Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TestaMints and Soul Surgery

Sorry for the gaps between posts, but things have been crazy here. But as they say, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." I don't know who "they" are, but I'm hoping that they are right, or else I'm writing this for myself, which still wouldn't be all that bad.

What's new here in Spain? So glad you asked. God is doing a pretty good job at showing me my sin and all its subtleties in deception. It is exactly what I have been praying for, and even though it hurts a lot, I'm thankful for it. As John Hutch preached at my church before I came to Spain, when we see ourselves as small, we necesarily see God as big. Unfortunately, I tend toward the opposite view, seeing myself as big and God as small. When I am the lord of my life, all my problems and frustrations overwhelm me because I can't fix them, and I see God as powerless, trapped in His ivory tower in heaven, unable to come to my help. But when I make a conscious effort to view myself, my life, my problems, etc...in the way that God sees them, He becomes my all powerful Savior, who is with me at all times and working for my good in all things. With this mindset, God is REAL. The way He tells us He is in His word, not the way my sinful flesh tells me He is.

The most difficult part in all this is seeing how deep my sin actually runs. Especially my sin of self-sufficiency. The Lord has been constantly reminding me of how little I depend on His wisdom, guidance, presence, and grace to live my life. I'm so often unsatisfied because I seek satisfaction in God's gifts instead of in Him as the giver. Anyway, I am seeing that sin taints everything I do, and asking God to show me this fact has opened me up the way a medieval torture chamber would...except that God is good. He is doing it surgically, and although it hurts, it is the best thing for me. As Derek Webb puts it in a song of his, "When what is true looks more like a knife, it looks like You're killing me, but You're saving my life."

And so I continue to pray that God would take every ounce of self-love and self-suffieciency out of my life, so that I might love and worship Him above myself. It hurts to watch Him open me up and start taking so much out, but I trust Him to be the Master Surgeon, who is doing exactly what it takes to save my life. As Jesus said, "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

Also, while I was in Marrakech this past weekend (very interesting place, more to come later) we were all joking about how Christians can put a Bible verse on anything and get other Christians to buy it. Take TestaMints, for example. Why should I buy a package of TestaMints when I can buy Certs for a lot less money? And I don't have to drive to the Bible Superstore to get them either. Anyway, my idea was to market Christian deodorant with the slogan--"Let the Gospel be offensive, not your odor!" Throw a verse on there about your life being a sweet smelling sacrifice unto the Lord and you could make millions.

But if you like TestaMints and stuff like that, please don't be offended. I'm glad your breath smells great, it's just that I feel there are better ways for you to spend your money.

I will leave you with a verse from Psalm 70 that I read this weekend.

"Yet I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay."
--Psalm 70:5

Amen. And He will come to our aid.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Worldview

So last week was the last of my Bible classes, and it was very interesting. We were told by our teacher, "Imagine a Martian asks you, 'What is a tree?', what is your definition?" Wondering where he was going with this, everybody scribbled down something along the lines of "a tree is type of plant that has roots, a trunk, branches and leaves." But I couldn't write anything. The same definition came to my mind, but I was prevented from writing anything by a question of my own, namely, "A Martian doesn't know what a tree is, so how is it possible to describe what roots, a trunk, branches, and leaves are?" You could define each of those individual traits, but then how do you define the traits of the traits, and so on until you pass out from thinking too much. Then, our teacher brought in a bunch of shrubs and stuff, and played Martian's Advocate--"Is this a tree? It has roots, a wooden trunk, branches and leaves." When someone in the class would say that it wasn't a tree, the teacher asked why it wasn't. And it's true, our definitions lacked something. They were difintions for people who already knew what trees were.

On top of that, almost everybody drew a picture of the same type of tree, your average apple tree. I've never even seen an apple tree, but that's what I drew. Mine even had apples in it. Of course, Molly drew a palm tree. But I'm sure if they had apple trees at the beach, that's what she would have drawn.

So, what was the point? I'll answer the way my teacher did: "What's the point? Well, you see, a tree is...(bell clanging) well, it's time for your break." Just kidding, there was a real point, but I'm going to connect it to the next section of the course. Each culture has it's own way of looking at the world. When I, being from the West (culturally, not geographically), try to tell someone from the East why I'm going to put my parents in a retirement home (just kidding Mom and Dad), it is like explaining a tree to a Martian. They have no idea what it looks like to not take care of your parents/grandparents yourself. They will never understand it. Unless...

...you can find a way to communicate it to them. The best ways to accomplish this, immerse yourself in their language, culture, etc., until you begin to understand life the way they do. Then you can explain to them why you would abandon your parents in terms they can understand.

Jesus did something like this when he would talk with the religious people of his day. They had their own definition of what sin was, but he didn't correct them by saying that their definition was wrong and give them another definition, he did it through stories and analogies that SHOWED them what sin was. For example, when the rich young ruler told him "I've kept all the commandments since my youth," Jesus said, "This one thing you lack, go and sell all your belongings and give them to the poor." He wasn't telling the rich young ruler to obey THIS law and he would be saved, he was telling the rich young ruler that he hadn't really kept the law in the way he had thought. It is not disobedience that is a sin, but sin causes disobedience. Of course, I've lost all ability to think and write clearly, so it isn't airtight, but you get the picture...Jesus used every means possible to communicate sin as a concept, not just a list of things you shouldn't do.

Anyway, I hope all is well wherever you are.

Today I'm thankful for the renewal that comes from being out of the city for three weeks with a bunch of latinos and God. It was awesome.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Coffee...good. Keep...awake...long time.

Last week I attended the first of what will be three weeks of Bible classes, and it was awesome. Everything was in Spanish and learned a lot. For the first couple of days I understood about 90% of what was said, but that percentage, along with the hours I slept, dropped every day thereafter. Let's just say that I consumed more coffee in the last week than the previous 26 years. Did I mention that I learned a lot, too?

Oh yeah, and there was a pool.

And I played soccer for the second, third, and fourth times in my life.

This afternoon I had an interesting conversation with a very eccentric Jehovah's Witness. I had just told my friend JJ that I was disappointed because I still felt like I can't really communicate who I am in Spanish--you know heart stuff--when this guy approached us and started telling us these crazy "bible" stories. JJ has known him for quite awhile, but I just met him for the first time. It was fun to have a spirited conversation with him in Spanish and I hope to talk with him again sometime.

But I still feel like my spanish needs to improve a butt-load.

Well, it's time to call the Padres (my family, not the baseball team) so I better bid you all farewell.

Today I'm thankful that my Dad sent me his phone number so I can call him. I'm starting to forget some things that I never thougth were possible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fashion Faux Pais, Part III

Since my arrival in Spain, I have been compiling a series of observations regarding fashion which I am calling, "Fashion Faux Pais." The first two articles in the series can be found here and here. Interest has been expressed in publishing them as an editorial in Vogue Spain this fall, but I'm not sure if I want to prostitute my observations like that. Here is Part III.

About a month ago, while I was braving the mid-day heat, I saw what appeared to be a wrestling singlet walking down the street. At first, I had serious doubts as to whether or not my eyes were playing tricks on me. I mean, who in their right mind would dare to walk the streets in a singlet? it's just common sense. Strike One. Unfortunately, common sense wasn't the only natural law to be shattered in the moments that followed. On top of that, the person had long hair, and, upon further inspection, was proven to be of the female gender. Strike Two. And thirdly, the singlet was an animal print. Ouch!! Strike Three. Ladies, please refrain from wearing your tiger-striped wrestling singlet in public. You should know better...it's a lose-lose situation.

My second observation doesn't come from any specific event, but is broader in scope. It deals with sexism within street fashion. The heat in Andalucia can be unbearable, and anybody and everybody will do anything to escape it's clutches. Common measures taken by both men and women alike: Staying indoors during the hottest parts of the day, drinking plenty of fluids, walking through department stores that are climate controlled. These are great remedies, but the female has one tremendous advantage over a man. She can take off practically all her clothing without being stared at (in the "you're weird" way, at least), mocked, or judged. I'm certain that I can't say the same for myself. If I walked around Granada as they do, with only 3.7% of my body covered, I would most definitely garner unwanted attention (yes, in the "you're weird" way). And not a few people would be nauseated, if not blinded.

