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hopeful holds the tension/ dew jewels cling the sway/ clasped tight against the world/ not yet knowing it's ok/ the waiting deepens color/ trying to accept every sun ray/ gathering its truth song/ beauty at bay so long/ awaiting opening to day/

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Iona

We are here on the island. Things are windy, rainy, beautiful and awesome. The showers are an adjustment. My group is great but I struggle a lot with wanting things my way, which I need to get over. I can't post any pictures because the only place one can get the internet is the Columba Hotel (50p per 15 minutes) and that is about a mile walk from the hostel. Plus, I don't have a lot of time. Despite the ''openness of the schedule,'' there are a lot of optional trips and tours and things to see and do here that I'll probably be participating in.
Oh, and the storm that soaked my friends in Philly and delayed their plane for about 4 hours apparently has a name - Hurricane Bill (heehee). It's supposed to be over Iona tomorrow but I think it's been here for a while now.
I will be back in Seattle a week from tomorrow and probably won't be able to update till then. Just know that I am exploring beautiful beaches, participating in circle time and community dinners with 8 other lovely women, taking little boat tours out to sea, doing some intense hiking, and taking a LOT of pictures. I am attending a worship service at least once a day in a building that has been used for worship for 1500 years, and am trying to finish reading the letters you all wrote me (6 to go). I also pretty much have to cook for myself since I don't eat anything anyone else eats (not that it's real healthy for anyone to be eating most of what they're eating anyway...) and I've discovered that they don't have any bread I can eat here (it's either healthy but has sunflower seeds in it - and I will NOT go through THAT reaction again, I was one big hive for three days last December - or it's unacceptably unhealthy). Time to be creative.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Not all of my books are wet because God is good"

I don't have much time here because the internet is a pound per 20 minutes and I feel ridiculous having to pay to use my own computer (plus, I've got a lot of journaling to do), but I did want to quickly update. The Hebberman's dropped me off at a train station in Stirling and I caught a train to Glasgow where I had to switch to get to Oban (which means "little bay" in Gaelic), where I'll be staying at a hostel overnight with the women from SPU. At the Glasgow Queen Street Station, I met up with my fellow pilgrims from SPU! Their plane was delayed in Philly because of a huge storm and ALL of their packs where soaked clean through (so the room in our hostel has become one big drying rack). Oban is an incredibly beautiful Scottish-with-a-twist-of-Irish town on the west coast of Scotland; the first picture of Oban from a tower on a hill looking southwest, and the other is Oban from that same tower looking east.
The train ride from Stirling to Glasgow was 45 minutes, and the train ride from Glasgow to Oban was about 3 hours. Tomorrow, it will take about a day (two ferries, a bus ride and a mile walk) to get to Iona. It feels something like coming home to be with these people who I retreated with on Whidbey Island in April...probably because this is the journey that started this whole summer trip, and it is the trip that brings my summer adventures to a close. It is thrilling, nostalgic, exciting, painful, different and beautiful to be with these people. In some ways I feel very different around them - not only the "I'm always the different one feeling", but also the "I'm different than the last time I saw them because I am so much more....myself.
It breaks my heart with the goodness of God to think that I am actually going to Iona - the place, the trip, the pilgrimage that was a year ago, not yet heard of, 6 months ago, an application and, upon acceptance, a deeply-longed for dream. Words about God are so much more real to me now - words like "God loves you," and "God hears you" and "God will take you home." Words that we often throw around in Christian settings but...wow. As one of my good friends said, "Until you KNOW God is good, everything else is bullshit." I would add, "Until you know God is REAL, everything else is a lie." Thank you Lord Jesus for this wonderful water to my soul.
Ok, I'm not sure when the next time I'll have internet is...it may not be till I'm back in Seattle.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Castles, Cancer and Can we Talk?

For my last full day in Clackmannan (the town about 25 miles outside E-burgh I've been in), the family of four (including the 3 month old and the 2 year old) went on a rather strenuous hike up to Castle Campbell. We drove about 20 minutes to the town of Dollar (where everything is ironically expensive) and then hiked through stunning woods to a beautiful castle where, from the roof of it, it felt like you could see the whole of Scotland.

Then, we came back and while the family took a rest, I watched one of their nutrition DVD's and learned a heck of a lot about cancer prevention. Basically, stop eating animal products of any kind and flood your system with cruciferous greens (cauliflower, broccoli, chard, kale, sprouts, etc), garlic, tumeric, cloves, and fruits (specifically berries - oh, and bananas may have potassium but they have a lot of sugar in them to, which can mess with your blood sugar and can be linked to mood swings...they can also cause sinus drainage...). Seeing as I personally know at least 4 people who have died of cancer (and less and less survivors of it...), and everyone single person I know knows someone who has died from cancer (just because everyone dies does NOT mean it has to be from cancer...), this is REALLY important information that doctors don't tell you...because they don't know themselves. The average medical school graduate gets 4 hours of nutrition class - IF they choose. It's optional. Now, I'm a bit too smart, I think, to be an "everything's a conspiracy theory" paranoid person, but really...there are actually a fair amount of people who do want to reduce the world's population, the meat and dairy industry is a HUGE business and, well, it just seems like there's something else going on here. We all grew up thinking that milk was good for us, because of the calcium, right? Well, medical studies have shown a near one-to-one correlation (in case you're not familiar with statistics, that type of correlation hardly EVER happens) between milk and jouvenille diabetes. People who didn't even cut out the meat but added on serving a day of greens reduce their risk of cancers by 25%. Yet, some people won't give up meat because they think it's the "only" way they'll get certain vegetables. If that's true, then God's a liar (read Genesis 1:29). Why don't we know how to eat right? I mean, the Fed spends $10 billion a year on health education. Well, McDonald's spend that much every 48 hours. And, as a wise counselor friend of mine once said, "A large majority of people lack critical thinking skills. That's why commercials work."
Anyway, after doing that, I read my cousin's letter. John Michael has, in my mind, always been sensitive (like me), and his letter was overwhelmingly so. The memories of childhood (he did share a bit of childhood with me even though he grew up across the country), the things he pointed out in me that I thought no one in my family knew, everything was so...just, wow. It really made me want to talk to him more. Reading people's letters (I've still got ten to go!) has illuminated the personalities of the people God has lavishly blessed to me. As another sweet friend (and fellow-letter writer) said upon my sharing that I got about 21 letters total, "That ALONE is sheer sweetness."
So, tomorrow I'll probably be going to church with this wonderful family who has blessed me so much with, not only their model of a good, healthy, loving marriage/way to raise kids, but also really cool accents and really awesome conversations in those accents (our longest one was about childbirth and how my primary gift from The Father as a woman is to be a generator of life above any other calling (which I'm going to have to think about a WHOLE lot, especially since marriage is not guaranteed to all women but it was a good conversation anyway...), GREAT food (I've now got over 600 recipes!), overwhelming amounts of resources on everything from nutrition to vaccines to spiritual growth, and then, hop on a train to Oban (we stay there for a day) where I will meet up with my SPU crew. I'm not sure how much access I'll have to the internet, but, the next time you'll hear from me, I'll be on the pilgrimage that was the seed for this whole life-altering trip.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Do you have a moment to tell your daughter she's amazing?"

Maj-Britt (the wife) called her husband at work to celebrate Myanna (their daughter). She is starting to be able to read the alphabet (she's only two). She put Clinton on speakerphone and together they celebrated their princess. He was not phased at ALL by the "interruption" at work.

I continued in my studies, organized some things online, and took a rather long walk today - finally able to worship again! - because the sun was out for a long time (a very rare thing in Scotland...but I'm used to that, after three years in Seattle...). I did a lot of thinking and praying, and, it was good. I read another letter and some more devotional type things. I've been discussing some of my faith issues with friends and I think the main thing that comes up for me now isn't so much death as it is eternal life. With every tear wiped from every eye, and with boundless amounts of time, what will we do? Where will the meaning go? I know, my puny little brain cannot possibly comprehend all of this, so I think I just have to "surrender eternity" to God...obviously. But, it makes it difficult for me, as the e-devotional (from Daily Meditations of Henri Nouwen) my father (who, like me, does not believe in consequences) sent me says, to want to "go home":

Taking the Sting Out of Death:
Dying is returning home. But even though we have been told this many times by many people, we seldom desire to return home. We prefer to stay where we are. We know what we have; we do not know what we will get. Even the most appealing images of the afterlife cannot take away the fear of dying. We cling to life, even when our relationships are difficult, our economic circumstances harsh, and our health quite poor. Still, Jesus came to take the sting out of death and to help us gradually realise that we don't have to be afraid of death, since death leads us to the place where the deepest desires of our hearts will be satisfied. It is not easy for us to truly believe that, but every little gesture of trust will bring us closer to this truth.

