Thursday, February 11, 2010

This World is Not My Home...and Neither is Pandora!

I recently saw James Cameron's movie, Avatar, and loved it!  One of the things I liked best was how the main character, Jake Sully, became a part of the Na'vi tribe.  Even though he was an alien and different, he was accepted.

There were times when I felt that acceptance in China, especially back in 1989 when we first went there, but in our six years there, never a day went by without a reminder that I was a "lao wai" -- an outsider.

Now that we are heading to Italy, I'm hoping that things will be different.  But, to be honest, I'm not hopeful.  I don't think I'll get stared at quite as much when I walk down the street.  I hope I won't get pick-pocketed or robbed by butcher-knife wielding drug addicts simply because I'm a foreigner.  But, I anticipate that, even there in Italy, I will always be an "outsider."

Even here in America, I often feel a bit of an outsider.  Yes, even in my home country.

And, that's the crux of the matter.  It's not my home.  Philippians 3:20, 21 says, "...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who...will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."  (Who needs to be an Avatar, when our transformed bodies will be so much more glorious than even what James Cameron can make!)  When I get to Heaven and the New Earth, then -- and only then -- will I be home and no longer an outsider.  I will be accepted -- and by the One by whom I really want to be accepted!  That's what I'm really hoping for!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Counting the Cost

I have been on a soup kick... which of course means that I have been on a bread kick. Instead of just making it, the other day I went to a shop down the street. The three small loaves cost me one euro. And they were good. Not the best I've ever had - but definitely not the worst. Ah, but for a euro it was a good buy.
I think about our access to The Bread of Life. How in Him we find truth and purpose, hope and peace. And it really is amazing that it all is free. Or is it? living sacrifice, lay down your life, carry your cross... why do we gloss over the real cost? How dare we cheapen the most precious of gifts by saying it costs nothing. It costs everything. Absolutely everything. But the investment comes back ten fold times ten fold.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I came across a card I had sent to John many years ago. It had been reprinted from Faith at Work magazine. It seemed so appropriate then and it does now also. So I am sharing it here.

Ever feel like a frog? frogs feel slow, low, ugly, puffy, drooped, pooped. I know. One told me. The frog feeling comes when you want to be bright but feel dull. You want to share but are selfish. You want to be thankful but feel resentment. You want to be big but are small. You want to care but are indifferent. Yes, at one time or another each of us has found himself on the lily pad floating down the river of life. Frightened and disgusted, but too froggish to budge.

A Fairy Tale- Once upon a time there was a frog. But he wasn't really a frog. He was a prince who looked and felt like a frog. A wicked witch had cast a spell on him. Only the kiss of a beautiful young maiden could save him. But since when do cute chicks kiss frogs? So there he sat- unkissed prince in frog form. But miracles do happen. One day a beautiful maiden grabbed him up and gave him a big smack. Crash-boom-zap! There he was- a handsome prince. And you know the rest. They lived happily ever after.

Observation- So what is the task of the church? To KISS FROGS, of course.
Wes Seelinger

So go find a frog...or two!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Waiting In Hope

I have a friend from Brazil. Today we were trying to explain the difference between waiting and hoping. Apparently in Portuguese there is no difference.

And why should there be? If I am waiting on the Lord, aren't I hoping in Him? I have been thinking a lot about Romans 15:13 where God is called The God of Hope.

It's so easy to let our waiting be just ambling along without purpose and joy. What if it we thought about it as hoping instead?

Hmmm... what are we waiting for?

Monday, January 11, 2010

To Do What?

I have a big Write-On/Wipe-Off board in m office with the title "The Big To-Do". It contains a perpetual To-Do list. Each task is under a certain topic: mail, blog, cleaning, budget, etc... Our team has fancy web-based tools to help me be organized, but I really, really love that I get to erase this board. And that the white space keeps getting bigger. Well, until the end of the month. Anyway, on my boar I have some dates listed. In front of them it says: Reminder.
Remind who? Remind them of what? How can I remind them of something I can't remember and don't know why I'm reminding them of it? See how confusing it gets?
What good is this task written on my board if I don't know what it means?
And that's exactly why God gave us Paul. Jesus said "Love." Paul tells us exactly how to do that. Encourage one another and build each other up. Carry each other’s burdens. Honor one another above yourselves. Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Don’t seek your own good, but the good of the other person. Comfort each other. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Maybe we need to sit down and make the to-do list a little more detailed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Love Seat