So, I'm calling out the women of Granada by way of protest. Either you start wearing more clothes, or we will start wearing less. Do not be mistaken. These aren't empty threats, and failure to comply will only result in your own personal suffering and that of many innocent tourists. Sometime in the future I will declare a M.A.S.S. (March Against Sexism in Style) manifestation for all men who have had their brows beaten by the merciless sun of inequality around which the fashion industry revolves.


Sweaty men of the world unite!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

MoroccoMuseMath

Almost a month between posts. What this proves is that when you don't have as much access to the internet, you use it a lot less frequently. Who would have thought? Anyway, here are a few pictures from this summer.

This is a dead goldfish inside a fountain in the Alhambra.



Chef Chouen, Morocco. Everything is painted blue. Our guide said that it is to keep the flies away. "The blue, it confuses them," he told us. Through some independent research at his child's birthday party, singer-songwriter Shaun Groves agrees.




Chef Chouen, from a distance. We hiked the short distance to a mosque that the Spanish built. It was never used because it was built facing the wrong direction. This picture is taken from that trail.



The bigger white building in the foreground is the tomb of what is basically a Sufi saint. All the small white rectangles surrounding the tomb are the graves of people who are buried near the saint to gain God's favor. They are buried face up and facing East, so that they are ready for the resurrection.



The Laramie river. Not in Spain or Morocco. Wyoming.


Today I'm thankful for catching up on some email, meeting with Feli (one of my language exchanges), and listening to the Mute Math and Muse albums I downloaded yesterday. Music is awesome.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Love, Love, Love

Quite a while ago, I asked you all a question: How do you know that God loves you? The responses to this question were so underwhelmingly few that I have come to the conclusion that God doesn't love any of you. Just kidding. I received some great responses that were very encouraging. One friend, who is the Pastor of a small church in Hick, Indiana (not the real name), said that he knows of God's love because he has been commisioned to preach the Gospel. Another said that when she sees the moon she knows that God loves her. Someone even sent me a list of fifty, that's right, fifty reasons why she knows that God loves her.

But now you ask me, "Why, Mike Gorski, did you pose this question?" Well, since I know that you have all been losing sleep over it, and your relief is at my disposal, here is my response.

I often question that He does. Very often.

This all came up while I was reading Don Miller's book "Blue Like Jazz" a few months ago. In one of the sentences in one of the paragraphs in one of the chapters, he basically says that you can't love other people until you learn that God loves you. I won't go into all the reasons why I think this is true, but I think it is perfectly accurate. Anyway, I started to think, and ended up asking myself if I believe that God loves me. And the answer? Sort of.

In an abstract sense, I have no doubt that God loves me. For all the reasons people sent me, for the innumerable times it is mentioned in Scripture, I know it's true. But why do I struggle to BELIEVE these truths? Answer--I want to suffer for my sin. I know that I can't pay for my sin, only Christ's blood can do that. I'm not trying to do good works in order to be saved, it is impossible. For that very reason I want to suffer. God has done what no man could--He has taken His enemies, and, through His love, made them His children. But I feel guilty that He ever had to reconcile me to Himself.

Imagine a feast, prepared by a Father for his children. The food is of unmatched quality, but even more important, it is seasoned with a love that has no rival. They all gather to eat, but one of the children refuses to sit at the table with the others. He refuses to eat anything but the scraps that are going to be thrown away. He feels this way because he was adopted, rescued from the worst conditions imaginable, where he had no hope, no dreams, no possibilities. He was already dead, it's just that his body was catching up to the truth. Then, all of a sudden, he was adopted. It was his Father who saved him, and who tenderly summons him to the table at this very moment. The child still refuses to eat. In his eyes, the Father shouldn't have had to rescue him in the first place, and now he feels like a burden. But all of his siblings are adopted as well, and the Father continues to affectionately call him his son and invite him to join in the feast.

His name is Mike Gorski.

God still fervently pursues him.

And His love will never fail.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How Do You Know That God Loves You?

A question for YOU:

How do you know that God loves you?

Examples.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long, we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." --Romans 8:35-39

Or, "We have asked to see Your face and noticed nothing, but a well-timed, honest smile from a friend."--The Normals

I would love to hear from you all on this, either through comments or emails. Answers can come from anything.



Today I'm thankful for Shandy, which cools me down when it's 108 degrees out at 6pm.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I can't believe I drank the whole thing!

Actually, I can, because I love anything chocolate.

Before.


During.


After.


Enough said.

And today I'm thankful for the renewal that God brought me through the Granada Prayer Conference.

Monday, June 25, 2007

...These are a few of my favorite hymns...

Julie Andrews was once in a musical called "The Sound of Music." You may have heard of it. It is a story of love, and singing, and mountains, and nannying, and nuns, and Nazis--really, it contains every topic imaginable. Except monkeys on rollerskates, which definitely would have added another dimension to the story. Especially if these monkeys smoked and drank, and came from the wrong side of the tracks, but had a redemptive encounter with the famous singing Von Trapp family, who then recruited the monkeys to help keep the Nazis out of beautiful Austria. Supposedly, one chimpanzee has the strength of ten men, and on roller skates they could easily double their speed.

I digress.

Anyway, I basically wrote the song, "My Favorite Things." Oscar Hammerstein didn't know it at the time, but he was pre-plagiarizing all the lyrics from my pre-prenatal self. Think about it. "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens." And, "Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes; Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; Silver white winters that melt into springs; These are a few of my favorite things." I have seen a rose. I had a cat at home, and I even kind of miss her. Don't even get me started on mittens. And girls? Who doesn't like girls. I know I do.

But for whatever reason, the line, "These are a few of my favorite things", just reminded me of some of the greatest verses from my favorite hymns. I have a soft spot in my heart for hymns. While others may cringe at the somewhat archaic language, I embrace it. Hymns speak of the deepest truths of the Christian faith in the most beautiful and poetic ways, while many modern songs communicate through vulgar expressions that make it sound like God is your girlfriend and you're just saying a bunch of cliché 'I love yous' in the hopes of making out. Yes, I'm overexaggerating. Most modern worship songs aren't really that bad...maybe...probably...okay, you got me--I sing them when I'm in the shower or when nobody is around. But I really, really, really love hymns. Maybe not as much as girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, but I love them nonetheless. So here are a few of my favorite verses from my favorite hymns.

NOT WHAT MY HANDS HAVE DONE
"Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers,
And sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy power alone O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save Thine,
No other blood will do,
No strength save that,
Which is divine,
Can bear me safely through."

LET US LOVE AND SING AND WONDER
"Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God."

I ASKED THE LORD
"1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low


6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
'Tis in this way' The Lord replied
'I answer prayer for grace and faith'

7. 'These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.'”

TO CHRIST THE LORD LET EVERY TONGUE
"He saw me plunged in deep distress
He fled to my relief
For me He bore the shameful cross
And carried all my grief
His hand a thousand blessings pours
Upon my guilty head
His presence gilds my darkest hours
And guards my sleeping bed

Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine
Had I a thousand hearts to give
Lord, they should all be Thine
A thousand men could not compose
A worthy song to bring
Yet Your love is a melody
Our hearts can’t help but sing!"

Amen. I don't even know if Jonathan Edwards could have said it better himself. And it should be obvious what I'm thankful for today--not only are these songs beautiful, but they are true!