It's hard for me to want to go home because this is all I know, and here, at least I know I've got work to do, you know? The earth's got big problems (which don't, ironically, scare me as much as they used to since I, somewhere in there, know that this isn't my home...) and there's stuff to be done and there is a limit on all of us (death). I think it's also deeply difficult for me to believe I will see my loved ones who have died (and who will die) again - I don't know, it seems just "too good to be true"...I have a bigger problem, though, with eternity. It just seems like an overwhelming amount of time, but "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived of what God has planned for those who love Him."

Despite all this, I THINK I'm starting to relax. One encouragement was getting my poetry published online (scroll down to about halfway on the main page, "I Am" is my favorite poem I've ever written, the other one...meh). Another amazing help has been the lovely family I'm staying with here. My time really has gone fast - I can't believe tomorrow is my last full day before I meet my SPU crew for the crowning jewel of this trip. The meals here have been amazing (and really educational - did you know that sugar may be sweet, but, apparently...it can kill) the fellowship has been wonderful...I sort of feel guilty. I think I have a twinge of that sort of "I'm putting you out feeling" whenever I receive something good, as if the way I show my gratitude is to feel bad and act like I don't deserve it to show you that I REALLY am receiving it. But that's not grace at all, and it totally impairs one's ability to receive love, which, if I'm reading the Bible right, receiving love precedes giving love. So, Father, help me to simply receive love, regardless of whether I feel like I deserve it or not. Love doesn't speak the same language as deserving, and it's not about that at all. Amen.

(My church is going camping this weekend - this is the 2nd year I've been out-of-state for it. I sort of wish I could be there since it was so fun two years ago (even though it was cold enough that I had to sleep in a car...) but, I get to be in beautiful scenery (just off the main road I walked on for about two hours today), too (and then, on a beautiful, secluded Scottish Island after having traveled a bit of Europe and the most beautiful country in the world (Switzerland, obviously) so I shouldn't really complain...except that I am relational to the core, and really can't wait to share this trip with my friends back home. My bragging about you all back home has been enough for Maj-britt to be rather amazed at how good of friends I have back home...)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing....

The family I'm staying with here has a staggering amount of resources, I sort of wish I had more time here. They've got philosophy, theology (the couple met at YWAM Perth), nutrition and, of course, GAMES! The wife is the daughter of the inventor of this really hard puzzle game: it's sort of like tetris in that the shape of the pieces is fixed (you cannot change the shape of a given piece), only the colors are also meaningful. The pieces are double sided: red and black on one side, blue, yellow and white on the other. You have to put the pieces together to match the pictures in the book, and, as you'll see if you study the picture closely, it's not as easy as it appears...
The irony of this mesmerizing puzzle game is not lost on me as I spent most of the rest of the day "studying" - philosophy (Ravi Zacharias), the heart I've been handed (the letters people gave me), pilgrimage (the resources in my Iona notebook), science (online reading and a video*) - save for a "sun-break."
I took advance of the 40 minutes of sun and went on a walk around town , mailed a postcard and had a great conversation with the worker there, despite how difficult his accent was to understand. Then, I found a park and got on the swing and things started crashing into place. Yes, while I was on the swing (don't worry, I stayed on the swing).
Guys, this movie - *"Unlocking the Mystery of Life" by Illustra Media - is incredible. This is a documentary about a group of scientists - none explicitly Christian, and most trying to explain science WITHOUT the presence of a designer - basically observing the universe, and explaining the facts...by intelligent design. Now, that's good science: explaining the FACTS - as in, what we DO know - in the best possible way. The argument is something like this:
"Bill Gates does not use wind, erosion and random chance to create his software. He employs talented, educated engineers to write the software because the cause of information is not randomness...it is INTELLIGENCE. So, if we don't attribute complex software programs to random chance (as well we shouldn't), why on EARTH would we attribute the most complex set of information in the known universe - that is DNA, the irreducibly complex building blocks of life - to randomness. That's just bad science." Yeah, if it's science at all...sounds more like someone's got an agenda.
Darwin knew nothing about the cell. We can't replicate this system, even in it's most complicated form, in laboratories. Yet, his impact on the scientific mind for the last 150 years has been that of "evolutionary theory", which basically rules out a certain kind of cause for life before the evidence has a chance to speak. And that cause is intelligence. If THAT'S not science's biggest open-mouth-insert-foot moment...
They're teaching this evolutionary theory in schools and calling it science. You remember - the geologic column with all these names for the different eras (Cenazoic, etc.) evidencing a billions-year-old earth, right? Oh, and that fossils "obviously" indicate age. And that oil is formed by the "squeezing" out of carbon matter from rock layers over billions of years. What they fail to tell you is that, if you ASSUME the 4.6 billion year old earth, there would actually be LESS rock layers (a LOT less) than there presently are (and they don't tell you about the petrified trees standing - UPRIGHT - through various rock layers. How, again, is each layer supposed to represent an "era"? Even trees don't live that long). And fossils are petrified - that happens QUICKLY, not over billions of years. And, if the theory about how the oil got there is true, we'd find FAR less than we actually do, even at our rate of consumption. In other words, the earth bears in her bowels all the markings of a common, worldwide catastrophe that would cause a lot of compression very, very quickly...something, like, oh, I don't know...a flood.
Suspiciously, evolutionary theory is, in almost every way that I've been able to see, nearly exactly OPPOSITE from what the Bible says about creation, mankind, and life. Sounds like someone's got an agenda.
But, the most amazing thing about all of this whole non-Christian-scientists-looking-at-the-evidence (life)-and-coming-up-with-"designer" business is that if life was designed, that means it probably was designed on purpose. I started crying when the movie was describing the process of DNA copying in a cell (up until 45 seconds before I saw that, I hated biology) because I felt such love for God, knowing that He made this thing called life. It was this awe such as I've never felt before, like standing over a 3000 foot cliff with that deep, cave-like music playing in the background - and this feeling of overwhelming grandeur coming from studying inside the smallest unit of life. Life, if it's designed, probably isn't meaningless. And, if it's designed, it means that looking into it in all its vast array is a wonderful gift of enjoyment and awe. (This what some of the world's best SECULAR scientists said...seriously, watch the video). Thank you God.
I'm starting to LOVE science even more, and something fascinating is to see how it matches up with the Bible. So...if the Bible is right about this world (and there are lots of other theological and philosophical things it says about the current state of the world that are making a LOT more sense to me than they used to), and it was right about the this world from sometimes as much as 700 years ago (Biblical prophecy is a fascinating thing), then it's probably rather daft to think that it's wrong about the next world. Thank you Lord, for answering my prayers/the cries of my heart.
In other news, I'm beginning to share more and more of "me" with my family, and to a VERY good result. To quote an e-mail my father sent this morning upon reading the story about Pop's death that won a contest: " I must say that not to do something with your incredible writing ability would be a great waste...". And, I'm loving the letters people have written me. I've read seven, but I'm at the point now where I've got to read one a day (including today) if I want to finish them before I get back to Seattle. (That's the notebook I'm rapidly filling up with reflections on these letters).
So, I'm actually accepting what and who I am...writing is not "just a hobby", dancing is not just "exercise" and my prophetic gift is not "made up stuff I could piece together from what information I already do know."
(Now, we're watching more about nutrition - this one is called "The Pleasure Trap" (as in, why, when we know the right thing to do to get healthy, it is so damned hard to do it) - and eating homemade pudding - made from avocados, honey, dates, sultanas topped with frozen berries and our choice of hot drink)...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Street Called Straight

(It's hard to imagine I'll be home in two weeks!)

