deeper level, I just need to write today. Period.

Admittedly I've found it energizing this year to read the slews of tweets and Facebook statuses about what others are thankful for this year, and I've wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Personally I think that if you have something to say that can't be done in 140 characters or less then it doesn't belong on Twitter or Facebook. It belongs on a blog. I digress...

The book of Acts says that "in Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being...for we are indeed His offspring". This is what comes to mind when I think about what I'm most thankful for: the Gospel (literally, good news). I belong to God! Because of Jesus' work on the cross I am alive in Him and not even my repeated mistakes or dismal character will change that. Read: I should be dead, but the Lord is merciful in that He's covered my sin so I 1) don't have to die and 2) can have His life, which is far more sufficient than my own.

I've been engaged for 7 months, I'm getting married in 1 month, and we've only been doing real wedding planning for less than 3 months. Needless to say that for someone like me who struggles to keep a consistent rhythm in life, this season of life has certainly been no exception. I've struggled most of all in keeping consistent fellowship with the Lord during this time. Yet, as much as I've failed to "play by the rules" God has arguably never felt nearer.

Truthfully, what I've struggled with most the last few months is resenting this period of engagement because in foresight it has only proven costly. If we're already committed to each other and to Christ, then what's the point of the financial strain, excess travel, and sexual tension, among other things? What am I gaining?

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)

Perhaps my focus has been in the wrong place. My focus has been on gain (i.e. gaining a wife) when living the Gospel is really about emptying ourselves. At that point we make room for God in our lives, and at THAT point...He does things! When He does things, people notice. For us, following our desire for marriage (and God's) has created an abundance of needs in our lives. As for me, the amazing thing is that lately 90% of the time I haven't honestly stopped to pray for God to do this or that, but He has anyway. All I've done is believed Him, watched trust turn into peace, and watched Him meet my needs like He said He would to begin with. Things to be noticed? Strengthened relationships, money we don't have being provided, and two broken & imperfect human beings beginning to build something better than ourselves - essentially the grace & mercy of Jesus Christ - or, the Gospel.

Like I've said before, Thanksgiving is just another day to me, though I do enjoy the extended weekend, extended food, and extended quality time. But for my soon-to-be wife; my upcoming marriage to her (with a lifetime of opportunity to lay my life down); walking with and having purpose in the God for whom and by whom I was created; the abundant abiding life we can have in Him through His perfect Son; and everything else that results; I am in a perpetual state of thankfulness.

I have everything I need in Christ. If I lose everything aforementioned, I have everything I need in Christ. This is the best news ever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Honduras: Days 6-11

Day 6 - This is what most of you ("you" being the few that are reading) have been waiting for: this was the morning that Davean & I left for our hike up Mt. Celaque - the tallest mountain in Honduras atop which I had some surprises planned for her. Being the inexperienced campers and hikers that we are, we each had our backpacks stuffed with mostly our sleeping bags along with minimal clothes, snacks, and other belongings. I can't forget that we each had a bottle of water - our only water to last us for two days. Getting there was interesting as we had to get up early and take 3 different buses along the way. The first bus we took was more or less your typical charter bus minus a couple small amenities. It was a painful ride as I really, really, had to pee - worse than I've had to in a very long time. Please understand I am not exaggerating; I mean serious business when I talk about urinating in a public forum. After what seemed like an eternity (maybe a couple of hours) we finally made our first stop in La Entrada. Where we stopped was a small area in which several different buses made their stops, crowded with tourists and travelers. Naturally, there were also a lot of different shops and vendors. Lots of vendors. Even literally inside of already crowded buses. After we arrived we went inside of a makeshift convenience store whose owners were kind enough to let me use their private restroom (a broken toilet that thankfully I didn't have to sit on) and as a thank-you I purchased a Snickers bar. Next we wound up hopping on a large passenger van and sitting together in the front seat with the driver. In spite of being repeatedly hit in the head by the children of the very large family behind us I was tired enough at that point to fall half-asleep. Our next stop was Santa Rosa - a much nicer town but otherwise much the same in terms of their communal bus stop/marketplace. This time we wound up packed like sardines on an old school bus where we shared a seat with a strange man. All we could do was stay as close to each other as possible. For me it was a little bit overwhelming to be surrounded by so much chatter up close in a language I didn't understand. Eventually we arrived in Gracias - a small town at the foot of Celaque. I ordered a fried chicken meal at a restaurant nearby which really turned out to be cole slaw with a few small pieces of fried chicken. Then after awhile we found a moto taxi to take us uphill a long distance to the visitors center (which supposedly they don't do, except they must've felt sorry for us American tourists). By "visitors center" I really mean a big empty room with no restrooms or concessions.

