Monthly Archives: February 2009

Giving

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“Giving…is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth.

Giving is the way the world is. God gives himself. He also gives away everything that is. He makes no exceptions for any of us.

We are given away to our families, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our enemies- to the nations. Our life is for others.

That is the way creation works.

Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves…afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving…and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.”

Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best p.43;

Quoted by Carolyn Custis James in The Gospel of Ruth p.170

One month into 2009

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Well, January has passed and we’ve taken our first steps into 2009. The past month has battered poor Spain weather-wise. They haven’t had weather as bad as this in many a decade! The wind was so strong, it even woke me up a number of nights, an islander who normally sleeps even deeper with a good gale blowing! (I’m thinking it’s the Scottish influence, there’s an awful lot of Scottish students about, in Catalonia anyway!) It’s no worse than the weather we see at home in Scotland and the Western Isles, but the Spanish aren’t prepared for such weather. This has caused many problems for people, and has resulted in some terrible accidents as well. In two weeks, at least 14 people died just in the area around us and Barcelona in Catalonia.  A group of youngsters were playing sport in some kind of hall, when the wind lifted the roof off the building and the walls and the roof collapsed down on them. Four died and a number were injured and taken into hospital. Trees have been falling, damaging electricity, gas and water lines amongst everything else. The snow in the north and centre of Spain has also been causing a multitude of problems, especially on the roads. The footage on the news showing how people trying to go about their routines often brings a smile, especially when you see folk battling along the pavement against the wind and the snow, with, an umbrella! They don’t work when its windy folks! It was nearly as amusing seeing footage online of the snow in London, but more exasperating! Everything was at a standstill, unable to function with the appearance of snow! Anyway, we’re hoping its going to get a bit better from now on, (but it was 4 C last night when I went for a walk, so…who knows!) especially with the Reus Carnival weekend fast approaching in two weeks. . The weekend promises me something even more exciting however, with the visit of some siblings and friends for a long weekend! Barcelona and Reus watch out!

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, as I find I never remember them in order to keep them! But I guess, with being on my year abroad, this year held the possibility of being a bit more adventurous and trying new things. One exciting new-thing has come in the from of Salsa dancing! I was invited by one of the teachers in the school, with whom I also have a private class, invited me to join her and some friends on Friday nights. We go to a ‘dance hall’ called New York here in Reus, where they have a free open night on Fridays. It’s full of people, young and old, dancing Salsa, practicing and learning. You can see some videos on flickr, although they may be a bit difficult. So I’ve been learning a few steps, I might even be able to teach Mairianne (the dancing-crazy one in our family) some steps!…uno, dos, tres……cuatro,cinco,seis! I really want to teach some Scottish Country dancing!

However, one rather unadventurous new beginning has been starting a dairy-free diet, to see if it will help my skin problem any. The Doctor said that what you eat shouldn’t affect your skin, but how can that be? So much is affected by what you eat and drink. From many insightful conversations with friends who have experienced similar problems, Mairianne (who has also been experiencing problems) and I both decided to begin a dairy-free test. I think it’s been a lot easier for me to start it now, when I’m away from home and more in control of what’s in the fridge and the cupboard, and what appears on my plate! Being in Spain where the dairy milk isn’t up to much anyway has also helped! I hoping being back into stronger sunshine will also help, my skin didn’t appreciate being back under the Scottish cloud cover during my holidays, and I’m sure the increased intake of ‘real’ milk in numerous cups of tea, puddings, sauces, not to mention the tub of Philadelphia, didn’t help either! So, I moved onto soya, or soja as it is here. It took me a while to find my sources and to get into the habit of considering, I am allowed this? They have a small section in the Mercadona where I do my usually food-shop, which is good, but their soya milk was horrid! Fortunately, I found some Alpro soya in Carrefour, another supermarket a bit further away, so I’m sorted! And I’ve also shocked myself-I’ve actually begun liking hot water and black tea! Never thought I could! But I guess, its amazing what you’re taste buds will decide when they’re faced with a choice between black tea or no tea at all! (You can imagine it didn’t take long for this tea jenny to decide!) It actually makes it easier for me to have tea now when I’m out here in Spain, as they don’t serve tea with milk! But I really want to have a café con leche and a croissant! Wonder how long before I cave! Mairianne sent me a link to a really interesting online book about dairy and how it affects your body, with lots of helpful advice on going dairy free. I’d invite you to read it, you might be surprised! Of course, there are many sections that aren’t relevant to everybody so you have to sift through it a bit. Visit www.godairyfree.org