Oh yeah, and, "Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels; Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles; Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings; These are a few of my favorite things."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I Comprendo'd

Today I had a breakthrough at church, though it may have been scaled down to just a semi-breakthrough after talking with a few other people. I understood the message. I could follow every point he made, and felt motivated by it! Of course, it was all in English, but at this point, what does that matter? Just kidding. It was in Spanish, and I really did understand it all. But after the service a few other people said that they like it when this guy preaches because they can understand him, so it probably has less to do with my Spanish improving than I originally thought. If the church cared about us Americans AT ALL, they would have this guy preach every Sunday. I'll give it a few weeks and if they don't budge, I'll have to see if I can get "The W" to come over the Atlantic and throw his weight around. I'm talking some serious economic sanctions here. Seriously.

And today I'm thankful that people only hear the words that come out of my mouth, not the ones in my head. That would be ugly.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Earthquake!

Have you ever been on the ride 'Earthquake!' at Universal Studios. Me neither, but as of this morning I have experienced the real deal. That's right, add 'been in an earthquake' to Mike Gorski's long list of firsts since arriving in Spain. I was writing a few emails this morning when my apartment building started moving. It was a very interesting feeling, short as it was.

After that I headed out to the market, but not before having an argument with someone over what you call a cordless drill. Apparently, it's only a drill if you use it to drill holes. I'm still calling it a cordless drill, NOT a screwdriver, even if you are using it to drive screws. I think that Black & Decker is just taking advantage of stay-at-home Moms who think they need two separate tools to do the job of one--the cordless drill.

The market went really well. I talked to quite a few people and gave out some quality Christian literature in all kinds of languages. Oh yeah, and I had a Granizado, which is basically a lemonade slurpee. It turned out to be ironic since the verse I put on the white board in front of our table read:

JESUS SAID--"I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; WHOEVER COMES TO ME SHALL NOT HUNGER, AND WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER THIRST." JOHN 6:35

I wonder what people were thinking as they walked by the table. I'm sure it went something like this: "What's this? That sure is a handsome young lad there at that white table. And it seems that something is written on the front of the table. I can't quite make out what it says, so I better get a closer look. I say, he is even more strapping the closer you get to him. Must come from good breeding stock. And what is it that the sign says? Never have thirst or hunger? And what is it that this adonis has in his hand? A Granizado? Oh, that looks swell. Then the sign must be speaking of a spiritual or figurative thirst, of course. He is quite the specimen though."

Yes, it would've made a great picture, me standing in front of this verse while drinking a refreshing Granizado.

Today I'm thankful for my time in the market, meeting new people and practicing Spanish. I really enjoyed it a lot. And, I used the previously mentioned cordless drill to put together some shelves afterward. And Wilco's album 'Being There' (Disc One) is rocking my world right now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The kind of mexican food you made as a freshman in college...but worse.

Last night I ate in a mexican restaurant called Chile Grande, and it was bad. It all started that morning in class when I overheard my teacher mention meeting a group of people to eat at a mexican restaurant. Hmm. Mexican food beats a ham and cheese sandwich (though not shawarma), I thought to myself. And I love Mexican food and haven't eaten any since arriving in Spain. Okay, I'll go.

My first mistake was letting my Corona Village withdrawals take over and move me to go. When you haven't eaten anything that even comes close to resembling spicy for three months, you start to get cold sweats, nausea, and the shakes. Just like an ex-smoker misses holding a cigarette in hand, my fingers were desperate to hold a corn chip weighed down with a good salsa.

My second mistake was believing my teacher when she told me it would be good, authentic, mexican food. I don't think she's ever had real mexican food. But it's not her fault. She's from spain and mexico is quite a ways away from spain the last time I checked.

The first plate was chips and salsa. The second, a quesadilla made up of what tasted like a few pieces of melted american cheese between flour tortillas. Next came the "tacos," which, in spain, means mini burritos that your little brother made when he got home from school every day--in fourth grade. Seriously, I've made better "tacos", and I don't remember ever making tacos in my life.

This was not a real mexican restaurant. It was a house of lies.

On a more serious note, this week I read Don Miller's "Blue Like Jazz." Honestly, I thought I was going to hate it, but I couldn't put it down. It was a great book and I'm going to refrain from saying any more on the subject because it will make up my next post. Also, I got back from morocco a week from tomorrow. I'll get some better pictures from my friends, but I'll put one on here to keep you interested. I guess that will take up another post as well.

Today, I'm thankful for what God has been teaching me through the aforementioned book. He has given me some amazing insight from the place I least expected it--an emergent sympathizing best-selling Christian author. This may have been the first really popular Christian book I've ever read. If the author is still alive it means it's not worth reading, right? Just kidding.

Good night.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Fashion Faux Pas Part Deux

I just saw a girl wearing a denim mini-skirt and what appeared to be either wrestling shoes or the shoes you wear to race cars. Move over Hulk Hogan...or, um, Jeff Gordon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hyperactive Piano Drums

Close to two weeks between posts. Again. But as Steve Zissou said, "You know how I feel about apologies, so if it's all the same I'll just skip it...well, anyway I'm sorry." I will try to post more often as keeping up the blog really helps me keep up the introspection. In the meantime, here are two videos one of my teachers told me about. They're awesome.





Today I'm thankful for the time I will be studying for my Spanish test tomorrow. This is the first time in my life where I can literally walk out onto the street and apply what I've learned in class right away. Amazing!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Las Guitarristas (Parte Dos)

Here is a video of my roommate and I playing guitar on our terrace. He's good and is soloing. I am playing rhythm and can't keep time.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gini's School for Wives who can't Cook Good and Wanna Learn to do Other Things Good Too.

I know, I know, long time no blog, but I've been really busy and tired. A lot has been going on lately, though nothing really huge. Last weekend I went to a national park called Cazorla to spend four days with my people here, getting to know each other and what not. It was a lot of fun and I actually did learn a lot about everybody. For example, if I ever get married, I hope that my wife would be willing to attend Gini's School for Wives who can't Cook Good and Wanna Learn to do Other Things Good Too..

I'm still in language school, and I'm still making progress, though at times very slowly. On some days I can just tell that it is going to be hard to speak. I just feel it while walking to class. Very frustrating. But, I guess as long as I am learning new things, eventually it will all come pouring out.

Anyway, I'm having trouble thinking, a common thing these days, so here are a few pictures to feed your lust for...pictures.
This first one is a picture of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas, a lookout place. Beautiful.


This one is of the street that I walk down everyday to leave or return to my apartment. At any given moment it is filled with tourists. Your hear a lot of German on this street, and the buses can go by pretty fast. You definitely want to hug the wall sometimes.


A couple weeks ago, a few of us went on a hike after church. It was a nice little jaunt to a rural park, where we threw a frisbee and enjoyed the nice weather. Plus, it almost felt like we were sitting on real grass, a rarety here. There is a little grass in one of the parks in town, but you aren't supposed to sit on it, and I'm not a lawbreaker.


This is a picture from our retreat. While driving there I saw more olive trees than ever before in my life, which isn't saying a lot, except that there really were a ton of olive trees. I guess that's why olive oil is so cheap here. Anyway, it was beautiful.


In ending this post I would say that I'm thankful for the nap I took this afternoon. Yesterday, I went hiking again with friends and it was a long day, mostly because of the company. Just kidding. It was actually because I left my house a little before ten, went hiking until 6:30, then hung out with the hiking crew until I had to meet some people for tapas at 8:30. I finally went to bed a little after midnight, so the nap was just what I needed. Plus, when I was meeting with my program director this week he asked me how he could pray for me. I told him that I was still really tired, a common theme lately, and he responded with something along the lines of, "this sounds like a recurring problem, what are you going to do about it." And nap I did.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thankful Part 2

Once again, I forgot to end my last post with something I'm thankful for. It seems this is becoming a habit. Anyway, today I'm thankful for...well, honestly, it's a bit hard to think of something, so I'll have to get back to you. I guess I could say something like, I'm thankful for my iPod because it facilitates one of my favorite activites, listening to music. Or something about getting better at Spanish, which I am thankful for, but that string has already been plucked. Maybe I should just be thankful that this blog has forced me to evaluate my life and work hard to think of all the meaningful ways that God has blessed me. I'll think about it before going to bed early tonight.