Then things became eventful as we began our over 9,000 ft. hike up the mountain. We actually had a very good start and enjoyed the initial exercise along with the beautiful scenic scenery. In fact, we made it to our camp much earlier than expected. At that point, we determined based on the map that we would surely make it to the next camp on the way up the mountain before sunset, making our return the next day much earlier than anticipated. Unfortunately, oxygen sickness began to set in as the climb became almost completely vertical. As exhausted as I was, Davean was even more exhausted and frustrated over that fact along with it almost being dusk. Thus, the decision was made to stop for the night on the trail where we were at v. risking to go further in the dark (and I do mean "dark" - there's not much you can do for light at night when you're crawling on all fours up a mountain). We were forced to find one spot to lay down at where we didn't think we would slide down the mountain, and as you'd expect, it was not a comfortable spot at all. The rest of the night was spent trying to sleep and stay warm. Then it began raining. Hard. Picture a torrential downpour you'd expect in the middle of a rainforest. It was basically just like that. Thankfully I had a waterproof sleeping bag and was mostly protected. She, on the other than, was not so fortunate as her sleeping bag was being rained in. She began to shiver and feel feverish so eventually I squeezed her inside of my sleeping bag with me to keep her warm, using her sleeping bag to cover our heads. She was able to sleep for at least a couple of hours. I don't know that I was that lucky, but the important thing is that we survived and that we had a story to tell.

Day 7 - We awoke early (as if we even slept) and surveyed our belongings which were soaked from the rain and dirty from the mud that resulted. We stuffed our bags with our now soaked and even heavier sleeping bags and went on our way. By the time we made it to the next camp we tried to get to the night before (about a 30 min. hike - ha!) we were already exhausted again. Oxygen sickness is something else. Within a couple hours, though, we finally made it to the top! Regretfully, we were not greeted by the picturesque open view we were expecting (based on what we saw from Internet searches and even pictures on the signs along the trail). Instead of seeing clearly above the clouds, we were surrounded by trees. Instead of beholding the open skies, swarms of giant gnats & mosquitoes beheld our sweaty bodies. I am not capable of communicating the level of disappointment we felt over the end of our uphill hike. I definitely cannot communicate my personal level of disappointment based on what I had planned for at the top of the mountain. After taking a few not-so-flattering pictures at the top, we sat & rested for awhile. Sadly, no amount of bug spray was able to keep the insects from feasting on us - we were actually bleeding from being bitten by them non-stop! I read some more Psalms on my own to try and get my heart & mind in a better place than it was. Here's what came next:

