Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Please protect me from myself...

So today I was working in the Rastro (secondhand store...kind of like Goodwill or Salvation Army).

We have a little back room with a fridge and microwave and some snacks, and about 11:00 today, I went to make myself a cup of tea.

"I think I'm supposed to use water from a jug," I thought to myself. I'm always unsure when it's safe to use the tap water, but I thought I remembered that the responsible in the Rastro had showed me the jug of drinking water. Sure enough, I saw a bottle on the shelf and poured a cupful. I heated it up in the microwave and then put a tea bag in it.

After waiting a couple of minutes, I looked at my tea. It wasn't steeping very well...the water was still quite light and the tea bag was swelled up in a strange way.

"What is wrong with this?" I thought. "Did this tea expire years and years ago or something?" (I didn't think tea could go bad... but there was definitely something wrong here.)

I noticed it smelled funny. I sniffed the cup.

"This smells like bleach!" I thought. "Maybe, long ago, this packet of tea fell into some bleach water and then dried out." (But there was no sign that the paper had ever been wet.)

Then it hit me.

It was BLEACH that I had poured into my cup and heated in the microwave.

Bleach tea.

Now that's a new one, even for me.

Good thing I didn't actually come to taste it.


Tune in next time for another episode of "Please Protect Me From Myself."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

View from our backyard

Large storks resting on the treetops

 Lovely little river behind our house

Scratch my luck?

Monday, January 16, 2012

It’s amazing how this idea of being contagious has transformed my perspective, with the result that I do things which would normally be scary.

Today, for instance, I had to put gas in the van. All the pumps are prepay, and we use cash, so I went in to the gas station and asked the attendant to put 50 euros on pump 1. I pumped the gas and then went in to get my receipt. While the guy was printing it out for me, he casually asked me if I would like to “rascar la suerte” (scratch my luck), and held up a lottery ticket.

“No, no thank you,” I said. “I don’t scratch my luck. Do you know why? Because I don’t need to. I have something better than luck. My name is written in the book of life. I have eternal life!”

Muy bien,” the attendant said, taken aback. He handed me my receipt and I walked out of the store, smiling to myself at what I had just said, shocked that it had actually come out of my mouth. Ordinarily, if such a thought had come to my mind, I would definitely not have said it. But it just sailed forth as naturally as any other kind of small talk. Yay!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” Isaiah 60:1-2

The Lord spoke to me profoundly today through this verse. We were singing it in a song at church, and God spoke to me so clearly and impressed the truth of it so firmly upon my heart that the tears were coursing freely down my cheeks as I sang.

Coming on the heels of the yesterday’s idea of being contagious, it clinched the matter and powerfully impacted me.

And then, as we were singing, Conchita, the mother of Pastor Alberto, happened to pass by. She is a little old lady, very kind, very godly, and very faithful. I was standing near the end of the row and I smiled at her. She reached out and touched my hand. “I see the glory of the Lord shining from you,” she said, out of the blue. Ah! It was the cherry on top, and I started crying afresh.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I am sitting here reeling with hope.

A new dream has dawned in my heart, something that seems so absurdly obvious that you would wonder why I never saw it before.

I could actually be contagious.

The burning heart, single passion, and profound joy that I know in the Lord could actually be passed on to another person—by me being contagious!

Here I am—Here I have been for years, longing for others around me to be passionately in love with Christ, wondering why they weren’t and trying to conform to the cold and incomprehensible existence that they live, just so I could fit in.

And I have just come to this realization: I had no hope that anyone else could ever catch the fire. If they had it, they had it, and if they didn’t, I thought there was nothing I could do about it. I enjoyed the few who were radiant lights, and lamented the fact that such a small percentage of people around me exhibited this ardent love for God. I wished for more to discover the pure, undiluted joy of drinking from the never-ending fountain, but I stopped there. I considered it a hopeless wish.


Why did I think this?

Oh, some combination of fear of rejection mixed with deception. I believed the enemy’s lie, which paralyzed me. Instead of igniting others, I let their cold water quench my fire.

But think: What did God use to ignite me?

Other people.

Other people with burning hearts, a bright and shining light, and a readiness to proclaim the truth and loveliness of the Lord. (That would be my parents. Thanks, mom & dad.) Their fire was contagious, and caught me on fire. There have also been a multitude of occasions where a preacher or a friend stimulated me to higher and better things, just because they themselves were contagiously radiant with the things of the Lord.