So, today around 9am I headed back into E-burgh. I'd planned to see four free shows at the festival, but I brought some reading material along because the train ride is around an hour long. I brought Ravi Zacharias and a handout from my Iona Pilgrimage book on Celtic Long-Wandering prayer (that is, how we can do what Paul says and "pray without ceasing"). I bought some (awesome!) presents for people back home, but now I'm going to have to figure out how to send stuff home - my suitcase is actually too heavy for me to be able to deal with on Iona.
Instead of seeing the shows, I found myself wandering through the streets of E-burgh, totally unimpressed with what man can do, especially when they use otherwise glorious talents to glorify everything else except for God. I also found myself struggling with the equivalent of road rage while walking on a sidewalk. It makes me REALLY mad when I'm always the one that has to move out of others' way, when people stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, when people walk REALLY slowly, when people don't look where they're going (or they don't care), and when I've got to weave in and out and in and out on a perfectly straight road. I also don't like all these people shoving fliers in my face about their show - which, of course, is the best, the can't miss, the new and improved. I know, all of this is my own "stuff" - I'm just pointing out that I'm becoming more and more aware of just how deep my impatience goes...
I'm sort of startled by my own dogmatism, too, but I'm starting to learn that it's not - neither philosophically, experientially, or even in terms of science - an "option" to believe in God or not. There IS absolute truth, we CAN know what it is, and a lot of people really can be wrong. Truth is not "what you make it", and moral relativity is not only wrong, it's dangerous.
I sat in a park in the wind and rain (Scotland appears to be taking it upon itself to get me used to Seattle weather a few weeks early...), tried to pray, read: I was reading about Saul and how lucky he was to be felled by the Risen one. I wondered how people can be satisfied with all these festivities, all these shows that seem to go nowhere, or ones that actively engage in blasphemy ...but I don't want to judge. In some ways, I feel just as lost. So, I went home to read another letter, do some more studying, and read the Bible.
In other news, I LOVE bagpiges (this little band was on Princes Street - the main street where the bus and train stations are).
Now, the adults and I are watching "Happy Feet" and it reminds me of the time I watched in Pennsylvania, about this time last year...
and I can't help thinking about Paul, on his face, on that road in Damascus...

(I just received an e-mail stating that the short story I wrote about my grandfather's death actually won the contest I entered it in. Wow. That's for you, Pop!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Did you know that we live in "one spoken sentence"?

I LOVE how deep the Lord goes. "Universe" means one (uni) spoken sentence (verse). That melts my heart. How can they say there is no God (when God Himself is the originator of language)?

(I spent waiting the whole day for the rain to stop, talking a bit to my "dad", reading Ravi Zacharias, thinking more about the letters people have sent me, having an unexpected facebok chat with a (dear) friend (that I DID NOT HAVE TO INITIATE!!!!), listening to Ken Hovind, reading about science, planning my show-seeing tour tomorrow, my castle tour the day after that, and thinking about life and death...oh, and writing some poetry. The family I'm staying with taught me more about the love of Jesus; the (adorable!) wife has said, twice now, that I'm "like family"/a "long lost sister" - and that's why it's ok to eat food that would not classify as "first date" food - you know, things like spaghetti, salad wraps, corn on the cob, etc. Tonight, I will be able to sleep).

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Headache of getting "nothing" (out of "too much") done

(I can't help thinking that this is how families are supposed to be. Maj-britt (the wife) called Clinton to discuss something about dinner and he asked to talk to both of his children - including the 12 week-old. THIS is why good men are important. And, actually, for the first time EVER, really, I actually felt a brief desire to have children myself someday (but that's another subject entirely, isn't it?))
Anyway, I didn't really do a lot today, though there is much to be done. I took a bit of a walk to the library and around the cute little town of Clackmannan (about 25 miles outside Edinburgh) where I'm staying. Then, I attempted to get caught up on some journaling, reading, writing, photo-labeling and planning for the various things to do for the next 6 days before I begin my pilgrimage. There's a lot to do to prepare for that, as well as a lot to see on this (the East) side of Scotland, like the biggest festival (they've got a lot of free shows and some of them - excluding the "Heresy: Kill Your God" show - look really good!) and seeing a lot of castles. I've not finished nearly as much as I want to, and I've got a bit of a dull headache, but it's ok; I feel like I'm working through a lot, even if it doesn't APPEAR I'm not getting a lot "done."
I'm SO grateful for the healthy food - they grow their own seasonings and spices on their kitchen table (like basil, parsley and thyme) and have really inspired me to begin doing the same (provided I find a place to live in Seattle when I return!) and the fellowship here, and for the ability to not "get a lot done" and FINALLY not feel guilty about not doing enough or accomplishing enough. Despite my best efforts to not learn how to "rest"/"relax" and "let go and let God", I think I'm actually (finally!) learning how to do this. Actually, there are an incredible amount of changes (despite the incredible challenges) going on...which is why there is so much to journal, chronicle and document. Oh, and I discovered that I am actually rather possessive of Mr. Waffles (my teddy bear, for those that don't know...) today...:-P.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Almond: Milk, Vineyard, Health

I am yet again blessed to be staying with an awesome family. Clinton, the husband and father, is SUCH a good man. He is a gentle leader with his daughter, a respectful and romantic supporter of his beautiful wife, and a strong facilitator of love and harmony (he gives their 12-week old son to their two-year-old daughter to kiss every night before bed!). This morning, instead of sending me off to the Almond Vineyard by myself (25 or so miles away), he readied his family and went WITH me to the service (they usually go to a Baptist church). We were all loaded up, and he forgot his jacket so he ran back into the house to get it. We saw him duck around the corner of the house after he'd gotten his jacket, and he came back with a delicate rose petal from their rose bush for each lady in the car. I almost cried. Just before, he'd put her into the car seat and had accidentally hurt her somehow. She started crying and he was like, "Oh gorgeous girl! What's wrong? What do I need to kiss?" (!!!!)
Oh right. Before all of this, Clinton made me some almond milk for the muesli (raw granola). They are a super healthy family (no dairy, no sugar, no oil) and usually put juice on their cereal, but Clinton offered to make me whatever would make me more comfortable. (and then, I listened to him read a Bible story to his daughter, and sing to her before bed. Then, his wife came in and they took turns reading to her, alternating to do the voices. Then, Clinton cleaned the kitchen!!! And THEN, he offered me a cookie - one HE MADE HIMSELF).
The church service (I've noticed that most Vineyards in Europe meet in a school or YMCA they rent so I'm grateful for our own building back in Seattle) at The Almond Vineyard was awesome - yay Scottish accents (even though they are surprisingly difficult to understand!). Actually, there weren't that many Scottish accents - there were a lot of foreigners, specifically from South Africa and Zimbabwe (they have cool accents, too; I could recognize the South African Accent because my worship pastor is from there!) Another awesome thing: the blue curly-cue in the background says, "Be yourself. Remember what you see." (!!!) There was about a half hour of worship, then announcements, then a message: what was awesome about this message was that it was about "helping the poor" and the pastor had us break into groups and talk about what the passion of our heart is/what we felt God was putting on our hearts and then to discuss ideas amongst ourselves on how to actually DO that sort of thing, brainstorm ideas about how to put our passions into practice, and then finding accountability partners (for those to whom that applied, so not foreigners like me). So, they're SERIOUS about this stuff. It was SO cool.
After the service, I met a cute couple (the dude was from Zimbabwe, the gal from Dundee - a town in Scotland) who were going to the biggest festival in Edinburgh (once a year) and invited me to come along. I watched a play about apartheid in South Africa. It was an intense look at human relationships, sin and how hard it is to be the good voice of reconciliation and helping others at the (sometimes total) expense of yourself (it wasn't explicitly Christian, but it certainly could have been). We also had an interesting conversation about one of the most painful (to them) of the church's failings: that is, the experience common to all of us (in the group) that people sort of assume that, if you're already Christian you don't need people to be kind to you because you're the one that is supposed to be being kind to others. It hurts a lot, because caring for "the poor" starts in your own backyard. Mother Teresa said, "To love your neighbor, start at HOME." That was part of the message, too. Not about throwing money at the homeless on the streets, not about praying for God to "bring people/resources/time/whatever else into so-and-so's life" but to DO THAT YOURSELF. BE that person in someone's life. GIVE that person something to eat. Don't just pray for it. DO it.
After that, the couple had to leave, so I wandered around the streets of Edinburgh (just a tase pictured on the right) and the big festival for about 4 hours by myself. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but festivals make me kind of sad. Like, what's the point? All these people forcing what can't really be all that natural for them (painting themselves silver and standing completely still until someone throws a pound or two their direction), people passing around fliers, clamoring for your attention so you'll give money, etc. It was really hard to be there, but the city is actually really incredible. What's even more amazing is that, surrounding these really old, European buildings and cobblestone streets are beautiful sighing green hills. Maybe that's why it's called Edin"BURGH" (it's not "Ed-in-BURROW", it's Ed-in-BurA, but the "foxhole" feeling remains...). Then, I took the train to a station close to the family's house, and Clinton came with his daughter to come get me from the station. We had a wonderful home-cooked, really healthy meal, and Clinton gave me a recipe book of over 600 raw-food recipes written by Christians based on Gen. 1:29. Now, we're going to watch some more educational DVDs from a really interesting (and funny) guy about health, food and eating. They've also got this great series about evolution vs. creation - these people are, pretty much, just what I've needed (and what some of my friends have been praying for, I think...)