Reefer Madness!

So, here are the plain facts. A good percentage of Holland is currently studying Spanish at my language school. In Fact, half of my class are Dutch girls. And they speak English very well. But what if I didn't speak English? What would it feel like if this common language were taken away? Such is the position of the Italian guy in class. He is there to learn Spanish and doesn't speak English, so not many people talk with him during the breaks. So I took it upon myself to speak with him, and apparently he has taken a liking to me.

Yesterday, when I left my keys, wallet, mobile phone, and money locked in my apartment, he offered to buy me a pastry at a bakery down the street. I enjoyed speaking with him about music, Italy, the mafia, and food, even though it was all in broken Spanish. Today, I returned the favor, and after finishing my Berliner, he asked me an interesting question. "Do you enjoy smoking?" You have to be careful answering questions like this in Spain, because you may end up communicating something false. I quickly assessed the situation. I never see him smoking with the other students during breaks, but he mentioned in class that he doesn't ever get drunk. So, I offered a safe reply, "sometimes, I like to smoke a pipe with my friends." His response, "I like to smoke marijuana."

Add it to the lists of firsts here in Spain. First place I've visited outside of Texas where a mullet was socially acceptable, first time eating churros con chocolate, first Dutch friend, and first implicit invite to take part in illegal activities. What's next, driving a scooter? Hopefully not. I hate scooters.

By the way, I turned down the invitiation and now have one more reason to learn this language--to turn down drugs.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thankful

So, I just realized that my last two posts were lacking in the thankfulness department. Remember when I promised to end every post with some form of thanksgiving? No? Oh, that's right, you don't care. Just kidding, I know you do. Right?

Anyway, today I'm thankful for my new cajón. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's basically a wooden box that you sit on and play like a djembe. For those of you who don't know what a djembe is, it's a drum you play with your hands. So, a cajón is a wooden box that you play with your hands. It's one of the coolest percussion instruments I've ever heard, and I pretty much suck at it right now, but hopefully I'll improve to "kind of doesn't suck."

Also, I'm thankful for the care package I received in the mail yesterday. Not only did I learn how to pick up a package from the Post Office, but the package I picked up contained Easter candy! For those of you who have never eaten Cadbury Mini-Eggs, you don't know what you're missing. Although, if you haven't tried them, I'm assuming that it is because you are dead, probably the result of a very good personal choice (read my Fashion Faux Pas post about choosing death over a Mullet).

My thanks for this post would have to be the time I've spent hanging out with people from school these past few days, and the fact that my singing voice, not that it was ever anything spectacular, is coming back. Oh yeah, and I found out that a café here has an Open Mic night every Tuesday. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tired

Six weeks down. It's amazing how the time flies. It's also amazing how tired you can get from doing nothing. For example, today, I woke up tired, went to class and then came home for lunch. After lunch, I started to do my homework and study...and fell asleep. Right now, I just returned from a meeting and I'm getting ready to study some more...and probably fall asleep.

Why am I so tired? I haven't been running, playing volleyball, or any of the other things I used to do to stay active. Personally, I think it is just from living in a strange place and constantly listening to a strange language. Strange, huh? Well, unfortunately I'm not a master at Spanish yet, but I've had some great conversations with some of my classmates in English. They are very European in their views of religion and Christianity, and find it a bit odd that I am so young and still go to church, read the Bible, and pray. No young people do that here, so I feel like a hamster in one of those clear exercise balls--everybody's watching to see what I'll do and where I'll go. Anyway, it has made for some very thought provoking discussions.

Also, the weather has warmed up a bit, which has made playing the guitar a bit easier, and thus restored one of my favorite relaxation tools. And, I bought a cajon this week. It has to be one of the coolest things ever. Now, I just need to learn how to play it. It is becoming increasingly hard to concentrate, so I'm ending abruptly.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ben Brown went to the aquarium...

Last night I had a great conversation with some friends back home, and it was just what I needed. There is something comforting about talking to the people who are closest to you. I can't explain it, there just is. They speak to your heart without saying a word. Just knowing that they are on the other end allows you to picture yourself sitting at the table with them again. It also helps when one of those people has been through the same feelings and trials that you are currently facing. I've been a bit homesick this past few days, and frustrated with my Spanish, mostly because my roommates are gone and I didn't have school, so I called Jeff and Sheila.

Naturally, I had grand plans of studying my brains out this weekend, going back to school on Monday with everything nailed down, and being able to converse with people all of a sudden. With season one of Alias and House behind me, not to mention a few trips to eat shawarma, here I sit, with almost no studying done, lonely, and still a little homesick. But while I'm lonely, I don't want to be around the people here in Granada, I want to be with all my friends back in Wyoming, Louisville, and North Carolina. This morning after church, when everyone stood up and started talking, I just had to go outside. I was overwhelmed by all the voices, and not being able to communicate, so I stood outside. I stood there with all these people readily accessible, but I felt lonely. I walked part of the way home with a friend, but just wanted to be alone, because I'm the only person I really know here. I'm longing for the familiar. When I brush my teeth I picture my bathroom at home, where everything is, what the faucet and water felt like, the lighting, the floor. I miss it all.

But God hasn't called us to the familiar. He has called us to acknowledge that we are strangers and exiles on the earth (Heb 11:13). "For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:14-16)

God has been teaching me this for a long time, but I'm stubborn. And I expect He will continue to teach it to me the rest of my life, because I'm stubborn. His call for us to be sojourners isn't an external one. It's internal, and that is difficult. Moving across the world is easy, but letting God be your all in all--not your family, friends, stuff, and location--that is hard. Especially when all of those things are at your disposal. I pray that God would peel my clenched fingers away from all these things so that I can see them the way they deserve to be seen, through the lens of God's love, not my comfort. So I can touch them with God's hands, not selfishly with my own. In the end, it will bring God, others, and me, so much more joy.

Yes, I'm stubborn. But thank God that I'm loved.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fashion Faux Pas

I haven't posted for awhile, so here is a list of some things I have learned here in Granada. The subject--fashion.

First, I have never seen so many mullets before in my life. Everyday, I step out of my apartment and into a Billy Ray Cyrus video. Lesson #1: NEVER HAVE A MULLET FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER. This rules out the mini-mullet, the dreadlock mullet, the mullet hawk (mohawk mullet combo), the she-mullet, all of them. Given the choice between death and getting a mullet, always choose death.

Second, girls care not for comfort. They walk on cobblestone streets wearing heels, all the time. Do yourself a favor and put on some tennis shoes for an afternoon. It's OK.

Third, girls tend to be really skinny here. So, if you are a Spanish girl, EAT SOMETHING.

Fourth, everybody smokes everywhere. I might as well just take up smoking. Who cares if the package says something like, SMOKING KILLS YOU?

There you go, short list of things not to do. I guess I could throw a quick shout out to piercing your face too. Don't do it.

Today, I'm thankful that I learned something very useful in class.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The View

As promised, here are some pictures from the terrace of my apartment. The view is incredible, and unfortunately the pictures don't do it justice. They were all taken from terrace.

This is my view of the backside of the Alhambra.


Just off to the left are the remains of the first hospital in in Europe.


This is a picture of a street behind the terrace.


Again, sorry the pictures don't do justice to the Alhambra's beauty, but you have now seen things the way I do every morning. Oh, and I forgot to take a picture of the historic Arab Baths. And my roommates. But I'll save that for another day.

I almost forgot, today the weather warmed up and I got to wear sandals, which makes my foot feel a lot better. I'm definitely thankful for that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Las Guitarristas

Language school. Mine is called Mester. I go for two hours in the morning, then have a Spanish 15 minute break (25 minutes) where I go buy bread with Molly, then go back for another two hour session with a different teacher. Right now it is really basic, but I have learned a few new things, which is nice, cause, you know, I live in Spain. Or Something.