I pulled out the notebook that Davean & I had been writing letters to each other in and mailing back & forth between the U.S. and Honduras, which sadly was soaked. Thankfully the ink didn't completely bleed through the pages so she was able to read what I had written to her in Honduras before we left for Celaque - that in spite of how many things had gone wrong since my arrival, there was no place I'd rather be because I was with her; also, this was our 17-month dating anniversary (or "monthiversary" as we like to call them), so I acknowledged that, explaining that we made it to the top of this mountain and that I had a few surprises for her. At that point, however, I had some surprises I wasn't ready for. What I had done prior to leaving for Honduras was write down some of my own personal reflections from Proverbs 31 (how I see the traits of the virtuous woman in Davean) and Song of Solomon 4 (how passionately Jesus loves us, His bride, and how He's revealed Himself in the growing love He's given me for her...not to mention the delight I have for Davean). I read both of those passages and did my best to explain my thoughts without my written notes which were left behind on accident, otherwise they likely would have been illegible from being rained on. Then I explained that I had written & recorded a song for her in which I intended to tell her "I love you" for the first time, and that I was hoping we could listen to it together on top of the mountain; however, I absentmindedly left my iPod in her apartment, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise due to the previous night's rain. So, likewise, I did my best to use the "L-word" verbatim and explain my desire to spend the rest of my life loving, serving, growing old with, and living life with her. I then pulled the ring (the only item that wasn't soaked or ruined) from my backpack and asked her to marry me - to which she responded "Tim...of course I will" in her sweet, innocent, oxygen-sick, sleep-deprived voice. Who knew a size 4.5 would be too small for her tiny fingers? I guess I should consider myself fortunate to have kept it a surprise to her until the day before when I told her that I was wanting to listen to my iPod on top of the mountain.

At that point we were anxious to get down the mountain so we could get home, clean ourselves up, celebrate, and rest. Who knew, though, that it would take longer to travel down the mountain than up it? Thanks to some afternoon flooding, this was the case as we made painstaking effort to avoid the mud slide that once was the mountain's hiking trail. I was honestly having a hard time as this was happening - I was trying to safely look after my now fiance, telling God how much I didn't like Him for what was happening (on top of the botched proposal) while asking Him for our safety and a thankful heart. Eight hours later, we made it back to the "visitors' center" where many other families were sheltering themselves from the storm. Fortunately, we were next in line for the only moto taxi there who barely made it down the mountain with us back to Gracias. Because of the weather conditions there were no buses to take us out of town, so the moto taxi took us to the cheapest non-trashy hotel in town ($15 U.S./night!). It was wonderful to finally drink water after barely having any all day, and they were wonderful for bringing our dinner to our rooms. Sadly, my "typical Honduran plate" (eggs, salsa, avocado, refried beans, plantains, and an unknown cream) wasn't very appetizing. Alas, we celebrated our first night as an engaged couple by falling asleep to Hispanic television...before waking up and going to our separate rooms.

Day 8 (Good Friday) - We awoke after a much needed full night's sleep and packed our things in hopes of finding some mode of transportation out of town since the buses were taking a holiday. Our options were to stay another night or to hire a private vehicle for over $100 U.S. After laying out our belongings to dry we spent the day walking around town. We watched the locals decorate the streets with colored sawdust art. We found the closest thing to a supermarket (more like a convenience store) and bought a lot of American junk food which we ate while people-watching at the parque central. Unfortunately we kept moving locations due to some friendly neighborhood bees of which I have a phobia. We spotted a pizza restaurant that we agreed to try for dinner that night. I listened to Davean make conversation in Spanish with a local and didn't understand a word of it. We looked inside of a Catholic church sanctuary after their morning Good Friday mass. We toured the rest of the town which took all of an hour. We talked about attending a Good Friday service somewhere in town but lost the motivation to wait around that long. We toured a local museum with a small park inside of its gates - a nice reprise from the heat. We ended our tour of Gracias with a visit to a really cool old Spanish fort where we enjoyed the view of the town below and took a lot of neat pictures. As storm clouds started to roll in we debated and then took our chances on the 10-minute walk back to the hotel...and made it just in time for another torrential downpour which lasted all evening and knocked out our power for most of it. Without going into too much detail, we had a difficult conversation involving feelings of fear over the series of unfortunate events since my arrival in Honduras, and for a short time I thought I would be returning home with the ring. We prayed over the situation and ended our evening much like the evening before, trading our night out for pizza for a night in with our "typical Honduran plates".