(Oh, I forgot to mention that yesterday, while I was hanging out at the Geneva Airport waiting for my connecting flight in Heathrow, I read through my quote-book...I know some incredible people: some deeply intelligent people, some lavishly loving people (they have been trying to love ME), some wildly hilarious people, some wonderfully sensitive people, some honestly real people, and most that are all of the above. If I can know it no other way, I know from the people in my life that I am extravagantly blessed. Wow.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

You know you've been traveling for a whole day when...

1) The handle on my 66 pound suitcase snapped most of the way off on the bus station at Steinholzi (just oustide the Stu(e)rmer's house while Anita and the kids were waiting for the bus to go to the train station with me. By the time it got to Edinburgh, it was completely gone. So now, it's going to be even more fun to roll around the cobble-stone (if that) streets of Iona. But, maybe this is a good excuse to get a better suitcase...especially if I'm going to be doing some more traveling in the future.
2) Airports have really weird/thought-provoking signs sometimes. It makes me sad that such depth can come from advertisements because it's depressing to think about a bunch of people sitting around in a room somewhere coming up with ways to get people to spend money...but...some of them are really make-you-think. There is this one series - for a bank - that will have the same picture 3 times in a row (like a couple on their wedding day, or a baby) with three different words; for the wedding it will be a series of the same wedding picture but it will say "fate" for the first one, "fear" for the second and "fairy tale" for the third. For the baby, it will say "love" then "legend" then "legacy" or something. And these are in multiple airports...it really makes you - well, at least ME - think. :-).
3) Kai (Matthias and Anita's youngest son) has the same birthday as I do - obviously, 22 years after me. I'd not met anyone with my birthday before! Both Lionel ad Matthias were also born in February (18, and 22 respectively). Go Short-Month babies!
4) It is REALLY hard to say goodbye to children - no, it's not because we didn't speak the same language, but both Lionel and Kai cried a LOT as my train pulled away from the station to the Geneva airport. This family I am with now also has two littl(er) ones...
5) French looks/sounds like an even more difficult language to learn than German. :-P (But Switzerland still ROCKS!)
6) I finally understand that Brian Regan sketch. You know, the one that goes this way:
"Brian, how do you make a word a plural?"
"You put a "s". You put a "s" at the end of it."
"When?"
"Uh....always."
"No, Brian, no, let me show you.....Irwin? What is the plural for "OX"?"
"Oxen. The farmer used his oxen."
"Brian?"
"WHAT?"
"What is the plural for box?"
"Boxen."
"No, Brian, no. Let me show you....Irwin? What is the plural for goose?"
"Geese. I saw a flock of geese."
"Brian?"
"WHAT?"
"What is the plural for moose?"
"Moosen. I saw a flock of moosen. I saw a flock of moosen out in the woodsen. There were many much moosen, out in the woodsen, eating the foodsen..."
"What are you speaking German, Brian?"
Yeah...so, to pluralize words in German, "You put a "N". "You put a "N" at the end of it." Ha.

7) I am in Scotland, the beginning of the last phase of my trip. I can't believe it. I've finally learned how to enjoy traveling. I can't believe I am going to be on Iona with my group from SPU in less than 8 days...
8) The family I'm staying with is super healthy, vegan, make-their-own-juicer, met-in-YWAM Aussie transplants to Scotland!!!
9) Cow's milk/dairy products are, apparently, REALLY bad for you. They are linked to Type 1 Diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. So...I'm glad I'm lactose intolerant (as in, can't be addicted to this crap). This guy's got a lot of other health information, too. You really can change your whole life by changing your diet - as in, stop eating "typical American."
10) Sometimes, listening to the same song over and over again really produces a rather profound insight....or just more understanding of the mindset of the person who wrote the song. :-P
11) Death sucks. I miss my grandfather a whole heck of a lot. I miss NanaPop Christmases and NanaPop's house, and Pop's laugh, and his grufft, Southern Accent. I miss him so much. Like, more than the people at home because at least I'll get to see them again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Elephants for show, donkeys for pet, and rivers for jump-in: my last day in Die Schweiz

Matthias left for his weekend hiking trip around 9 this morning, leaving me with Anita and the two beautiful boys to have the day for ourselves. Anita is such a sweet, patient, gentle woman and wonderful host - we did LOTS of stuff today! We began the day by watching elephants march through the streets of Bern. That's right; the oldest circus in Switzerland was in town today (once every year!) so we got to see these incredible, majestic, prehistoric creatures do several tricks right in the middle of the city. There was a huge crowd, but I managed to get a few good pictures, all the while being completely amazed at such giant, yet such gentle-looking, calm animals. The Lord is certainly creative!
After this, we took the "Gurtenbahn" (bahn = train in German, Gurten = the name of the mountain you can see from the Stu(e)rmer's balcony) and spent about 3 hours on top of this lovely mountain where they had a Tahj-Mahal-esque restaurant (where Matthias and Anita had their wedding dinner five years ago!), a tiny train for riding around a kid's play area, with a little stream, a BEAUTIFUL network of short hiking trails (no, I have not gotten enough scenery in Die Schweiz!), and a tower you could climb up in about 45 seconds (even with a 3 year old) to see even more wonderous scenes of the Swiss countryside. Anita even packed a picnic lunch for all of us to enjoy on the mountain!
My favorite part of the whole day, though, was the River Aare. We were on our way from fun in the sun on the Gurten to the petting zoo permanently stationed by the River Aare - this is a really well-run zoo, the animals have HUGE cages and the ones that the kids can pet have ladders going into them so the kids (like Lionel) can actually go into the cages of the animals - the goats, donkeys, horses, etc. As we were walking from the bus to the petting zoo, Anita was explaining to me about how people very often swim in this beautiful, clean river - and they jump from a bridge! Well, I just HAD to try this, seeing as it's not a very common thing, I don't think, and it's one thing everyone does in Bern. The current is fast, the water is cold, I wear glasses (and can't see without them) and...I didn't have my swimsuit. So, I got used to the water a bit on the shore, then, took off my glasses and my pants (I left my shirt on, my underwear covers more of me than some girls' suits I saw, and looks like it could be a swimsuit), and then, jumped from that bridge about 15 feet up in the chilling river with my glasses in my hand so I could put them on to see the shore. The current was fast and strong; to get out, you had to stay to the left bank and try to grab onto a red railing and pull yourself out - HARD. Anita did have a towel from the picnic, so I got out of the water, took off my soaking wet shirt (and put on my zip-up fleece) and wrapped a towel around me. If I did the Celsius-to-Fahrenheit coversion correctly, it was about 90 degrees, so everything dried really fast.
After the petting zoo, Anita took us to the new West Side shopping mall, built in a poorer area of town to "fix it up" a bit. We had dinner at the cafe there, and I got to help take care of Kai, I played with him, fed him a bit and let him climb around. (In the process I lost one of my favorite earrings...hopefully I can find some like it some time...). I then went to a German bookstore and tried to figure out what was going on there. I learned some more words: literatur = literature, herz = heart, and gedichte=poetry.
It was a lovely day - I am SO blessed to have stayed with such a lovely, wonderful family. This is the first time on this trip that I haven't felt like I "just wanted to go home" and the first time that I've felt that I didn't want to leave. Switzerland has really done me some good, the Stu(e)rmer's have, too. They are incredibly, inspiring people who really show me the face of God (which is REALLY needed right now in case you are wondering how to pray for me).
Oh, that and safe travels. Tomorrow I leave with my 15-pounds-over-the-limit suitcase (no, it's not because I've bought so much stuff here, it's because I've BROUGHT too much stuff here!) to Scotland for the last part of my trip: Edinburgh for a week, and then hopping a train to meet my SPU crew in Oban! I can't believe I've only got two and a half weeks left before the craziness of summer school, finding a house, work, school and church all on-slought.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ich spreche ein kleines Duetsch. Spreche Englisch und Spanisch.

