Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Father's Joy

I absolutely love the family unit. One of the biggest reasons is that it’s a model God created for a definite reason. He shows himself to us in family, he created us to be in family. The greatest thing about being a parent is that I learn through it the heart of God. He describes himself as our heavenly Father, and we as (his) children. Thus, I believe that in watching my own children, I will learn the heart of the Father. What warms my heart as a father can’t be far off from what warms His heart. We’re created in his image, right?

One of the things that makes my wife the happiest is seeing our son be creative. Whether it’s wearing a bucket on his head like a hat, stacking boxes to create a BMX obstacle course, or using something in an
unconventional way with an end-goal in mind, she absolutely loves to see his creative mind at work. Today he pulled out his mega-blocks, and instead of building the usual tower, he placed them on their sides, connected in a line, and then slid another piece over it, thus creating a train on its tracks. It was beautiful, both of us beamed from above.

For me, I relish in his joy. When my son is giggling, laughing, and skipping around the room saying “happy, happy, happy,” I am at my most content. I love to see him enjoy his life. I love to see him take what’s in front of him, the many good gifts of a secure household, loving family, and tools for growth, and simply love it. His joy shoots mine through the roof.

And then both of us can say without a doubt we loooove when he wants to spend time with us. Not so much when he wants to take over our time (like sit on the computer when we’re working on financials), but when he simply wants to be with us. Playing quietly by mama’s side on the bed, or reading in daddy’s lap, or waling down the street, laughing at all of the beautiful sights and sounds in the world.

I believe that God is no different from us in these ways. He loves to see our creativity. He relishes in our joy. He covets our time together.

How have you made God smile today? Is creative expression, abundant joy, and simple abiding time a part of your life, your daily routine?

How do your kids (or friends, nieces/nephews, grandkids, pets?) most warm your heart?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

No So Progressive

My wife used to be known as the "queen hippie" within a circle of our friends. A stretch and a joke, it started with her conservatism of all resources: "turn off the water! unplug that when you're not using it! don't throw away those carrot peals/chicken bones/pepper cores/etc". Then add to that buying mostly all-natural stuff, reusable everything, her old thick-rimmed glasses, and the fact that every time we went camping she made and brought along fire starters of old toilet paper rolls. dryer lint and candle wax (and is a much better fire builder than myself), and she made a name for herself. Last night she exclaimed out of nowhere, "See, that's proof I'm no queen hippie!" What was she talking about? This list from Rachel Held Evans of 13 Things That Make Me a Lousy Progressive. She agrees with almost every one of them. A good and funny read.

Back-linking, we also read her 13 Things That Make Me a Lousy Evangelical, and laughed while realizing that we line up with about 9 of the 13 [won't say which :)].

So I guess we'll continue our Christian life in limbo, following this crazy guy named Jesus wherever he takes us!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Les Muffins Américaine

From time to time we find American food items in some of our local supermarkets. Usually not legitimate American brands, but some sort of international "American" brand complete with stars, stripes, and a statue of liberty. You pick it up, think "this looks pretty good, and normal, I'll take some home" (I usually buy one, and if it's good return the next day to buy out the store). Take these muffins for instance:

American muffin mix, mmmm. If you know me, you know I love muffins. In college they used to be my daily midnight snack (the "just add milk/water" version). Sadly, those mixes don't usually exist outside the US. My wife is a wonderful cook who can do anything from scratch, but she's on forced medical bed-rest right now. So I'm on my own. These puppies are a nice treat. Notice all the English on the front of the box? Mix for 12 Muffins, Chocolate with icing, cake cases included. Sweet!

Open it up and we have our baking mixture:

Now for the directions. Turn to the back:

Wait a second... where's the directions in English? I see French, German, Italian, Dutch, and there's Spanish and Portuguese on the side. But no English?! Seriously?! What, if an American picks up this American product are we supposed to innately know how to prepare it (metric conversions included)? Why is the cover in English but the directions in everything but? Oddly enough, this seems to be a pretty common occurrence.

Thankfully, the muffins still came out well and tasted great!

They're gone from the stores now though. Maybe again next fall!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alone in a Cave

I went for a hike. It had been awhile, and boy did it feel good. Through a forest, up and over a ridge with some great views, and back down the rock face to a cave in the rock. This cave dates back to the fifth century as a place of worship*. That’s a long time ago. Now it’s a monastery. Has been since at least 1295*.

Here’s a bit from what I wrote while there:

Inside the cave, complete with alter and benches, I hear nothing but the drip of water on the rock floor. I feel the cold, but it’s still, comforting even. The moment I stepped inside, me breath became a pulsating cloud in front of my face. I see the lit candles - plenty more are available for purchase - and I know that I’m not the first in here today. Statues, plaques, and an alter surround me. So say this is a holy place (the French Pope in the early 800’s officially appointed it as such*). Can a place really be holy? Especially an empty place? And yet, there’s something about it... not holiness, but clarity. The Bible says that the gate to life is narrow and few find it [Matthew 7:13-14]. When did we trick ourselves into thinking it wide? Maybe some of our massive (mostly American) gatherings are less “feeling the presence of God” and more feeling the presence of a whole lot of people. Maybe.