Day 9 - After a makeshift "American" breakfast at the hotel restaurant we finally were able to check out of our hotel and get on a bus back to Copan. On one of our stops a man who was seemingly mentally unstable kept trying high-pressure tactics to get me to buy his not-so-fresh tomatoes. Somehow my nonchalant refusal encouraged him to say things in Spanish which I assume were racist comments toward me being a Gringo. Other than that and the crowds on the buses it was a pretty uneventful trip back to Copan. We were so happy to finally change clothes after staying in our only dry set of clothes for almost 3 days! Davean's roommate, Tiffany, returned from her Spring Break trip right after we did so we hung out with her for a little bit. Then later that evening, after another rain, I walked my fiancee to a local pizza restaurant and then a bistro nearby. We walked back to the balcony above her apartment where we plugged in headphones and finally listened to the song I wrote her.

She liked it. :-)

I then expressed my discontent over the idea of going back home with the ring and reminded her that the promise I'm making with the ring is unconditional. At that point we "reaffirmed" our engagement and called our families via Google Voice (free calls to the U.S. and Canada through 2011) with the news.

Day 10 - I was so happy to meet with the English church group again and share: food, our engagement story, worship, and communion. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed by God's grace that day. We were "touched" as the group each individually laid hands on us and prayed over us for our engagement and future marriage. Pun. Intended. We took our sleeping bags to have them dry cleaned and ran some other errands. Then for the evening we grabbed some burgers to go (one of the perks of staying in a tourist town in another country) and enjoyed a movie in the living room, otherwise soaking up our last moments together before saying goodbye for another few weeks - thankfully our last goodbye.

Day 11 - Between dragging my luggage on foot across town to make a 5 a.m. bus, leaving my now fiancee behind, and traveling all the way back to the U.S. (Approx. 2,500 miles. It feels like 5x that distance. Without looking at a map, you'd never guess the distance was shorter between that of NYC and LA.)...it was a long, long day. My first surprise was the 2nd bus to the airport not actually being scheduled, thus being put on a taxi all the while living out the part of Dumb American who knows no Spanish. My next surprise was the $38 (U.S.) tax for taking a return flight to the U.S. out of Honduras. Oh, and we can't forget my nose hair trimmer being confiscated by Customs and the filer being ripped off of my toenail clippers. Otherwise, I ate the last of my snack foods and watched TV episodes on my laptop. The airport terminal in San Pedro Sula was nowhere near as orderly as we're used to here. Thankfully I happened to finish my episode and see someone's boarding pass to know when it was time to board my first plane. I was also surprised in ATL when I had to claim my bags, check them again, all within an hour whilst learning that one of my bags was lost. I finally returned to KC only to discovered that my 2nd bag (a.k.a. my guitar) had been lost. Thankfully I have wonderful friends who live near the airport and have a spare bed.

The end. For now. Between a story that will be told for years to come, a most excellent wife-to-be (mark your calendars - New Years Eve!), and God's provision in the middle of it all, what I'm taking from this trip is, without a doubt, priceless.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Honduras: Days 2-5

Day 2 - My first morning in Honduras was quite peaceful. I spent some time on her balcony reading Psalms before the town became busy, and couldn't help but thank God for getting me to that exact moment and orchestrating all of the necessary details. After months of waiting, saving, and planning, I was finally far from my everyday problems and reunited with my love in her home of the last several months. We started our day by heading to the local Mayan ruins (Copan Ruinas' namesake and main tourist attraction) and I experienced the first of many hot & arduous hikes that week. We took several pictures around the ruins (especially overpriced for U.S. tourists). Afterwards we found a nearby trail which led around a local farm and back to the museum at the ruins. Afterward we ran a couple of errands around town, we enjoyed some amazing fruit smoothies and I purchased a pair of shorts (as I left all of mine at home). Then it felt good to make it home after several hours in the heat - but not literally as Honduran homes do not have A/C and most do not have fans. Also, by that point some lovely Honduran bacteria made their home inside of my stomach, hampering my ability to really enjoy any of our activities for the next few days. Nevertheless, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at home, making dinner and watching a movie, followed by lugging my luggage to Davean's co-worker's home, where I stayed while she was away.