This morning, I went back to the place I volunteered at on Tuesday (the Vineyard DaN) and took an hour and a half German class. Now, I can say the days of the week, I can count to twelve, I can say "my name is", "I come from", "I live in", "I am...years old", (the numbers are rather difficult for me after 12, though), "I am not married and I have no children" and I can ask those questions of others. I also know how to say a few other random words, but I don't understand the grammar structure at all. I attempted to write a poem in German, anyway. I sent it to my friend who speaks High German (which is, apparently, really different than Swiss German) so I guess we'll see if what I pieced together in German is what I meant in English:
Heilig

Bitte, Herr und Vater:
Hilfe.

Ihr lebendes Wasser:
gnade.

Licht sie von Ihr Liebe,
Nicht unsere eigenen Wege (I had help with this line!),

Finden Sie uns, Vater:
Ihr stimme.

I took the bus there and back all by myself; I really like figuring out public transportation. They've really got the public transportation system down really well here. Everything is electronic - from the little ticket machine at each bus stop, to the screens at each stop that tell you the next four buses arriving and when they'll get there, to the screens on the bus that show a map of the route and the name of the next stop in red at the top. So, really, I don't have to speak a lot of German to get around here; I really want to learn, though. It's not like Ireland, where you've got to tell the driver where you want to get off and then watch feverishly out the window for a street you may or may not recognize! I also learned a lot of other things: like the "Bernese Mountain Dog" is a Swiss Dog - "Bernese" meaning - from Bern (the capitol of Switzerland). I also learned that the people the group I served with works with in give clothing, food and German lessons to are not just "foreigners" - they are refugees, mostly from war-torn areas of the Middle East. Whoa hey.
I spent a lot of time in "the office" today, doing some "catch-up", too: labeling pictures of my train rides from the map of Switzerland (I took over 400 pictures each day I took a train tour), journaling, writing postcards, reading another of the letters I received from loved ones back home (I got 20 in total), and, in general, thinking and attempting to pray/study the Word. It is a lovely day outside (nearly 90 Degrees Fahrenheit if I did the conversion correctly) and I don't have too much longer here in Switzerland, but I really did need the time. Tomorrow, Anita suggested that her, Lionel, Kai and I go to the biggest circus in Switzerland - it's coming to Bern for two weeks only starting tomorrow! - with the kids, then ride up a cute little train on this mountain by their house, and then, go to this new, has-got-it-all shopping center. So, my last day is going to be relatively full, I think. After another lovely dinner that Anita made, a bunch of people came over for a political advocacy meeting to raise awareness about a Christian group to help alleviate world poverty - the Sturmer's host this thing (for those that don't spreche duetsch) but it was all in Swiss German so I continued my catch-up (gosh there is a lot of work to do to properly document a trip, let alone all the other spiritual/emotional work going on here, t00). Matthias is leaving for a hiking trip early tomorrow morning so I don't know when I'll see him again! Of course, I never really thought I'd see him again when Mark and I ran into him at the Philly airport over a year ago, either, so you never know. :-).

I'm really wanting to do a bit of "taking stock" of my trip, too - a lot has really changed (in me) even in the short month and some I've been here (and it's continuing to change quite rapidly, though some of the main "issues" remain constant - or are even getting bigger...at least that's how it feels). It's actually hard to imagine that I'll be home in less than three weeks. Not that my life really settles down much: I'll be living with my "parents" for 5 days, then off to summer school for two weeks on Blakely Island with a possibly retreat to Chicago straight from that, then, a week of working full-time (we'll see), and then, fall quarter starts. Somewhere in there, I need to find a new place (in Seattle) to live, get my textbooks and collect my kitty from his "baby-sitter"...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wasser und zu viel Sonne *updated*

(Today is my three-year anniversary of moving to Seattle. For some reason, that just doesn't really "fit" - maybe it's because I'm in Switzerland...)

I took another train tour of Switzerland - this time through an even more stunningly scenic part: Bern to Luzern via Interlaken. I've totally been to Interlaken before (6 years ago when I went to Grindelwald with my concert tour group) but I thought it was in Austria...
Anyway, the mountain air (you know what it smells like, right?) was so fresh it made me dizzy/high a little bit. I walked around Luzern for an hour and felt this deep "pull" from the city - like, I might really be able to live here (and that would be even more of a reason to learn German). It was this peaceful, very European town that felt very whooshy and quaint to walk though; I really did enjoy being there, seeing all the open air restaurants and mini ice cream stands, the shops, the breezy-ness of it all.
My favorite part of this day, though, was the three-hour boat ride my day-ticket allowed me to take from Luzern to Flüelen with a few intermediary stops at cute little lake towns. It was beautiful I could hardly stand it. The lakes ("see" in German), I were on - Vierwald-stätter (which means "four forest") which spilled into Urner See - were no ordinary mountain lakes. First of all, they were in the Swiss Alps (the most incredibly mountains ever), and second, they were HUGE. It took three hours to sail across them - so, I got a bit of a sunburn (too much sun = zu viel Sonne) - but I've never seen anything more beautiful than these large pools of water sighing their reflections of divinely crafted earth formations high enough to pierce the sky.