I'm sitting in the Munich airport, on a very long lay-over. I'm on a couch that's not too shabby. There's one facing me. And in the last several hours it has been both seat and bed to several people. Now there's two teen aged sisters sitting with their blond haired-blue-eyed parents. The mom is curled up with her head on the dad's lap. Her shoes are off. One sister has her head on the other's shoulder. The dad is listening to his ipod but he's fallen asleep too. They all are breathing the deep breaths of just sitting after hours of rushing. I wonder where they came from? Where they're going?
I'm mesmerized by love these days. The pretty shapes of couples giggling in each other's ears. The sweet shapes of an old man shuffling next to his old wife, each barely holding one another up. And here. This family. This tired family full of stories and purpose and joys and aches that I will never know.


My friends from our sister team in central Italy came this weekend. Although I was very intimidated to speak Italian in front of them, the little I did brought great amusement to them. I speak with an "dialect" they tell me - a Northern one! Like a Veronese. Every time I think about it, I'm just tickled. That I belong here. That this is home. That this is my language. I don't even know how to say the word "dialect"... maybe dialecto? Anyway, if I did know how to say it, it would sound like I am from Verona. And that's a really, really good thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Seasons. Except for my college years, I have never lived where there were dramatic seasons. And in Verona - there are dramatic seasons. I haven't minded the winter like I thought I would - but I am celebrating today. It's the shortest day of the year. I'm so thankful. Not that I really want a short day today - but I do want, and even need - a longer one tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that.

I googled "Winter Solstice" today so that I could truly understand it to celebrate it in a real way. Umm... I didn't understand a lick of the Wikipedia article. But that won't stop me from celebrating!

And what a good reminder that I don't have to understand everything about the Lord in order for me to really celebrate Him. I don't understand how He can be omniscient or omnipowerful... or even how He could love me when I'm so full of sin. But I don't have to get the details. I just need to trust that tomorrow there will be more light.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dirty Stables: God's Prefered Choice

Is your stable clean or dirty?

A friend recently told me how he came across Proverbs 14:4:  'Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest."

We would love to have a showroom home.  Picture-perfect lives.  A "clean stable," if you will.  But the only way to have a clean stable is to get rid of the oxen in our lives.  That is, our lives would be more managable and attractive, perhaps, if:
  • I lived and worked in the US, so that we could own a large home, two cars, etc.
  • Ann worked outside the home
  • We sent our kids to public school
  • My office wasn't in the middle of our living room
  • Ann's workspace didn't double as our dining room table
  • We weren't always moving
  • etc.
As attractive as our stable might be, it would still be a stable and its purpose wouldn't be fulfilled.

So, for that reason, we are so glad we have a dirty stable, full of oxen, so that we can reap a large harvest, because...

"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."  -Jesus

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Going through Hell

Recently, I was looking through our old newsletters from our time of preparation to go to China.  I had recorded there an account of a little girl who said, "You know, if you dug through the Earth to get to China, you'd have to go through Hell first."  At the time, I really knew what she meant.  Sometimes, it felt like we were "going through Hell" to get to China. 

As any good Christian geophysicist knows, you don't have to go through Hell to get to Italy, but I think we get close sometimes!  But, during this last sprint to arrive in Italy on January 7th, we have certainly felt the presence of the evil one.  We know what to do in those situations, though. 

"Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you."  (James 4:7)


Monday, November 30, 2009

A Poco A Poco

Language learning happens little by little... and it seems like forever. Which is exactly how long it will take. I've been speaking English for 31 years (for the first three I refused to speak) and just recently have learned two new English words.
But this isn't about English.
It's about Italian.
Sometimes I feel like I just don't know anything.