Day 3 - I had another relaxing morning outside before we started our day. I was able to experience what Davean has described as "English church" for the first time. It is a group of American Christians who gather each week for what I would describe as an organic church meeting, and I had the privilege of bringing my guitar and worshiping Jesus with them. To say it did my heart good would be an understatement. What started as a few people sharing a meal turned into a spontaneous but Spirit-led conversation in which life was shared. The group consists mostly of those on staff with a ministry called Urban Promise Honduras (whose office they meet in each week), but also includes Davean's co-workers from Mayatan Bilingual School. They started as an "informal gathering 0f Jesus-followers", but an important part of this body is that it includes some who are not Christians. I love that even though they aren't Christians, they are still given a "place at the table" (in the words of my pastor) and they can all be unified in the pursuit of the knowledge of who God is. I'm convinced that's something that Jesus intended when he said, "Ok, finish what I started", and it's sad to me that the Church drops that ball so often. I've listened to Davean share week-after-week about how the Holy Spirit "showed up" in this way or that way and it was so good to be in the midst of that. God is good! The day was finished with a couple more errands, eating Chinese (in Honduras), and another movie.

Day 4 - We woke early for an all-day guided tour of the Finca el Cigne ranch & coffee plantation. The stomach bacteria helped make this a trying day, unfortunately. But, we were part of a fun group with a Russian girl and an English couple, all in their 20's, and Carlos, our quick-witted tour guide who spoke very fluent English and whose family runs the farm. We got to see where and how the coffee and cacao beans are grown and processed as we toured the farm and the processing facilities. We ate a delicious home-cooked meal consisting mostly of their own agri-products. Before lunch, however, we took a long horseback ride through their expansive property. Though I clearly stated I was not an experience horseback rider, I was instructed to ride a strong stubborn horse named Maximo. Maximo refused to be anywhere but in front of the pack. My back muscles were strained and almost pulled as he often would race full-speed down the trail and literally throw my body around in the process. With nausea and a sore back it was difficult for me to maintain a positive attitude. We ended the day relaxing at a nearby natural spring until dark. We were creeped out as there was a mysterious man roaming the springs and we were unable to tell if he was an employee or not. On the ride back to Copan we became jealous as we listened to our new friends' tales of their frequent international travels. It was a very long day and we were glad to be home, albeit at a late hour.

Day 5 - This proved to be a more trying day as I experienced more bacteria-related symptoms and we hiked in the hot sun an hour & a half uphill to a village called Llanetios. It was there that Davean introduced me to Doña Lucas, a sweet old lady who, though she knew no English, her sense of humor was still very evident. Unfortunately it was difficult for me to play along and really enjoy myself as we did pottery together. I made a coffee mug as Davean made a teapot (I think?), and Doña Lucas kindly "polished" up our handiwork. This was followed by preparing a meal of black beans and tortillas topped with ground squash beans served with coffee. Had I not been sick this would've wreaked enough havoc on my already-picky taste buds; sadly I was physically unable to finish my meal (and trust me, I tried). In Honduras it's very common for people to start their own uncontained trash fires; on our long walk back home we had to almost walk through one as we literally covered our eyes and mouths to shield ourselves from the heavy smoke & ash that filled the air. Had we been even a few minutes later we likely would've been trapped on that road. That was eventful to say the least. Also, this day in particular, because I was physically not feeling like myself, it was difficult for both of us to cope with my lack of enthusiasm over my visit which, despite my efforts, I was unable to help...or even fake. Neverthless, we continued the evening by attending the Passover Seder of her Jewish co-worker with a group of other teachers. It was interesting considering we were the only ones actually observing this spiritually; however, it turned out to be a fun & relaxing time and the evening breeze proved to be a welcome respite from the intense heat & humidity.

To be continued....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Honduras (or, perhaps more accurately: The Proposal or Murphy's Law Goes Abroad): Day 1

Where better to start than when I left off 3 months ago? This is for anyone who's asked and I haven't had a chance to tell, for anyone who's doing the Facebook/Twitter creepy-stalker-ish thing...or, we can say this is for anyone who's in the mood for a love story told old-man style (as most of my stories are). Whether it happened to me or anyone else, trust me - it's a good one.