Speaking of water, I'm reading an article about it and its relation to evil. First of all, the Bible is not always literal (gasp!). Some of it is obviously poetry (the psalms), some of it dressed-up story-telling (we call these parables) and some of it is literal (like, the resurrection of Lord Jesus - otherwise, we are of all men to be most pitied). The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic - that is, it is highly symbolic language. For example, throughout the book, John refers to "Babylon", but it is not really Babylon to which he refers, it is probably Rome, so it may not be that when it says there will be no more sea (Rev. 21:1), it is speaking symbolically - what does the sea represent? Chaos? Power? But, even if it is literal, this does not mean that there will be no more water. In fact, in the very next chapter (Rev. 22), it talks about a RIVER of life, flowing from the tree of life. The "sea" may be gone, but water will not be - so it likely that the emphasis here is on the symbolic, or spiritual, meanings of the words "sea" and "river", not necessarily their literal representations. Maybe that's what it means for the "waters" to COVER the "sea." :-).
Just as a few questions for the author of this article: He calls the American and British response to 9-11 "knee-jerk" and "immature" but provides no suggestions for what my country SHOULD have done, other than to "not be surprised at evil when it hits us in the face."
He also makes this little point about death - "we are shocked again and again by the fact of death" - and how we're surprised by it/don't know how to deal with it. As if we're supposed to?! Well, YEAH we freak out about death. Death is the most horrifying thing on the planet, actually...I AM going to freak out when someone I've loved and cared about and has cared for me goes away and is no longer anywhere to be found. Whether or not you're Christian, it's bad to be alone (despite what this culture says about independence and "growing up"...and, if you pay attention to yourself long enough, you just might start to think that, too).
Oh, and he's also, in my opinion, wrong about what post-modernism actually IS. Postmodernism is what gave us moral relativity in the first place, so it doesn't actually say that there is any true "evil" at all. Not that I agree with post-modernism - I actually think the article would have been stronger (if I'm correct in assuming that the point of this article is to correctly identify evil and discuss what we DO about it) if he'd correctly defined postmodernism because moral relativity is actually more dangerous than admitting evil but not having a solution.
I do agree with the author's assessment that the Western world's view of evil is drastically inadequate (the world is not "alright" - the world, and everything in it is bondage to decay and is dying) and outdated but I don't agree with this huge leap he makes from saying that our worldview is inaccurate, unsatisfactory and, actually, wrong because, among other reasons, it doesn't give us anything to DO about evil to the Bible. Now, I'm Christian, so that works for me. But, for the not-yet believer, jumping straight to the Bible to explain evil won't work. It just doesn't take. If you don't already believe the Bible is an inspired book, you're going to be just as unsatisfied with what the Bible has to say about evil than you might be with what "the world" has to say about it. The author says, "It is therefore vital that we look elsewhere, and broaden the categories of the problem from the shallow modernist puzzles on the one hand and the nihilistic deconstructive analyses on the other. This sends us back to the Bible itself...?" Well, sure it does, for the believer. But what about for the determinist? The naturalist? These thinkers are no postmodern and they readily admit to evil in some cases. They will even be able to admit when something is definitely "wrong", but they may not believe that you have to deal with the Bible at all. Like that MK from South Africa I debated with Amsterdam, a lot of these people think that the Bible is a fairy tale, even a "stupid book" made up to control people. Now, of course, they've got the burden of answering the question of "who" in terms of control, but that's probably a much easier question to answer than the question of evil. There doesn't, it seems, to be a "logical" link between the Bible and evil for someone who is not already a believer because the Bible is a book for people already of the faith. The letters in the NT were written to churches and communities of believers - of people who already trusted this word of God. These atheists, modernists, humanists, and naturalists of the world today have some really good ammunition against this book, and our faith, so I would urge the author of this article to explain how one can jump from "inadequacy of worldview to explain evil" to "the Bible, obviously" - that is, if he wants to reach a broader audience (and it seems, especially in terms of evil, that "the world" is exactly the place we need to reach, eh?).

But, I do agree, as a Christian, that saying that "all evil is good" - even in an ultimate sense - is, basically, blasphemy. Not only does it do violence to Scripture to say that "God works all things together for the good of those who love him" = suffering and evil are good, but it says that God is, then, dependent on evil to bring about His purposes. While I agree with my friend who says that "God is so good at working good out of evil that it almost looks like He did it Himself," I have to say that I ALSO agree with Dallas Willard when he says that "Suffering is not the preferred method of God in dealing with His children." God clearly allows horrendous shit to happen on this planet. Every single day. He allows hatred, murder, "natural" disasters, and the death of each one of us. It's enough to make anyone lose his faith (or never find it). To say I know anymore than that would be disgusting pride. I used to think it was because of free will. But that is an offensively anemic answer to someone who has lost both parents to AIDS and has 6 younger siblings to care for in the poorest continent on the face of the earth. (And, the Bible even talks, at points, like there isn't really free will, at least not when it comes to faith: "those He predestined, He also called...").
The author goes on to say that in Jesus - that is, in one man's life who lied and died 2000 years ago - all of "this" (all of evil) was taken care of - in past tense. It seems to me though, that the world is getting worse and worse. The author actually criticizes the position of progress in his introduction anyway...and this is where a lot of people run into logical problems with Christianity. What of the efficacy of the cross if people still die, if the world is still dying and if it doesn't seem that even those who SEEK after God can find Him? The best we've got is "we live between the already and the not yet."
All in all, though, I think I like the author's "solution" - as in, what do we "DO about evil. We pull out bodies from under the piles of bricks as we remind ourselves that, in terms of sin, we too need help from under the rocks. We offer water to the thirsty while remembering that we, too, are parched and scorched under the sun. And, I think I've finally given up trying to understand. Faith is not simple, and I don't want a faith I've not thought about - but trying to explain evil to a human being is like attempting to explain quantum physics to a clam. Why is there evil in the world? We. Don't. Know. Anyone who thinks they do doesn't understand the problem. But God saves. Not from evil (for we've all had horrible things happen to us or to those we love). But IN evil. And sometimes, the very vehicle He uses is US.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

House Christ

First of all, happy birthday to my "dad"/pastor. I hope God just wrecks him with blessing today.

Today I went with a very sweet, very lovely girl named Sara (who is leaving this week to move to a town near Zürich to work with people struggling with addiction) to do some service with a team from Vineyard Bern. She was on a bike and so Matthias let me borrow his and we rode a good half hour to a warehouse the Vineyard Bern rents for their ministry to newcomers and foreigners to the country. (I can't WAIT until I can afford a bike/gear to start commuting this way - I LOVED this ride despite the incorrect size of the bike making my back/bum sore). The team from Vineyard Bern serves foreigners by providing breakfast, offering bags of groceries, donated clothes and shoes and teaching German classes every Tuesday morning. I served coffee for two hours and learned a bit of German, too. The words for coffee (cafe), tea (tee) and sugar (Zucker) are similar, and the stuff I couldn't understand I communicated by charades. It is a wonderful stretch in thinking for someone (such as myself) so strongly gifted in verbal communication to learn how to "talk" non-verbally. I'm also feeling rising in me a desire to learn more languages, seeing as it's not as hard as I thought it would be pick up SOME German. For example, the sign on the left basically embodies what we did today; I THINK, since I now know that "Liebe Gott" is "Love God", this would be the Greatest Command in High German: it looks (to me) like this sign says: Love God from your heart, with all your thoughts and with all your virtues (so mind and soul), and serve your next ones like yourself (love your neighbor as yourself, though the "next ones" is a really interesting way to think about "neighbor" - like, those that have yet to come on the earth are our neighbors too. And THAT is, if you can't find a better reason, a sobering reason to care about the planet). Pretty good, ja?
The fellowship was amazing, too. After the clothes were picked (Sara noticed that I was looking at one particular item and she gave it to me!), the breakfast was eaten (lots of sweets and cakes and Zucker!), the groceries were distributed and the German was learned, the Vineyard Bern crew had lunch (spaghetti with a really good bean/corn sauce). I met the lady who made it: Suzanna. She has two adorable little boys about the age of the Stürmer boys; her husband is not a believer and to hear her talk about how much peace she has about the whole thing really inspired me to trust God more. Another older lady (60's, maybe), Monica, actually divorced her husband for that reason (I don't know the whole story). They were so kind as to have their conversation in English so I could participate. At one point, Monica (pronounced Mo (like "no") EE - KAH) was attempting to talk about home groups and she asked, "Do you have House Christ in Seattle?" Suzanna and I burst out laughing - I thought she meant something like do we have Jesus visitations or something. Suzanna says, "Ah, nothing like a German word with an English translation, eh?" (The German word for "homegroup" is "hausekreiste" or something like that). Anyway, it was awesome. I'm learning just how well one has to know the English language to understand what others who do not speak it so well are trying to communicate...I'm learning that even I don't speak English as well as you'd think someone from America would! (Gosh I really want to learn other languages...especially (I can't believe I'm saying this because I'd not ever had the desire before) Hebrew). And, I want to be involved in service more. Not because that's "the good Christian thing to do" but because I just loved being there, attempting to communicate, and really feeling the Spirit of God move among these people.
After we finished lunch and cleaned up, Sara offered to take me to the Vineyard Bern offices so I might help out there, if they needed any help (that wouldn't require speaking or reading or writing). We got there, and I realized that the way Sara, Matthias and others have been introducing me makes me a representative of my church: "This Megan from Vineyard Seattle." No pressure! Anyway, I was put to the task of putting together 60 welcome packets and shortly after beginning this, met a woman whose first language is German but moved to England young enough to speak English with a British accent. We had a very interesting conversation about traveling since she's lived/traveled all over the world and speaks at least 6 languages. Something very healing about this conversation was that during it, I realized the necessity of travel in an ever-globalizing world. Here I thought I was "wasting my time and resources" doing something "just for me", but traveling really increases one's understanding and compassion for the world in ways that, as Christ followers, is absolutely essential to the heart of love. I finally released myself from the burden of guilt of "what if this selfish trip wasn't God's will for my life and I could have spent these two months and money "helping others" somehow." I think...just maybe...that is exactly what I'm doing...
A few other things solidified for me while helping out as best I could behind the language barrier today, so all in all, I think Christ really is becoming my house, and I'm starting to believe (though I still don't understand such an extraordinary claim) that I am a house for Christ as well.