My class consists of my friend Molly, three 18-19 year old Dutch girls, and a guy from France named Jean. Oh yeah, and me. I pretty much rule the class. Except in guitar skills. The other day Jean came over to my apartment (pictures coming soon) to play guitars, and he schooled me. He's been playing for five years and loves French gypsy music and is great at improvisation. But my guitar is better than his. Ha! In your face Jean! My guitar was bought with money, you couldn't even buy your skills? He also speaks English, French, German, and Japanese. He'll learn Spanish in no time. He is already really good.

Thanks to everyone who sent me notes about my feet. I've got multiple options for treatment, including my Dad sending me my old shoes that are perfectly molded to my feet. Another option is staying off of my feet for a few days by posing as a street performer. Maybe I'd get a little extra cash too.

I was trying to think of something I could do on the blog to connect all these thoughts. I thought about keeping a running tally of how many times I've stepped in dog poop at the end of each post, but a better one just happened upon me. Inspired by Molly, who was inspired by Oprah, who I can't talk bad about because she probably owns the interweb and everything else, I've decided to end each post with something that I'm thankful for.

Today I'm thankful for the unsolicited chocolate I received from Stevo, Sarah, Nina, Daci, and Marko. I'm not even homesick yet and I've been spoiled by Reese's Pieces. I'm not soliciting for more stuff, it was just a great reminder that people care about me and are praying for me. I'm also thankful for the emails I've received. Please, don't stop communicating with me.

God Bless and Good Night (Day)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

¡Mumbler!

Last night was very interesting. Let me give you a little run through. I decided to attend my new roommate's girlfriend's birthday party at what will be my apartment come Monday. Being the overconfident navigator I am, I tried to take the quick, back road way to the apartment, but I got lost right away. How's that, you ask? Well, I was following a narrow, cobblestone street between tall white buildings, but apparently that is what all the streets and buildings look like in Albaicin. Actually, I just got really lost, because I didn't know where the heck I was going (that's twice this week). So I ended up at a lookout place, finally pulled out my map but couldn't find where I was at, then broke down and asked some nice people for directions. They responded with "tan lejos" (very far) and were surprised that I had was walking there. They must be lazy.

Anyway, I finally made it to the party. As soon as I walked in, I was paralyzed by the thought of having to kiss that many people on the cheek. In Spain, when you enter a room, you are supposed to greet everyone in the room, shaking hands with the men and fake kissing the girls on each cheek. Some of you may be saying, "what is his deal, he doesn't want to kiss cute girls?" But what you don't understand is that I don't even like to sit next to someone in a theater, unless I know them really well, because our shoulders might touch, let alone kissing a bunch of strangers. If I could sum up the evening in three words, it would be these:

1) Awkward. Not only did I have to kiss the one stranger who was closest to me upon entrance, but I was the dumb American who couldn't speak much Spanish.

2) Challenging. Not only was I the dumb American who couldn't speak much Spanish, but I talked with a local guy who seemingly said more random vowel sounds than actual words. He was a nice guy, but I found it hard to concentrate on our conversation when I was thinking, "he isn't saying real words, he's just mumbling, how did this guy get into college?" Again, nice guy, but a thick accent.

3) Fun. Not only was I the non-kissing, dumb American, but at some point in time I became the guy playing guitar with another guy. I kind of felt like I was on display at a zoo, or a street performer's monkey. Everybody gathered round and shouted, "DANCE MONKEY, DANCE!" while I tried to play along. The good news. One of my new roommates said he would teach me some Flamenco songs.

I'll post again in a few days to let you know how language school and my apartment are going.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

coche fantastico

Yes, David Hasselhof has used his brand of Miami beach voodoo to witch his way into the hearts of Spaniards. In fact, so much so that Knight rider reruns are on TV here. It's called Coche Fantastico--Fantastic Car (how true). Surely this is a sign that postmillenialism is utterly false, because if the world were getting better David Hasselhof would not still be on TV.

So here I sit, waiting to go check out an apartment that I'm pretty sure David (the other guy here with me) will take. But I have some promising leads, and if none of them work out I can always scotch guard a big screen TV box from the electronics store. That is a pretty big need. So is language. I need to learn Spanish. It seems that no matter how hard I try, these people won't speak english. Like when we went to buy mobile phones and the lady wouldn't speak english. Actually, she gave us our phones in "spanish language" mode because she said, "you need to learn." What? Who is she to tell me I can't speak English? I thought there was some kind of world law that says everybody in the world needs to speak English, but I guess she hadn't heard of it. Seriously, they are like cavemen here.

I am starting language school in a little over a week. This week is devoted to the city itself. I need to learn how to get around, and thankfully we have an assignment to help with that. Taking the bus, going into diferent stores, attending mass, finding all the Plazas, eating shawarma...basic orientation. I'm looking forward to using the little Spanish I know to ask directions and sound stupid.

Well, I'll write a bit more when I get time, but for now I need to eat some Golden Grahams and take a shower.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And Ward said there wouldn't be landmines...

I'm here. In just this 24 hour period of being in Spain I've already had quite a few noteworthy things happen, and since blogs are all about lists, here is my first SpainList.

1. We had a 7 1/2 hour layover in Madrid (the flight there was only, 7) so we took the subway into town, where Molly bought a pair of shoes. I fell asleep on the Subway.

2. I watched "Grosse Pointe Blank" (sic?) on my iPod while everyone else watched the airline movies and heard terrible sounds that made their eardrums burst--something was wrong, don't fly US Airways International.

3. I ate shawarma, the spanish equivalent to kebab.

4. I stepped in dog poop.

5. I realized how much I wished I already knew Spanish.

6. I got a cell phone (bling bling).

7. I started orientation and met almost everybody I will be working with here.

8. I decided to post on my blog.

9. I decided to go to bed.

Good night...or day...or whatever.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Over the River and Through the Woods...

I'm at my Grandparents in New York state, and I am pleasantly surprised to find that they have cable internet. Way to go Gramps. Anyway, this has allowed me to set up my primitive and incomplete email update list, as well as post on my blog at this very moment. It is tough to be in the in between stage right now, but it is great to visit family--even if everything I unpack has to be re-packed, which means I'll probably have to re-pack everything to get it all to fit back in my bag. The slightest of negative consequences for seeing them again.

Only three days left in the country now. I had the chance to speak with Andy Barlow today, and I mentioned that just in the last week I have begun to look at my situation realistically. Before, I looked at moving to Spain through rose colored glasses, anticipating all my difficulties and envisioning myself tackling them head on. But in the last week I have realized they will indeed be genuinely difficult. There will soon come a day when I am so frustrated with not being able to speak the language that I will wonder why I ever came to Spain. When that day comes I will have to look back and see all that God accomplished to send me, and that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Except for eating ice cream. Now I look forward to these trials in a different sense. Previously, I saw them as occasions for victory and conquest and feeling good about how awesome I am. Now, I see them as opportunities for failure and being humbled and seeing how much I need God. It's not that I don't want to get through these future trials, but I want God to get all the glory for it, because when I am weak, He is shown to be strong.

On Sunday I fly to Philadelphia to meet up with David, Jamie, and Molly, then we'll all fly to Spain on Monday night. The timing is great as we'll arrive in Madrid just in time to sit in the airport for seven hours. The next leg of our flight is a little over and hour long, so I'm sure I'll need the break. Plus, I'm guessing that the Madrid airport is awesome, right? RIGHT!? I imagine that they have mini bullfights all day long. If not, they probably have a food court, which is just as good.