I also found a new church. I was investigating around Reus for some good hotels, and walked past this building just two minutes away from the Baptist church I go to, with the words ‘Iglesia Evangelica’ over the front. I mentioned it to my Bolivian friend in the church, she knew of it and actually used to go in the evenings. We decided to go (the Baptist church only has a service in the mornings) the following Sunday. It is about the same size as the Baptist, but they have a Pastor. Their service is more like what I’m used to, and all the folk are really nice. I even met a man from Manchester! He’s married to one of the Pastor’s daughters and they live here with their young family. We’re going to go on Sunday evenings, and on Saturday night, we went to the Youth service. They only have a few young people, but more than the Baptist does. They young people organise it together, and just spend an hour-hour and a half together. So, something else new in my routine!

I’m realising now how little time I actually have left! Time flies so quickly, sometimes! It took its time a couple of months ago!

Poem by Eddie Askew

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Lord, in the quietness
I feel your love
washing over me.
Lifting the dust, cleansing the dirt.
I feel your hands, firm,
gentle, with the towel.
I can take that.
What I find hard, too hard to take,
is seeing you kneeling
at my feet.

I can understand, Peter.
I can feel his shock
as he looked down,
Looked down on you.
To find you on the floor.
The protests rise in my throat,
as they did in his.
I can accept a high and mighty God,
it fits the pattern of the world I live in.
A world of yes sir, no sir,
three bags full sir.
But to see you, Lord,
there, at my feet. That’s hard.
It makes me uncomfortable. I feel
threatened.
It’s too great a gift.
I want to lift you up
and put you back on the pedestal.
That’s where God belongs.

And yet I think what I see you’re saying.
That in a world where everything has to be paid for.
your love is free.
That in your kingdom, privilege counts-
for nothing.
And that all the values of the world
turn upside down at your touch.
Lord, it’s your gift.
It’s so great,
so different from anything I’ve ever known,
it has no price tag.
I can’t save for it, can’t earn it,
can’t even bargain for it.
Just accept it.

Lord, give me the humility
to accept your humility.

Eddie Askew

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Christmas

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I decided that I should get round to summarising my Christmas before the end of January! I know its disgraceful enough to have left it as long as this, but imagine how much worse if it was February!

Classes before Christmas were mostly spent in teaching and singing English Christmas carols and songs, as well as much colouring-in of Santas and reindeer! I was introduced to the Catalan tradition of  ‘El Tio’. ‘El Tio’ is log collected from a wood by a Catalanfamily. The, with most focus on the children, take care of El Tio in the run up to Christmas, keeping it warm and feeding it special delicasies of the Tio world such as orange peel! Then on a specially selected day before Christmas, the children gather around the Tio with wooden sticks. They hit the Tio on the back and sing a song asking the Tio to give them presents for taking care of it. Small (unbreakable!)presents are then discovered under the blanket covering the Tio. El Tio takes many forms, the photo here shows my school’s. To see it in action : http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=qFXtHrKdKWI

Our staff Christmas dinner was held on the Thrusday night of the last week of term, the evening before I was due to fly home. It was lovely, and the food was really good. It was nice to relax with the teachers, especially those I work with and have got to know. Lots of photos were taken (visit flickr!) but these are the crream of the crop, the whole group, and the three English teachers!

I was home in Lewis for nearly three weeks, with a day or so in Glasgow either end. They were very much needed. My poor brain needed a break from culture and language change. They were quite busy, and passed super fast as usual! Of course, I ended up with a good dose of the cold, just to top off the holiday season! It was great to see family and friends and to relax a bit.