(Now, I am going to go watch a movie in German - it was either that or watch a really bad movie in English!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

8 bags of Christmas

I spent much of my day surrounded by what you see pictured on the left. Matthias and Anita suggested that something I could do while I was here would be to buy a "tour ticket" for 40 CHF (about $25 - this is a good deal seeing as the train ticket I had to buy from Geneva to Bern and will have to buy again when I fly to Edinburgh on Saturday [this might be the first time on this trip I don't want to leave where I am!] was 51 CHF!) and take a train tour of Switzerland. This ticket is good for any train anywhere in Switzerland, any bus in any city in Switzerland and even, as I'll find out on Wednesday, BOATS! Matthias outlined some routes I could take, and Anita suggested some towns for me to tour so today, around 9:30 I left Bern for Domodossola (via Brig) - Domodossola is actually in ITLAY! There were several stops the train made between Domodossola and Lucarno that were flying the Italian flag! From Domodossola, I went to Lucarno - which is the (very) Italian part of Switzerland - and hopped a bus to Ascona, which was my favorite part of this whole day. I sat by Lake Maggiore for a long while, reading (this book, "TrueFaced" is absolutely incredible...it's about trusting God - for REAL), felt moved to pray, and genuinely felt some sort of lifting of the otherwise relentless "issues" I've got going on. And, I really felt like I was in Italy - I LOVED it!
I got a bit lost/was unable to find the bus back to Locarno (which is where I needed to catch a train to Zu(e)rich via Bellinzona, so I didn't get to Zu(e)rich until about 9pm, which wasn't enough time for me to really see the city and explore (especially since the train ride back to Bern is about an hour). It's ok though, because I've got a ticket for Wednesday where I will travel through a different part of the country - and get to take some BOATS according to Matthias and Anita; I'll probably go to Zu(e)rich, too, since I'll be in the area (and how many times does one get to go to Switzerland?). Train riding is very good time for....well, lots of time. And, if you're in a country like Switzerland, you can't help but praise God for the glory (read: goodness) of the wonders wrought by His hand. I mean, every view was like opening a Christmas present - I'm grateful for this earth, and am grateful for being able to feel gratitude for it, too, instead of taking the extravegent beauty created for us to enjoy along with God for granted.

(I also learned that Swiss women didn't get the right to vote until 1971 and was told by an Englishman (as in, someone who's first language is English) that I spoke very fast) :-P.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gnade: The Other Scale

Today, the Stu(e)rmer's and I left around 10:30 to go to a baptism of a beautiful little girl, Enya. It was a Catholic ceremony that lasted about two hours, all in Swiss German. I understood only the slightest bit because of the movements and motions from people, and possibly a bit from the Holy Spirit. Then, we all went to the little girl's family's house for a wonderful barbeque and I got to talk American politics, political geography, US mentality and Swiss government with an Englishman, a Swiss man (the father of the girl), and a Licktenstein (spelled like I would pronounce it) man. I learned a lot about who people from England consider British (as in, NOT Northern Irish people), how the Swiss government works (as the English guy said, "Most things in Swiss are forbidden. If it's not forbidden, it's obligatory") and what people think of Americans ("blissfully unaware, but we can understand how it's not REALLY their fault").
Then, we went to the Bern Vineyard, which is the largest church in Bern (with over 1,000 people; they have three services every Sunday). Worship was in German, sermon was in German and announce - ments were in German, but there was English translation. I ran into the two guys from Bern I met in Dublin at the Dublin Vineyard last month! I also got connected with a girl who is going to take me to a group doing some social and community service in Bern on Tuesday. During worship, I felt such a sense of peace - peace and faith like I'd never felt before in my life. The sermon was incredible, too. It was all about grace: It is hard to define grace, but one we can go about it is to imagine a world without grace. I immediately had the thought that "the world" wouldn't exist because LIFE at all is grace and grace is LIFE. Then, he went on to talk about how if we see absolutely everything in our lives as grace we will not grasp, we will not hurt as much and we will be....FREE. The world does not owe us anything, life does not owe us anything, we didn't ask to be here...and those are some different scales by which to measure life, ja? He compared it to forgiveness and gave the best definition of forgiveness I've ever heard: "Forgiveness is trusting God."
I am learning "release" here - things don't happen on my watch, but they still happen. Matthias takes care of me and his family and it doesn't need to happen any faster than it is happening. People here in general are SO laid back, and they are true to their word. Just because something doesn't happen right away doesn't mean it won't happen. I'm getting it, Lord: "Megan, relax."
Oh, and the CD that the Bern Vineyard gave me has my favorite song on it - I have been unable to find it ever since I heard it about two years ago at my Vineyard (we haven't sung it since)....as the first song.

...Creator God He is Yahweh
Lord of all He is Yahweh
Three in One He is Yahweh...

Danke, Herr Jesus, fu(e)r gnade.

Now, we are watching a movie in English with German subtitles - "The Bank Job" (previews in German). "We" as in the adults. :-). With wine and popcorn. Fellowship is AWESOME.
Speaking of adults, I LOVE Anita. She is a petite, gorgeous Swiss lady who is so soft, so sweet and actually kinda spunky, too. Her and Matthias are so gentle with their kids, singing when they cry and are upset, laughing when they laugh, tickling to have fun - I've never heard them once their voices at either of them. Matthias says, "Our kids learn to forgive each other early. You forgive your kids early, too. And then, the day begins." That and how he treats his wife reveals something of the deep-heart of God to me. God bless Matthias and his beautiful family.

(P.S. Sorry about the picture quality - they were taken on the run a bit...mostly because I forgot for a second that I was traveler and not just at home...).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