Well, I'm going to bed. Thanks for reading this and praying for me. I'll keep you posted on what is going on in my life and what I need prayer for.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Goodbye

Home. It is something that has eluded me for a long time. When my parents split up, any semblance of the typical idea of home--you know, the kind where the little kid comes in for soup and everything is always ok--disappeared. I learned that my parents have problems just like me. A hard lesson to learn, but a good one, because it made them human for the first time. Since then I have searched for a home in so many different ways. I've tried to find it in other families' homes, or with friends. Or in doing something that I enjoy, no matter where I am. But I've always been left empty. After drinking from each of these wells, I have continued to thirst. It is an insatiable desire, to have a place for total peace and rest. But just as soon as I think that I've found it, it's gone, like waking from a vivid dream, or trying to swat flies. And so I continue to hunger for home and peace and rest. And God has taught me a bit of why we each have this desire.

Deep down, we're all searching for heaven. We long, maybe even unconsciously, for the final redemption of all things, even the concept of home. We are pilgrims in this world (Heb 11), traveling toward the promised land where Christ reigns as King over His people and possessions. We long for the day of restoration, when home will be found both in all places and people and things, because it will all be as it was meant to be--perfect.

So, today I'm leaving Laramie for a long time. I'm leaving my family, friends, church, house, hometown, car, electric guitars; the people, places, and things I love the most. It's exciting and scary all at once, but I know that as God has given me glimpses of home and rest in each of these, He will continue to do so no matter where I live. But you can bet I will miss my family, friends, and guitars...a lot.

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen."--Revelation 22:20-21

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Transformationpartytime

My transformation is complete. I've gone from being a bearded mountain man who lived off of tree bark and raw meat to an emergent worship leader look alike to a regular at your local bowling alley to a clean cut lotion and cologne wearing metrosexual. Okay maybe that's not all true, but I do look quite a bit different. In fact, a few people didn't recognize me at my own going away party. They just walked right on by. How about that. Anyway, here are some pictures of my amazing metamorphosis (sic?) and my going away party.









Alright, so I lied. The party pictures won't load, which means I'll try to post them again tomorrow. God has been so good to me and I've overlooked and underappreciated that fact so much in the past year and a half that it makes me sick. He surrounds me with Christlike love through my church, even when I take them all for granted, and I'll post pictures of some of that love soon.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Easy like Sunday Mornin'

Church was great today. We were pushed out of our usual meeting place by the high school drama class (boo, drama), but the high school gym was more than willing to accomodate us. Thank you Gymnasium. Anyway, we decided to scale down the 'worship team' to just acoustic guitars, djembe, bass, and vocals, which I love. Playing electric guitar with a full band is great, but there is something grassroots and simplistic about an acoustic band. And I love Hymns, which made me happy as well. We sang 'God be Merciful', 'Poor Sinner Dejected with Fear', and 'How Deep the Father's Love for Us', on top of some other good choruses. So begins my Molly Ruff list of things I love.

But that list will have to wait for a day less manly, as the last two nights have been spent in the Man Room amidst good friends and good conversation. You'll know when that day comes, because the background of this blog will be pink with flowers on it, but for now, I am overflowing with testosterone and exuding manliness. I digress. Tomorrow I will post about something that has been on my mind for awhile, but my pastor's message really brought it into focus today. Also, I spent a little more time with Nate Scott and his wife today, which was awesome. They are straight cool. Plus, he gave me about 10 of his CD's to give away and help get his name out. I'm not a big fan of the Rap music, but I like Nate's a lot. If you want to check out his music, go here. How did we ever survive without MySpace. And cell phones.

Here is a picture of the Scotts that I took in front of my pastor's house. They are awesome and were extremely encouraging.

The Man Room

Some pictures to sum up an evening of testosterone filled fellowship in the Man Room--no chicks allowed. If it were summer, none of these pictures would include shirts, because we're manly...or at least trying to be.

It's called "ambiance."




Men present:
Sam. He owns the Man Room, although some would say that every man owns a portion of it (like Stevo).


Dave. He's the worship leader from...Laramie Valley Chapel. Unfortunately, you can't really see his horns in this picture, but believe me, they're there.


Ben. He just returned from Iraq on Josh Rose's birthday (Feb. 14)


Drew. He likes men...in a completely manly man Man Room sense of the phrase.


Superman. No comment necessary.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nate's gettin' jiggy with it

A friend from my early days at the University of Wyoming's FCA is visiting this weekend. After being involved with FCA for about six years, it is encouraging to see that he is still walking with the Lord. It was great to see him and meet his wife of 53 weeks. Thanks Nate.

Also, I found out about a place called iJigg that hosts music for free, so I'm putting one of my songs on this post. You can put them on your blogs (though I don't recommend it, don't settle) of just listen to them. It will even keep track of how many times it gets pasted on the web. I'll figure out a way to put more of my songs on here soon...for your listening pleasure.

Here is my rendition of "Sweet By and By"--a Baptist favorite.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sick Cat Strut

So I have been mildly sick for about two weeks, but yesterday it took a turn for the worse. I'm tempted to put a picture of The Tick battling The Common Cold again, but I already posted that once before. It will have to suffice that I'm pretty miserable, and I've probably blown my nose 200 times in the last day and a half. The word frustration doesn't really do my feelings justice since I have less than two weeks left here in Laramie. Those healthy goodbyes will have to pour out in a steady stream.

Only 12 days left, then on to New York to visit mis abuelos (grandparents, pretty good, huh?), then on to Philly for a night, then on to Spain. There are so many people to see and spend time with, not to mention the fact that I need to pack and organize 25 years worth of crap at my Dad's house. I'm a bit overwhelmed, if you can't tell. But, as soon as I recover I can spend 24 hours a day doing all that, right? Right. The most disappointing thing about my condition is probably that my Fu Manchu hasn't had opportunity to strut around town and pick up chicks. I'll have to go down to the bowling alley to make up for it. The awesome, raw attraction that members of the opposite sex feel when they see my manly manchu moustache is best summed up by the song, 'Stray Cat Strut.'

"I don't bother chasing mice around
I slink down the alley looking for a fight
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night
Singin' the blues while the lady cats cry,
'Wild stray cat, you're a real gone guy.'"

I'm a real gone guy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

A few of the much anticipated photos I promised in the last post. I'm sorry that they are kind of lame (self-portrait), but my photographer hasn't been around lately...or ever.

David Crowder, or somebody else with a massive gotee (sic?), eat your heart out.



(Fu)Manchu March...in February? I don't even stick out in a crowd...Wyoming is awesome!!


Not as cool as changing facial hair, but it's pretty cool, right? Right?! Please think I'm cool!


I'll post more as my hair diet progresses.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to Shave a Mole Rat, or, The Longest Day Ever

It has been awhile since my last post, and I am just finishing a long but encouraging day, so this little diddy will have to curb your appetite until I have more time and energy to be thorough. The following is a summary of my day.

I woke up at 6:30 to meet someone at a coffee shop. The person didn't show, so I just read a bunch of Psalms until this random stoner kid asked me what I was reading. We talked about life, Christianity, and the Scriptures until about 9:00, when he had to go to work. In the meantime, an old acquaintance from college came in and I was able to catch up with her for about a half hour. {insert shower and primping here}. Next, I went to lunch with two guys I play volleyball with, one of which just got back from being gone the last month. We each enjoyed an enormous burrito, and the conversation ranged everywhere from spiritual things to France to the joys and hardships of Open Gym Volleyball. After lunch, I did some paperwork that I should have done months ago, then had to go to the bank to gather some necessary paperwork information. While out I stopped by the High School pool to talk to my old swim coach/former coworker who informed me that one of our ex-athletes, who has been struggling with Leukemia, has only two weeks to live. I think the kid is only 21--it's a hard pill to swallow. Please pray that God gives me wisdom as I try to write something to him. I came home just in time to help my Dad dig the Camaro (Ow, Ow, Ow!!--the sound of tires chirping) out of the ice that surrounded the tires. Then, I had just enough time to get ready for dinner at Jason and Kristin Reid's house. I hadn't really met them before, but they were very encouraging and had great advice and wisdom to shower on me. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in knowing cool and mature Christians. I went straight to The Grounds coffee shop to meet my friend Amy, where we talked about anything and everything until 10:30 which is pretty close to what time it is right now.