Jesus said of John the Baptist, “He was a burning and shining light, and ye were willing for a time to rejoice in that light.” Here is the same thing. One person! One guy! Just one “burning and shining light” was enough to catch many, many other people’s hearts on fire for God. John’s light reached far beyond his lifetime and even to other countries (see Acts ____).

Wow! I want to be that light. I want to catch people on fire—because I’m on fire.

And what a marvelous thought to think that I can!

I’m really quite staggered by the possibilities of this. Just think! Instead of merely witnessing to someone and getting them to pray a special prayer with you, and then shrugging your shoulders at the way they live the rest of their life, what if you could actually impart so much fire that they become a burning and shining light with you?

What if everyone I know, in my circle of Christian friends, was absolutely passionate about loving God, absolutely united for a single purpose, given to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom?

What if we could leave behind the empty, senseless interactions that we’re so accustomed to? What if we got so hot that we didn’t care about whether we painted our nails, or whether our favorite team wins their next game, or whether our coffee drink was just the way we liked it?

What if we got so hot that we didn’t care what we ate, or if we slept, or whatever we had to sacrifice, as long as we could walk with God and do His will?

This whole thought process was stimulated by a conversation with Rosi in the ice cream aisle of Eroski (the grocery store). She expressed regret that there was not more wholehearted passion for God among the girls in the house, and she said that she came to Christ through the testimony and example of just such wholehearted, God-loving Christians. She was discipled in that environment, and she misses it now that she’s not with those people any more.
R said that she would never have come to Christ if it weren’t for the contagious exuberance of all the Christians around her. With the background she has and the strong personality that is hers, she is convinced that nothing less would have worked.

But there we were, standing in the grocery store, both of us absolutely burning with the passionate love of the Lord in our conversation, and yearning to impart it to others, desiring that everyone in the house (and in all of Betel) would work together in one heart and one mind, plumbing the depths of Who God is and how we can know Him more.

Enough with mediocrity and wishy-washy Christianity! Let us be consistent! Let us be strong!

And her contagion ignited me. I, too, want what she wants!

“How is it that we become contagious to others?” I asked.

“You know what I do?” R said. “I take every opportunity possible to work with one of the new girls. And the whole time I’m with them, I’m giving them a testimony, speaking a word of exhortation, singing praise to God, and just being a burning light.”

As we talked, my heart soared with joy, first at knowing that here, too, is someone of the burning heart. Secondly, that we could mutually lift each other up by being a burning flame of light together. And thirdly, that I could even dare to dream of igniting people’s hearts with the passion that I have.

If her contagion (and that of so many others) has ignited me, then surely God can use me to ignite others. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Churros and Porras

These are churros.

And these are porras.

Both are basically like an unsweetened donut. They are made of fried batter and you dip them in your coffee or chocolate, or in pure sugar... yum! The difference between them is the diameter and the recipe (churros are about an inch in diameter, and porras are about 2 inches).

So today I was eating churros for breakfast, and I said to O, "I think I like the porros better." She quickly corrected me: porras.

What a difference one letter makes! Porros are marijuana cigarettes! Oops! Haha...

Garlic? Garlic?

Baby Juan Carlos is about 6 weeks old now, and is the king of the house. The other day, a couple of the girls were cooing over him and cuddling, and trying to teach him to say "ajo, ajo." (Ajo = garlic)

"He can almost say ajo," O said. "He has the aaaa part down already." 

I laughed and R chimed in, joking, "Yeah, ajo is the first word we teach our babies to say." 

Yum! Teach them right from the beginning! :-)  

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The road in

Arrow pointing to the right says "Vertedero," which means "dump."

Ironic: Above the head of the woman in the middle is the word "Cristo" (Christ) written in red graffiti.

The quality of the street goes down...

The black van on the left is a police van.

More police (the guys in the lime green vests)

Two police vans

Rubble from a broken-down house

The cross and the church

Ramshackle dwelling right up against the church

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cervantes's Birthplace

The other day I got to go to Alcalá de Henares, which is the birthplace of Cervantes (famous author of Don Quijote). 

Jail window (not currently in use)

The clock struck twelve just as we were approaching, marking the last 12 hours of 2011.  

Instead of sitting with Santa, Spanish children go tell their wishes to the wise men. 

YUM! Porros are fried twists of deliciousness. :-)  

This design was at the top of an arched doorway entering the plaza Cervantes.

Typical Spanish street

Me in an old Spanish hospital

O and me with Don Quijote and Sancho Panza

Geraniums blooming on Dec 31!

Inside of the cathedral in Alcalá

Pipe organ in the cathedral. Someone was playing Christmas carols on the dulcimer when we went in, which was very beautiful, but I would have loved to hear the organ.