En Lacheln in the City of Bern

So, for my first full day in Switzerland, it rained until about noon. Not "rain" like Seattle rain, rain like torrential downpour. So, the Vineyard Festival they were going to have today has been moved to next week - sad day since this time next week, I will be in Edinburgh (so not really "sad"). But, Matthias, his oldest son Lionel (pronounced Lee-oh-NELL), who is about three, walked around the city of Bern, a farmer's market, and an African festival where we got some wonderful African food. Everything in Switzerland is really expensive, so it's a good thing the Swiss Franc is not as strong against the dollar right now. I learned that Switzerland still uses Swiss Francs (CHF) because they are not part of the EU. The reason, at least according to Matthias - who is really involved in political lobbying and other really awesome stuff - this incredibly diplomatic nation is not part of the EU is because, although it would be a good political move, it would not be a good financial move. Switzerland is a very wealthy country and would probably end up supporting a lot of Europe that isn't as well off...
We walked around the city centre of Bern and found an African music troop - 3 guys and two gals in awesome costumes in a little niche between a few shops in this really outdoor mall. Their music actually made me cry a little bit (I've always really enjoyed African music) but then, they began to sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and I realized that the reason I was crying was because this was worship music. We stayed and listened to about 4 songs - Matthias was ready to go, but Lionel wanted to stay!
We also saw a guy whose English gave him away as "American" (technically, it's can be offense to say you're from "America" and assume that everyone knows that that means "the US" because Canadians, Mexicans, Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Chileans, etc. can all say they are Americans but, unfortunately, if you say you're from America, everyone will assume you mean the United States). He did speak some Swiss German, but his English accent was the same as mine. He was playing the guitar, making balloons for children and making marianettes perform to his own music (it was rather amazing). Actually, this guy sort of made me cry, too. I could tell that he REALLY loved what he was doing - and that went beyond "street performing"; he loved interacting with people. He would tell stories while he was making the balloons, mostly in English - I laughed a lot because he was really funny; I'm not sure how many people understood him. He did speak to the kids in Swiss German, though, as he was making balloons for them. At one point, Lionel goes up to him because he wanted a balloon, and, after the guy shaped into a parrot, he asked him what it was; Lionel said, "A balloon" (in Swiss German, balloon = balon). He would ask the kids for a smile before he made a balloon: "En lacheln normal es en balon; en lacheln largente (Sp?) es man balon!" (A normal smile is a normal balloon, a brilliant smile is a better balloon! - One girl gave a smile that caught in my chest, and she got two balloons twisted into a huge daisy flower!). The sign on his guitar case translated into "A smile makes the world go 'round." That's when I realized that that is one thing I could definitely do more of on my trip!
Then, after dinner (Anita is SUCH a good cook and the round-the-table fellowship is something my heart deeply desires: they offered wine and really good food and they even sang grace in English (for me)!), Anita and I went out to the once-a-year(!) street music festival in Bern (that didn't start until after 8:30 - which is very different from all the other countries I've been. Usually, things don't wait so late to start...). She said, "A Female Evening for us out and a male evening for them in!" I nearly cried - female fellowship is something I've been largely without. We walked around, saw performers, bands, people balancing rocks (which really was quite incredible)
This place feels SO different than Northern Ireland, it's hard to describe, but I am really a lot happier here. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm staying with a Christian family or what. This family is incredible - Matthias is SUCH a good man - gentle, patient father, loving, devoted husband, caring, considerate friend, lavish host (he's coming up with all these incredible things for me to do and people to do them with!). Anita doesn't speak as much English and their children do not speak any English at all (their youngest - Kai (like "sky" without the S") is only one and a half so he doesn't really speak and I definitely feel like I'm about on his level!), so it's a good brain stretcher to learn how to communicate nonverbally (especially since "verbal" is where my strength is). It's not like Amsterdam where everyone speaks English, either - so it's difficult, but a REALLY good experience. Matthias has to translate a lot, and also, I have to guess. It's awesome. And I love having people with me doing stuff. It makes me wonder if my being alone for a lot of the first part of my trip heightened the weight of the things I was struggling with...
**picture of swiss francs**
Speaking of strength and experience, I'm picking up a BIT of Swiss German. Swiss German ins to German as the English they speak in Scotland is to the English I speak (of all the English accents, I find Scottish people rather difficult to understand) - it's a strong accent with a few different words. So, platz = plaza, strass = street, bibliothek =library, musik - (obviously) music, nie (a very important word for children) = no, lacheln = smile (en = one/a) and bloema (?) = flower. Danke is thank you but people also say "merci" (which is french for thank you).
Also, the money here is different, too. In the UK, they have coins for 1 and 2 pounds (in the US, they switch to paper after 25 cents) but here in Switzerland, they don't start using paper until I think 10 CHF. They've got coins for 1, 2 and 5 CHF (as well as 10, 20 cents and 1/2 franc (50 cents I believe)). The denominations of money are fascinating, it really shows you how people think, at least for me. And, the way things are priced here, it doesn't seem like you get random amounts of change - that is, the divisions are "clean": so no pennies or even 5 cents, as far as I can tell.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Just so we're clear, I have no interest in flying a plane without any brakes"

Switzerland is one hour ahead of the UK so plus one to the time posted below.

This morning, I woke up after 3 hours of sleep (there was a lot to do to get ready and I was out all day) and said goodbye to Sally and Northern Ireland. I got on a plane to Heathrow and then, hung out a bit in London, again, before boarding the plane to Geneva.
So, we false-started on a take off. Apparently, the computers were acting up. So, they "called the engineers" and, after an hour, we tried taking off again. This time, the computers indicated total brake failure (it's good that they can tell stuff like this before leaving the ground, I think, so instead of getting all huffy-impatient, I was relieved that we didn't find out that we couldn't stop by...well, not stopping...). So, they called the engineers again and, after about a(nother) hour or so, we were off. Then, after an hour plus the time change, we arrived in the most beautiful country in the world.
The two-hour train ride from Geneva to Bern (the capitol) broke my heart with its beauty. I don't know...I fell in love with Switzerland (a little mountain town called Grindewold, where I got my Swiss Army knife with my name on it) when I came here six years ago, too. Now, I'm with a friend - Matthias - who I met at the Seattle Vineyard (he goes to the Bern Vineyard) a year ago when he was doing doctoral research at the University near my church. He was on the same flight me and my ex-boyfriend were on to PA where we were going for a wedding in his family and Matthias was going back to Switzerland. Today is his 5 year anniversary with his beautiful wife and they just left to celebrate it. His two cute little boys don't speak English so it looks like our common language is charades. Oh, and if I could, I would move to Switzerland. Tomorrow.
(Quality's not great but this picture was taken from a fast-moving train's window! Fore-fore-ground: reflection of my hand in the window, foreground: beautiful Swiss villages, background: Lake Leman, farther-back-ground: Swiss Alps!!)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Being Part of Something Giant

Today, to celebrate my last day in Northern Ireland, I went on an all-day tour of the northern coast. It was fabulous and beautiful. We started in downtown Belfast - where, just 15 years ago, armed guards and police , then drove north up the coast and saw some heart-piercingly beautiful scenery. We drove through five "glens" - little villages whose name each had a story, like "Glenarm" is short for "The gathering place of the army" and it was some protestant vs. catholic thing I'm sure. The drive was beautiful - so green, so much ocean and sky it was heartbreaking. We then went to a rope bridge - I didn't think I'd be scared because I'm not usually afraid of heights - but I have to say, about halfway across this thing, I about freaked out. I'm not sure how high it is, but whoa hey...and it makes it worse that it swings and creaks like it's not going to hold you...and they don't regulate how many people can cross at time - they do regulate the direction though, and they take turns letting people go one way to the "island" and back the other direction. I met a nice English couple that was on the same tour bus as me standing in line to cross back the other way.
Then, we went to the Giants Causeway - apparently, a NATURAL construction of rocks and stones that used to cross all the way over to Scotland. These octagon-like stacks of rocks came up from the center of the earth and were cooled in the formation they are in (they look man-made, honestly) and then, over time, the sea swallowed the connection to Scotland. There is an Irish pub near my church in Seattle with the name "Fin MacCool's" and now I know a story behind it: So, when the Causeway connected Scotland and Ireland, the Scottish king wanted to come take over Ireland. Fin MacCool was in charge of Northern Ireland at the time and knew he could not beat the Scottish Army so, when he heard that the Scottish king was coming, he ran home to his wife and newborn baby and hid the baby. He crawled into the crib himself and pretended to be the baby. When the Scottish king came by Fin MacCool's house, his wife was pushing her "baby" around in the stroller and the Scottish king thought, "Wow, if this is Fin MacCool's BABY, then HE himself must be a giant." He got scared and sent his army back the other way, destroying the Causeway after crossing it so Fin MacCool's troops wouldn't have the chance to come back and retaliate.
The Causeway was beautiful, though, and I'm glad we got about two hours to hang out there. I clibmed around, seeing how sure-footed I was (I did not wrench my ankle!), and sat and let the sea breeze blow my hair all around, and just WAS with God. It was awesome.
Then, we drove through a few more adorable, heart-breakingly beautiful villages and then, to the oldest distillery in the world: Bushmill's Distillery, built in 1608. Then, we stopped at Dunlusce Castle - another stunning beauty - before driving home. All in all, the tour (about 50 people on a bus) took about 8 hours. I was gone 12 hours because the bus ride to Belfast from Saintfield takes 40 minutes, and the walk from the bus stop to Sally's house takes half an hour, etc.
So, I permanently leave Sally's home in about 6 hours. I'll fly from Belfast to London Heathrow, wait two hours then fly to Geneva where I'll have to call Matthias (the friend I'm staying with in Switzerland) and let him know what train I'll be taking to Bern (and Swiss people are always on time because they, of course, invented time). I've spent the last three hours fighting with my suitcase, organizing, cleaning, cooking (now that I know you can get food through airport security, I don't have to buy airport food anymore) and, of course, writing this blog!
The next time you "see" me here, I'll probably be in the capitol of Switzerland!