My adventure saw a casualty before I even made it to my first gate: a jar of all-natural honey peanut butter of whom my now fiancee & I share a mutual love for. By the time I was given the option to check it my bags were long gone and it just wasn't worth the trouble at 5:30 a.m. My layover in ATL was exactly what you'd expect: too much distance to travel in such a short amount of time. However, I made it with the help of their handy dandy airport subway. On the flight to San Pedro Sula I met a Christian middle-aged dating couple from opposite sides of ATL (which makes my fiancee & I living on opposite sides of KC seem not-so-bad) on their way to Honduras for a mission trip. I spent most of the flight staring out the window like a small child before I fell asleep watching Tron: Legacy (which I highly do NOT recommend). Up until then it was sheer excitement keeping me awake after only 16 hours of sleep spread throughout the entire week.

I then arrived on Central American soil. It's amazing how after only 6 hours of travel I can be what seems a world apart. After the most disorganized & crowded customs experience of my life I found myself playing the part of the stereotypical confused tourist in an even more disorganized & crowded terminal. I was then able to garner the assistance of who looked to be an employee of the airport in finding the bus terminal; however, this individual, who turned out to be a taxi driver, began hustling me. By the time an airport security guard chased him off he seemed to lose interest upon discovering there was a language barrier. As if things weren't already interesting, I discovered that the bus leaving from that terminal was in fact not the same bus that would take me 3 hours away to Copan Ruinas where my girlfriend was waiting for me. Unfortunately, there was also a language barrier between me and the clerk behind the counter, but thankfully I found a cheap iTouch offline translator app which came to my rescue and I was able to buy my ticket to the Grand Central bus station (a whopping 10 min. from the airport), from whence the bus route which I actually had a ticket for would depart. After dealing with that I met a friendly English-speaking Canadian couple who provided me with some sanity and entertained me with tales of their nation's ample required vacation time and all of the expensive vacation plans they had in Honduras. I asked the nice couple to watch my belongings as I discovered in all the excitement of things that I needed to exchange my money if I wanted to buy food. After spending 20 minutes in line watching the teller's co-worker not do anything and who appeared to be her manager also not do anything (except stare at me quite awkwardly) I got to the counter only to discover I left my passport with the Canadians, thus losing my place in line and getting to wait another 20 minutes. I rushed back to the bus terminal thinking that I was running late...but I forgot I was on Honduran time at that point (meaning they are more lax with their punctuality). Being the scatterbrained person I am, I then discovered I hadn't eaten anything and then rushed to the food court to grab a Wendy's Baconator. Luckily the bus was just arriving when I ran back. While in line for the bus, the friendly cabbie returned again offering to help me with my bags. Apparently he didn't appreciate me playing the dumb American a second time.

Immediately I began reaping the benefits of the exchange rate as I took my private seat (read: recliner) on the most spacious and luxurious bus that $20 has ever bought. I spent most of the ride taking pictures of everything through the windows (again, like a child) while enjoying The Nutty Professor. The amount of pollution on the sides of the roads was astounding, as was the way the Hondurans drove (picture downtown Chicago). I was annoyed by the constant slowing down of the bus up very steep hills (this was of course due to the gradual increase in elevation en route to a mountainous region). Nevertheless, I was finally able to relax.

Finally, after 14 hours of traveling, my girlfriend greeted me upon my arrival in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. A moto-taxi (or tuk-tuk in some cultures) drove us recklessly through hilly & uneven cobblestone streets to her house on the edge of town. I met her roommate for the first time, though I suppose in some ways I already knew her based on months of my girlfriend's stories of close living and bonding. After unloading my things we went out for baleadas (a combination of meat, cheese, beans, and rice(?) sandwiched between 2 thick tortillas) made by whom she affectionaly dubbed as the Crunchy Baleada Lady, known for two things: 1) operating her restaurant out of what appeared to be her home and 2) making her baleadas crunchy (apparently not typical in Honduras). I also had a chance to experience a small dose of the exercise I would be getting that week - and that my girlfriend had been getting for several months walking across town to work and back everyday. We ended the night by relaxing and playing guitar (I taught her roommate how to play Gungor's Beautiful Things), and of course I couldn't end the night without brushing my teeth. Had I not been so ready for bed after a hectic week followed by a day of traveling, I would've paid more attention to what water I was using to brush my teeth.