A few years ago, a friend gave me one of those Tear Off A Page calendars. Every page had an Italian phrase or idiom on it with a tiny translation in English under it. I remember not knowing anything that whole year.
One came in the mail today. And as I browsed through it, I could translate them all - all by myself! Now I wouldn't have been to say them correctly - but I understood them perfectly. And that's more than I could do even four months ago.
Today I was trying to explain how (as some people believe) that sediment on the ocean floor became a rock formation in central Italy. I could do it. It was simple. It was as if a 2nd grader was saying it - but I could do it.
Little by little. Step by step. A piano a piano. A poco a poco.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just a song

quoting a song by Jon Foreman:
Heavenly Father you always amaze me
Let your Kingdom come in my world and in my life
Give me the food I need to live through the day
and forgive as I forgive the people that wronged me
Lead me far from temptation deliver me from the evil one

I look out the window
the birds are composed
not a note is out of tune or out of place
I walk to the meadow and stare at the flowers
that would dress any girl on her wedding day

Why should I worry? why do I freak out?
God knows what I need, You know what I need

Your love is your love is your love s is strong
your love is your love is your loves is strong
your love is your love is your loves is strong

The kingdom of the heavens is now advancing
invade my heart invade this broken town
the kingdom of the heavens is burried treasure
would you sell yourself to buy the one your found

two things you told me that your are strong and you love me
yes you love me

Your love is your love is your loves is strong
your love is your love is your loves is strong
your love is your love is your loves is strong

Our God in heaven hallowed be thy name is above all names
your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
give us today our daily bread forgive us weary sinners
keep us far from our vices and deliver us from this prison

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


As we just moved from a home into a small apartment less than a month ago, we had to downsize our belongings quite a bit.  When we move to Italy on January 6, 2010, we'll have to downsize even more.  At times like these we realize how much "stuff" we've got.  I recently heard a poem about stuff that I'd like to share with you.

Stuff, by Don McCaleb

I got stuff.
Good stuff.  Happy stuff.
Successful, sensational, recreational, relaxational stuff.

Mac stuff, PC stuff, I-stuff.
Fun fashion, cool cash and fast action.
Rocket ships and chocolate chips.
Stuff with crosses, Christian fishes.
Stuff beyond my wildest wishes.

And you can't take my stuff.

My stuff is the needle that drops to the vinyl
to start the party and spin the spiral.

My stuff immediately, impressively, incessantly
illuminates my import,
and by stuff is loud.
It commands respect and you can't neglect
when my stuff says, "I have arrived, And this is what I'm all about!"
My stuff identifies me.
And I
with my

My stuff is so high you can't get over it,
so wide you can't get round it.
You can't handle my stuff!

My stuff is the needle that tattoos my skin,
signifying the significance of who I am.

I got stuff.
Stuff from my past...
that follows me around
like some run-down evangelist-carnival caravan
that keeps coming to town.

In the amusement-park dark
swaggering saints from the shadows shout my shattered story,
selling sacred success-souvenirs and seductive soul-sideshows.
Their slanted slogans solicit me, slander me, compel me.  Tell me
fortunes I regret that I can't forget.
And seeking grace I surrender to the stuff-spell,
but it conjures no confession, no communion;
just a constant carousel of clamor
that casts out the quiet and the questions,
So I don't have to hear my heart...beat.

My stuff is a Ferris wheel that takes me up to the top
and drops me right back down again.
But after a while I twist and I spin,
and I want off,
but the ride never stops.

I got stuff.

Right now
my stuff is an elevator straight to the penthouse floor!
But sometimes,
no matter what number I push,
I can't seem to open the door.

You can't handle my stuff.

My stuff is the needle that injects my vein,
and it's warm like a fever and it spreads like a stain
and it itches, and I scratch, and I dig
til it burns like a blaze.
But all I have in my hands is gasoline,
and I can't stop the flame.

I got stuff.

You can't handle my stuff.
You can't take my stuff.
Can You?  Take my stuff?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dimmi Tutti (dee-mee too-tee)