Obviously, that is just a summary, not an exhaustive minute by minute account, but if you throw in a lot of coughing (not head turning and coughing, that was at my physical on Mon.), water, tea, and bathroom breaks (I drank A LOT of fluids), you pretty much know what my day was. Oh, a glasses update. I got new ones, for a decent price, the same day as my exam. Also, went through Phase I of my hair transformation this week--I call it the David Crowder phase. Next is the handlebar mustache phase, then the molestache phase (a normal mustache), then Phase IV, which is the clean cut, clean shaven Metrosexual Mike phase. Don't worry I'll post pictures of the whole process.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mo' Problems, Mo' Money

I couldn't solder my glasses together, so I am looking for some cheap solutions. Unfortunately, it isn't looking good (pun intended). I figure that gives me two options.

Option 1. Shell out the money for an eye exam and get the cheapest grandpa frames I can find. Or,

Option 2. Continue going about my business without glasses and learn to be content living in a fuzzy world until the random mutations of Evolution fix my eyesight. But I would probably settle for having bad eyesight if Evolution would give me something cooler like telepathy or transporter powers. Even an Adamantium skeletal structure and the power to heal myself (even though Wolverine didn't get his powers through mutation, but from the wonders of science).

RIght now Option 2 is looking pretty good, and I'll probably end up going in that direction, but I might as well look into going to the Optometrist. Oh yeah, and day 3 of my workout regimen went pretty well. Maybe I'll let you know how day 4 goes tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Glasses Hurt, or, My Legs Hurt Real Bad

Well, I'm back from MTI and trying to reenter the upper echelon of Laramie's social elite, but encountering one major problem--there is no such thing. I know, I know, I could hear your surprised gasps from here in my living room, but this means only one thing, that I'll have to invent a healthy Aristocratic social circle here in the few weeks I have left. Don't worry there will be a lot of ballroom dancing and scotch swirling, I promise.

In other news, I started working out again. This has led to two significant events. First, I'm really sore. I haven't really done any physical activity, other than play volleyball two days a week, for about five years. That means I've gone from the apex of being a chiseled, invincible, NCAA division I athlete, to an old, fat, washed up, ex-division I athlete who plays volleyball just to remind himself that he used to be able to do things. And just to say it again, I'm really sore...but also happy to be doing physical activity again. But this isn't the only result of my monumental return to the gym. Today, as I was getting into the steamroom, my glasses snapped in two. So, as of today, I'm an old, fat, washed up, ex-division I athlete who plays volleyball just to remind himself that he used to be able to do things, and is partially blind.

And the end result of all this is that I'm going to limp around the store to buy batteries for a soldering iron to reconnect the two pieces that once were my glasses.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I can't get no...satisfaction

First day back from MTI and I've already slept in, skipped doing any physical activity (pushups and situps every night for the last two weeks), gone to an all-you-can-eat Mongolian barbecue with some missionaries, and listened to a reggae version of Pink Floyd's album "Dark Side of the Moon." That's a pretty full day, especially after the sleeping in part.

In the last post I told you that I would write a bit about what God has been teaching me lately. Here it goes. In the past, my knowledge and experience of God has been through books, which, don't get me wrong, is a good thing. I soaked myself in Systematic Theologies and Reformers and Puritans. Calvin and Edwards fed me through commentaries, institutes, and sermons. I learned a lot and got a great foundation for my faith. Then I read this a few years ago and it threw me into unrest. It's a Jonathan Edwards sermon from Hebrews 11 on living life as a pilgrim. You should read it. Seriously. Reading that sermon brought me to a place where I knew learning about God wasn't enough to please Him. It showed me that God desires that I know Him intimately and experience His great mercy and power as I walk in this world. I need to enjoy God. I needto live a life that is drastically different from the mediocre one I am living.

Here is an excerpt from it that I love:

"God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. — To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. — Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?"

So, here I am at the Grounds coffee shop in Laramie, convicted of the same truth that my life has been lived selfishly, and that should I die tonight, in many respects I feel my life was wasted on pursuing earthly joys and comforts. But the answer isn't asceticism and denying myself anything pleasurable (like...Cold Stone!!). That's the easy way out. The answer is the long, painful, purifying process of sanctification--seeing my sinful attitudes and then repenting of them. This means I can't justify when I think my best friend is an idiot and begin hating him in my heart. It means I can't be anxious about not being married when all my closest friends are. It means I have to trust God for everything and know that he only does what is best for me, even when it is painful.

Now, I still love learning about God from books, but what I really long for is to know Him through trusting Him for my every desire and need--to hunger and thirst for him like the Psalmist in Psalm 63. "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. BECAUSE YOUR STEADFAST LOVE IS BETTER THAN LIFE, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My SOUL will BE SATISFIED as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with JOYFUL LIPS, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."--Psalm 63:1-8

Amen.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's the Final Countdown...

Tomorrow is the final day at MTI and we're in the middle of a struggling 'Open Mic' night that more closely resembles the Iran hostage crisis than an open mic. Most memorable was some video of Alicia dancing in Paraguay. Since you don't know who she is it doesn't mean much. In short, she is the most shy person I've ever met before in my life. She didn't even look like the same person on the video. Amazing.

I'm excited to head home and begin final preparations for moving, but I'm going to miss my time here at MTI. I've made some close friends in a short time and I look forward to staying in touch with them and seeing what God is going to accomplish through them. They are some amazing people.

We focused on having good goodbyes today. It's going to be very helpful to me as I leave, because I tend to just say, "see you later" and leave for months or years. I guess that's not the best way to do it? But it's probably the most manly. Anyway, as I reflect on my time here I have a few prominent thoughts and memories.

1) I made some really cool and godly friends who will continue to have influence on me even after we part ways.

2) It was great to spend time with David, Jamie, and Molly, who will join me in forming World Harvest's "A-Team" in Spain. Sorry to everybody who just got bumped down to B-Squad.

3) As I mentioned before (in another post), someone told me the most encouraging thing I've ever heard in my life. Thank you. It meant more than you'll ever know.

4) God uses all different strokes of people to reach the world. I just had the priviledge of spending time with people who will drastically change the world, even though you'll probably never know because you live in America.

5) I have to drive home in the snow tomorrow. Crappy.


When I get home I will post a little more in-depth about some of the things God has been teaching me in the last three weeks. Good night.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

BLOG!!

Dude Group

This morning our bible study group, which I aptly renamed Dude Group, decided to open up and share a little. Awkward but very good. Basically, we went around in a big circle and shared how we had been encouraged by each other over the past three weeks. If you know me at all, then you know that I am completely uncomfortable with people saying nice things about me, especially to my face. One person said something that almost made me cry. It was the most encouraging thing anybody has ever said to me. In fact, I almost cried. But then I remembered I was in Dude Group, and that I don't cry, so I choked back the tears for another day.

It's amazing how relationships can form in just a few weeks. I'm really going to miss quite a few of the people here at MTI, and hope to visit some of them while overseas.

In about a half hour I go in for my personal advising time. These times have been so productive for me and have made me appreciate the training I'm getting a bit more than I usually would. This is because I really enjoy talking one on one with Robin, one of our teachers. He is solid and has kept much of my usual criticism to a minimal level. When I think that something we are learning or doing is a little fruity, I know that he doesn't have any theological fruitiness in him and that he won't teach those things. He's cool.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

MTI Tournament of Champions

Match one of the MTI Table Tennis Tournament of Champions: Mike vs. Nick. I won. I'm only worried about one guy named Jeff because he played tennis in college.

In other news, things are going pretty well here, but it is hard to believe that I only have two and a half more days here with my new friends. We have decided to make the most of our time together by going to Cold Stone again. It is a proven fact that ice cream is a catalyst to quality fellowship, just in case you didn't know. I think it's written somewhere in the Old Testament, but I couldn't tell you where, I don't read because it's not for this dispensation. Just kidding--I do read the Old Testament, and I'm not a Dispensationalist, but I do eat ice cream.