To be continued....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just Let Some Air In

I am wrapping up one of the busiest seasons of my adult life as I prepare for one of the best weeks of my adult life. In less than 8 hours I am flying to Honduras to be with my favorite during her spring break (and to take one of my own - win win!). I'm so excited to finally live out an adventure in the midst of some very routine misadventures.

As I was preparing to pack this week, her mother gave me her sleeping bag filled with other items...and then vacuum-sealed in a vacuum storage bag which took up my entire suitcase, and was so rigid that extra room couldn't be made. Then the ridiculous questions of doubt set in. "How am I going to fit everything now?" "How am I supposed to pay hundreds of dollars extra because of this stupid bag?" "What if I have to leave my guitar here?"

Then as I began to reflect on how miserable I was making myself over worrying about packing, I remembered the LORD. This is His adventure that He's writing me into. He's been in my midst throughout all the planning and saving that this trip has required of me. Why would He just mess things up because of packing one difficult item? So, I let go and gave the reins back to Him.

The next evening as I pooled in the "expertise" of a couple friends who've traveled to Cuba with far more luggage, I discovered that the vacuum bag had slowly begun to fill with air while I was gone for the day. Suddenly I was embarrassingly freaking out over nothing as the bag had become malleable again and we successfully zipped the suitcase shut.

We all have our vacuum bags: those elements of our lives that appear completely inflexible and unchangeable in our own effort. Whose strength are you living in today? Maybe we can all travel a bit further if we allow the maker of life to breathe into us and shape us.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The March of Hope

It has been almost 4 months since my last blog post. In that time frame, hope has been a huge theme in my life. If I wasn't hanging on to it for dear life, I was either filled to the brim with it or reaching aimlessly for it. I hope to share that story more with those dearest to me because it is a good story...and it is a good story only on the basis that it is a God story.

Winter by far is my least favorite season. Everything about winter slows me down physically, emotionally, and even spiritually (or rather, I allow it to have that power over me which it could never conjure up on its own - pathetic, I know). Between a family bombshell, an 18-inch blizzard followed by another few inches of snow, still having to go to work in spite of that, and being separated by one from whom I least want to be separated from, this winter has for me been the most challenging.

The other day, however, I was driving home from work like I do most days. The day was March 1, to be exact. Winter weather was still very much upon KC with cold winds and patches of snow left on the ground in some spots. The sun was shining for the first time in a few days, which was helpful, but the sun shows its face often enough - even in the dead of winter. For some reason I was filled with hope, but it was more than the sun shining. It was more than the knowledge of a new day (which should bring us feelings of hope already).

Then it hit me: Yesterday was February. Today is March. You may think I'm nuts. If you look back through several Farmer's Almanacs you'll see that you certainly have that right. In the context of a calendar year, though, just the knowledge of the month passing from February to March gives me that assurance that winter will pass and we will at last bask in spring, summer, and autumn. It hasn't happened yet, but it will; and though it hasn't happened yet, I was given that sign as an assurance of hope beyond a mere wish for winter to pass away. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. (2 Corinthians 5:14-19; the Message version)

Likewise, as we wait for the pain of this life to pass away, in the context of eternity, we can have an even greater assurance that we will move beyond this temporary abode into our permanent home in God himself. To find that assurance, we look to Jesus Christ: fully God, but fully man, crucified and risen! Victory has yet to be carried out, but as we look to the cross we can't help but be certain that death has been defeated. "My sin, not in part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more!" This is the Gospel. Why don't I allow myself to look to the cross in the face of the greatest despair or even the silliest things such as the bleak mid-winter?

There you have it, folks. My hope is in Christ alone. Even as I stumble to hold onto Jesus, I sincerely desire for my words tonight to steer you toward the cross.