It hurts my heart every time I walk into the numerous upon numerous empty cathedrals, and yet something about it almost feels right. It’s all rather doomsdayish - to be alone in a dark chapel in a cave, village, or mountaintop - but also right. God is fully surrounding me and within me, He hems me in. When I’m here, alone, quiet, clarity is in the air. I listen, and I don’t feel so alone.

*All dating information presented was according to the sign that I read. It was in French. I reserve the right to say that any of this info could be wrong. But I think it’s close to correct.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A browse through this week's...

...French supermarket advert.

What does this look like? Yeah, I thought so too. No I don't want any.

A box of M&M's, on sale for a mere $15.18 (as of Saturday's exchange rate). What a steal! That's 25% off regular price. Ugh.

Grocery list:
Milk - check!
Bananas - check!
Chicken - check!
Zucchini - check!
9 day/7 night trip to Cuba - check!

This valentine's day, why not pick up this beautiful "Love Bites" (amour à croquer) pendant? Hey, it's in French, so it's romantic.

And finally, the obligatory Foie Gras page. Only in France is foie gras cheaper than M&Ms.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time is short, what should I do?

In a short couple of weeks, I'll be celebrating a birthday: my 29th. Ahh! It just hit me. That means I have only a year left before I'm that scary old age of 30.

In realizing this, I had one and only one sudden thought: I need a bucket list. I mean, with only a year left of 20's, I need to go out and live before my time is up!

So, what should go on my 20's bucket list? What must I accomplish before the years of taking Aleeve before a round of golf, afternoon naps, being totally outdated and clueless with current technology, fighting urges for donuts and seconds, being the big sweaty guy in rec basketball, and catching the buffet before the price changes at 430pm? Ok, maybe the last one isn't a 30's reference. What should 2011/2012 - my last year of 20's - hold?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Malawi to Ban Farting?

I'm going to meander back to my days in East Africa to bring up a current events topic that elicits a good snicker.

When we were in Tanzania learning Swahili, I managed to stumble onto all of the words for passing gas. Even though many Swahili words which come from English simply add an "i" to the end (like baiskeli for bicycle), it turns out that you can't discuss your footwear by saying "shoesi", as shuzi means "flatulence". Learning this did not stop me however from saying it, rather encouraging me all the more. I loved telling Tanzanian youth that because I have big feet I also have big shuzis.

Another favorite of mine was that a simple change of one vowel changed the typical greeting (root word Jambo, hujamo, sijambo, hatujambo etc) from "how are you/do you have any problems?" to "are you farting?" So when I saw unsuspecting tourists on safari who thought they'd picked up some of the local language, I would always greet them with a smile, "hujambi?" and receive a warm "si jambi!" (no breaking wind here!) in response.

But all this language silliness brings us to a serious issue. It seems that Malawi is currently trying to pass legislation that may ban farting in public. Seriously. Well sortof. Read the article. It may or may not be an intended application of the law, but it's the one the media's grabbed ahold of.

I remember a time in language school where I let one fly... My classmates laughed, my wife cringed and blushed, and my teacher shook his head with a smirk, "Bwana Michael, you can do that here, hamna shida, but in public, this you should not do."

I guess we really shouldn't do it in Malawi.

But then again, the last sentence of the article tells me that it's much ado about nothing. "When asked whether it could be enforced, he said it would be similar to laws banning urinating in public." If you've ever been to that part of the world, you know that no one has anything to worry about if that's the standard.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to move into a minuscule apartment

I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but everything is smaller in Europe. Compared to the USA that is. I can’t speak for the rest of the world. And really, all I know is urban life in France. But it’s a lot smaller. Cars, apartments, grocery aisles, meal portions, just about everything except prices.

One of the first things that all friends and family who come to visit notice is the tiny size of elevators here. In the cities (both Paris and Marseille), elevators are not built with the claustrophobic in mind. Many elevators are built for 2-3 people. And I don’t mean just in weight, but literally you’re not squishing more than 3 people in there. There’s certainly no attendant, and elevator music is out of the question. Pure functionality to get you from the bottom to the top or vice-versa. One elevator I rode in (which takes the cake for smallest to date) I backed into and was immediately touching all 3 walls, the back and both sides. As the door closed and the smell of cold steel hit my nose, I realized that had I done a few more pushups that day (ok, maybe any at all), I’d be touching all 4 walls for the ride up. I took the stairs down.

We have yet to move any furniture into an apartment (still waiting on that crate in the ocean...). Because of the minute elevators and equally small stairwells, we’ve often wondered about how people move furniture into their apartments. Ever joked about tossing a mattress through a second story window? We joke no more. A couple days ago I walked out onto our street and saw a moving van parked in front of the next building. Next to the moving van was a pickup truck with a fancy little contraption in it. It was like an extendable ladder conveyor belt. It shot up to the fourth floor, where it was hooked onto a balcony railing, and furniture rode right up. Amazing! I want one of those! Was the first time I’d seen anything like it, and I mostly thought it a novelty.

Then tonight as I read with my son before bed, I opened a book of his that has pages of different life scenes with questions and vocabulary accompanying (all in French, which puts us on about the same reading level). The scene we opened to was a typical city block: roundabout with flowers, garbage truck completing pickups, pizzas being sold out of the back of a van, dog doing his business on the sidewalk, and... a crane hoisting a couch up through a third floor window! It really is the only way to get furniture into an apartment, and the children’s book proves it. So simple, so practical. Or, you know, they could just put in bigger elevators and doors...