Here is a little something to chew on while you pine for another mind-blowing post on my blog. It's called Date to Save . Flirt to Convert!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Emerged

My first emergent experience went alright, in that I didn't have a massive coronary. The church met in an old movie theater, much like the Scala Gemeinde in Magdeburg, and we sang a lot of crappy songs written by the worship leader. Some of the lyrics were so poor that I couldn't even sing along in good conscience. Very me centered, very...well, emergent, whatever that means. I am not too keen on the whole Emerging Church movement, but one book i absolutely want to read is, "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian Mclaren. I want my critiques to be well informed from a primary source, not simply relying on another's judgment. Anyway, I'm going to bed soon.

I'm Emerging

This morning I'm going to an Emerging Church in Colorado Springs. It's called Vanguard Church and I'm really looking forward to experiencing the service. MTI wants us to attend a church outside of our comfort zone, which in itself is outside of my comfort zone because I take church very seriously.

Here is a Spurgeon quote I read this morning:

"Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument--it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down.... There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally--namely, the great tuth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hard Questions and a Heavy Chest

Last night I was a bit restless. My prayer time here at MTI has been great, but I haven't had much time to settle down and read a lot. So, I got up early, went to Starbucks, and read for a little over an hour. It was exactly what I needed. I happened to read Psalm 84 and started to meditate on my sin and need for repentance. We constantly need reminders from scripture, the Holy Spirit, and other believers, encouraging us to keep on keepin' on. I need to continuously fight to say with the Psalmist, "I would rather spend a day in the courts of my God than spend a thousand dwelling in the tents of wickedness" (paraphrase). To be reminded that the time past was enough for me to tolerate and enjoy sin (1 Peter), and that I need to focus on the eternal, not the temporal. I seriously can't describe how satisfying my time was.

One other question that came up this morning was about what my reaction would be to crime. I don't doubt that if I were attacked when alone, or with other men, I wouldn't fight back with violence. I might resist, but not with the goal of hurting my attacker. But what would I do if I were with a woman? My instinct would be to defend her by whatever means necessary. But is that right? Is it a lack of trust in God's protection? Does it shame Christ to protect the helpless? I honestly don't know. This question has crossed my mind countless times, yet remains unresolved, and will probably stay that way. But right now I will defend whoever I am with, because I would rather bear the shame of my sin than see another person suffer because of my inaction.

It was interesting that this question came to mind, because when I returned we did a hostage simulation. Long story short, I gave myself up for execution, along with the other young single in the group. I was amazed at the different ideas as to who should volunteer first. In my mind it was out of the question to let any of the married men or women die first. This brought tension to our group as we argued over who would die, but I wouldn't have allowed it to go down any other way. Darin wouldn't have either. I look forward to processing the whole situation a bit more and talking with David, Jamie, and Molly about it.

Needless to say, all of this is pretty stressful to experience and think about, and it has left an immense heaviness in my chest. I am haunted by the fear that my life has been wasted on selfish pursuits. Please pray for me about all these issues.

Speaking of the team, here is a picture. They are awesome and I can't wait to start ministering with them overseas.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

MTI Day 2

So I didn't get back to the compound until 3:30am yesterday--it made for a long day. We did a basic overview of the SLICE course today, but I was really tired and still a little bored. I'm always a bit critical about stuff like this, but I'm doing my best to remain optimistic. And I do think that in the end this will definitely help me when I get overseas.

I'm helping lead worship, and after our "practice, I talked with Darin Dunn for a long time. He is heading to Thailand in the very near future and loves music and home studio recording as much as I do. He has a lot of cool pictures on his website, but you can also check out some of his music on his MySpace page.

I read through a few of my past posts and decided that I should edit a little better. I hate having errors on here. I suppose I should stop writing so late at night when I'm tired adn I cant' read good.

Monday, January 15, 2007

MTI Day 1

Here is a one word summary for my first day at Mission Training International: boring. Alright, only the orientation part was boring, the rest was fun...especially dinner. I like food. I'm interested to see what I will be doing for the next three weeks because, honestly, I don't know. Maybe I will be forced to play "get to know yourself", or, "hug your neighbor." I really hope not. I'm definitely not a hugger.

Right now I'm waiting to pick up some people from the airport. Apparently, the weather isn't too great in both Chicago and Dallas, because both flights have been delayed. But, as David texted me, "Derek Webb helps pass time." Indeed. At least they will still be coming close to the same time, so one won't have to wait a long time for the other. Wait, that's not true. I just got a call from the girl in Dallas saying something is wrong with the brakes on her plane. What do they need brakes for, they'll be flying, right?

This would make a killer movie. Let me set the scene for you. Dallas, TX, normally a mild climate this time of year, is hit with a freak ice storm, shutting down all methods of travel. Finally, one plane is ready to leave but...the brakes are frozen. That's right it's "Brakes on a Plane." Coming soon to a theater near you.

I might try to take a quick nap before I leave. I'll update you all soon enough.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Date Safer, Date Smarter

Every time I log out of MySpace it takes me to one of two pages. One is about finding high school classmates, and says something like, "I can't believe she's a model", and has a picture of a girl with huge glasses and some unflattering sweater on. The other is an ad for a dating service. There are quite a few variations, but today the title was "Date Safer, Date Smarter." Below that it had a picture of an uberhandsome dude and another interesting phrase--"we screen for marrieds and felons." It just caught my eye, that's all, but I'll keep that in mind when I start my dating service. Apparently, people don't want to date marrieds and I felons. I understand the marrieds, but felons need the type of meaningful relationships that dating websites offer too, right?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Good Fortune

So quite a bit has happened since I last posted. Okay, maybe only Christmas and New Year's Day (and a week or so in between), but I guess that's a lot. Anyway, Christmas was fun. Most of my new step-family was here in town, and we had an enjoyable couple of days. Plus, I got a KT Tunstall cd, some castanets, and a twenty questions ball. Everything you need to survive. Many of my best friends were back in town visiting too, which I love. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend my time.

After Christmas I had to start looking forward to New Year's, and preparing for the "Snowy Range Evangelical Free Church No-Talent Talent Show" that would take place on the eve of 2007. Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive going into it. Why, you ask? Let's just say I was playing in an instrumental trio where I was kind of the lead instrument, but we didn't have any singing to cover up my lack of musicianshipness. Oh yeah, and we were playing three songs that have words--Smells Like Teen Spirit, Tainted Love, and Jesus Loves Me (faux jazz version). It turned out to be a lot of fun though. I also got to play a couple of my own songs with djembe accompaniment courtesy of Andy Smith. He did a great job following me even though he had only heard the songs once before (during sound check) and I have a tendency to get nervous and forget how to count to 4. Thank you, Andy.

So, in the last week I have really been trying to focus on support raising, but it has been hard to get in touch with people. On top of that is the looming fear that my mission agency might not let me go to training because I'm so far behind. I still need around $900 dollars per month to get up to 100%. Pray that God will provide miraculously, that's what I'm doing.

But, it seems that things may be taking a turn for the better. Tonight, my step-sister Leslie and her fiance (I hate that word) came over to watch the Cowboys-Seahawks game and brought Chinese food. Obviously, free food is good enough for me, but that wasn't the only blessing tonight. On top of that, the Cowboys lost (by a point), and I got a sweet fortune. It wasn't really a fortune, so much as an affirmation of something I had already suspected was true. It said, "Others look up to you." Hmm. Thank you New Mandarin Chinese restaurant for that little attestation of agreement. I've always suspected that was the case, but now I can be a bit more certain. So, if you see me tomorrow, I'm sure you will notice a new air of confidence, a fresh spring in my step, and that I am exuding a hundred percent pure leadership. Don't try to fight it. The fortune cookie said so.