My favorite phrase is one that I hear at least ten times a day. And I love it. It means, "tell me everything!" ...when I am stumbling through a tough question and can't find the words to ask for a word I need in class, Enrico says, "Dimmi tutti." When I walk into a shop and don't know exactly what I'm looking for, the sweet old man says, "Di mi tutti." When I sit down with a new friend she says, "Di mi tutti."
There's something about it that says I'm Ready To Listen To You.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Every September, Verona hosts a street game festival. It's like something I've never seen before. Think of the best fair you've ever been to: games, food, stands where you buy things you don't need. Then turn it up about two notches and add 30 or so more games. Now sprinkle it all over the city. And make it free.
Every year they choose a country's heritage to celebrate. This year, it's Greece. So, there are Greek games and Italian games. Some very traditional with traditional garb and some modern games. Some are for children and some are for adults. This picture is of some sort of wresting game. There were instruments that looked like wooden flutes that sounded like bagpipes playing.
The streets are full of people wondering from game to game. So fun! My favorite one to watch was some number game. The men sat around a table and would yell out numbers while doing some sort of hand gestures. They obviously knew when they lost and the next person would play. It was in fast forward. Anyone could play. Maybe I'll sit in next year.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Simple Life

Friday afternoon my beautiful new cabinets were installed in my kitchen. I am so thankful for all the people in Italy who made that happen as well as my supporters in America. I really am pleased with them.
But... somehow I'm already missing the old kitchen. The one with the ironing bored set up as the counter. The one with the little outdoor plastic table that wobbled when you looked at it and was too low to sit at as a "table". The one where Giacamo knocked over a bottle and spent forever mopping the floor. The one where Yuko quickly and diligently rolled her sushi. The one where I demonstrated the art of making an Italian cappuccino via Skype to San Antonio. The one where I sat on the floor on a rainy day picking out furniture.
It's like when my parents reminisce about being so poor that they could only afford beans when they first got married. And how their early apartments were so very tiny...
Because those memories are so very sweet. They are the first ones - the ones that make you realize that it will be OK... the ones where you are so in love nothing matters except being together... the ones that make you realize that you don't need a utensil drawer to have a great evening.
You just need great people... and a little bit of slowing down to enjoy what is around you... and a heart that's ready to dive into every experience that comes your way.
And the truth is that those things still can happen with a kitchen full of beautiful cabinets.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Augustus' Holidays

Tomorrow is a holiday in Italy. It's a big one. In fact, it is often coupled with the fact that it is the end of summer and people take lots of vacation in August. August 15th is called "Ferragosto". It is also known as "festa dell'assunta", or Feast of the Assumption (of Mary). The catholic church believes that Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not die, but instead was "taken up", from the Latin word: assumptio).

Before the catholic church however, the Roman Empire used this day to honor the gods and the cycle of fertility and ripening. The name, Ferragosto, comes from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti (Festivals of the Emperor Augustus).

I walked through town today and noted all the shops that were closed and/or closing for Ferragosto. Most stores that were closed, did so for more than just Saturday. Several took the week off and many took two. I saw two places that closed for one whole month. In Ancona, one of our favorite restaurants closed for two months!!!

Tonight, Angie went into the 'centro' (main center of town) and strolled. There were people everywhere which was not terribly uncommon on any given night of the week. We did catch a Rockabilly/Blues concert in one area that was part of a two day holiday celebration. After walking around some more, we stopped and had a crepe. So delicious. A crepe is like a very thin pancake and they put all sorts of wonderful toppings on it. We tried a new place. Angie had a crepe with a chocolate nut spread and bananas. I had one with berry jam, bananas and cream. Good stuff. Happy Ferragosto everybody!

For more on...
The Assumption of Mary

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the Street Where I Live

I love the street we live on. It is a pretty tree lined street. The trees reach up from both sides and cast a cool shadow over us on hot summer days. You don’t even need to wear your sunglasses as you walk! The trees have a mix of yellow and green leaves and most days yellow leaves are on the ground. It has a feeling of fall with leaves falling and it is a constant reminder that cooler days of my favorite season are just around the corner. We try to take our dog, Brinkley, for a walk each day and lots of days we walk up and down this street. We are almost always stopped by someone who wants to pet him or play for a minute. Sometimes we run into a neighbor and we stop for a chat.

There are a few little coffee shops and as you walk by you get a whiff of rich Italian coffee. The tables outside are almost always full of people sitting and chatting. It is a neighborhood street and so everyone is out either running errands or just out for a nice walk. You see moms with their kids and strollers, other dog walkers and others carrying home their groceries. I always feel revived after our little walks. I always come home feeling part of a community. God knew what He was doing when He chose this apartment and this street for us to live on!