Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I am leaving for America very soon. So much is happening and so much needs to be done that it makes me want to stay in my apartment all day do nothing. It's happening really fast. But, at the same time, it's happening too slowly and I just want to rip the band-aid off like when I was a kid. I'm still working on a project for my job. Crazy that in the middle of packing and saying good bye I'm also typing up facts for a school publication. I'm sad. I'm really sad. The last time I left Africa, I confess, I was thrilled. I wanted to leave so much. This time is different. I will miss so much here a great deal. I love it here, love the people, love my friends and especially love the community that I've come to have here.

Yet, I'm happy. I'm of course looking forward to seeing family and friends again. I'm looking forward to being back in a culture that I understand, to not be constantly feeling like I have to be "on" or in some way trying to understand, fit in or work within the culture. I'm looking forward to the familiar. It's not that I love places like Starbucks and Target all that much, though I do like those places, it's that I'm used to those places. I know what to expect in those places. I'm looking forward to that.

But, having come back before, I realize that there will be things that I think I will understand and yet be overwhelmingly surprised at when confronted by them. When someone lives overseas, they return changed, no longer fitting in to their home culture and never having fit in to their host culture.

I'm overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a new job so quickly after returning from this one. I love this job, but think my new job will be great too. I hope I don't start any sort of comparison games with myself. Comparison steals joy quicker than most anything else.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

European Vacation (Sans Chevy Chase)

I'd like to try and share some of my recent vacation here, but since I'm pretty sure you guys would fade out at neverending paragraphs about museums and cobblestone streets, I'll try to make it more reader friendly.

1. I went to four countries: Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and Austria. I don't normally like to split my time up between so many places, but I only spent about 24 hours in Italy and Austria.

2. I've realized in the last years that I take fewer and fewer risks. I know some of you might think that's on the side of bogus, but it's true. So, I spent a hefty roll of US presidents and went paragliding in Switzerland. I figured there wouldn't be many places prettier on earth to do it. The ride was spectacular, so beautiful, and way more relaxing than I thought it would be.

3. While walking down an empty street in Vienna, which happened to be cobblestone, I saw a car with a rose laying across the windshield. I didn't think much about it, but then the owner of the car walked out and was suprised to see said rose laying on the windshield. Surprised is wrong, perhaps clueless is more like it. So of course he looks at me and thinks that I'm the stalker that put it there! Hilarious!

4. Hungary makes these really yummy cream cheese chocolate cannoli type things. Amazing.

5. I spent time learning about Communism in Hungary. I've never wanted to lean right so much in my life after that. I normally don't discuss my political opinions in a venue such as this, and realize that a political ideology isn't the answer to any of life's ultimate questions. Nevertheless, learning about people who didn't have a say over when they heated their homes, or even with whom they lived, and walking through cells used to torture people who were turned in from anything from disagreing with 'the cause' to their neighbors simply wanting their food rations definitely left an impact on me.

6. Vienna might be my all time favorite city. I loved just sitting in the grass at the palace parks in Vienna. I can't believe that people get to chill in front of such architectual beauty. I couldn't afford much in Vienna. I ate a brothy soup for dinner because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. It's ok, the city was so beautiful it was worth it.

7. Switzerland makes the world's best chocolate. Ragusa is the best of the best.

8. I saw the movie Australia and the next day met an Australian! I never meet Australians! This Australian, however had not seen the movie.

9. I still feel like Europe is somehow under my skin. I would love to live there again someday. Scotland is still my favorite place in Europe.

10. I got on a train with no seat reservation (but had a ticket) and had to sit in the food car the whole time.

11. It took a few days for the beauty of Switzerland to sink in. I just couldn't wrap my mind around all those mountains. Finally, I went out by myself to look at the mountains, and asked God to help me to see what was in front of me. Only then did I truly start to see the beauty. It's like God was waiting for me to share it with Him. I'll never forget those moments alone with Him.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Can I get a blog post done in nine minutes? Weĺl see. I´ve been in Europe for a bit, spent some time in Switzerland, some of the most beautiful land in the world. I´ve been thinking about heaven a lot lately. Itś amazing to think that even in Switzerland all we see are shadows of what is to come. Thatś wild.

More to come....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bright Light

It's really bright here. It's like walking around looking at an overly-exposed picture. Squinting all the time, trying not to look into anything directly white--that's normal. The sky is blue, the buildings are brown, men's jalabia's are white and women's dresses are all colors. But none of it do I see with the sunlight I'm used to. I have this theory that you can recognize any region of the world just based on how the sun falls on it.

Weather affects us and our cultures so much. I don't think we realize how much it shapes our societies.

I can't believe I'm leaving so soon. I'm sad, excited and everything else. It's been a hard month and a half. I've been coaching the debate team and that has consumed my time. The girls are fantastic for sure, really hard workers who deserve their successes. But, I'm exhausted.

I confess that I'm terrible at staying in touch. I'm bad at maintaining relationships from far away, and so many of mine are.

Friday, June 12, 2009


You know those moments just after you wake up, especially just after you wake up from having been exhausted? Those moments when you aren't sure of where you are, what you are doing, what day it is? I love those moments.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I'd like to give you a glimpse of how hot it is here, and particularly, how batcrazy hot my aparment is. The other day we had some friends over for dinner. We served cake for desert. The guests nicely commented on how the cake was still warm from the oven. The cake had been made the day before.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

In Memory of my Beloved Aunt Shirley

Friday I heard of my Aunt Shirley's passing. I still am processing the departure of this amazing woman of God. She wasn't even related to me by blood, she was my mother's best friend of about 40 years. I've known her my whole life. I didn't even know that we weren't related by blood until I was about 10. Aunt Shirley was one of the kindest, most generous, joyful, gentle, modest and accepting woman I've ever known. Maybe that's why she became a nurse. She was always that nurse who stayed late and worked extra hours. She truly cared about her patients. Even after she retired, she looked in on her housebound neighbor every day. We didn't know that the cancer had returned, and we are only now making the assumption that that was what happened. I guess she didn't want to bother people with the news. But, the disease bothers her no longer. She is rejoicing with our Lord. And, though we miss her very much, we know she is not only in a better place, but in THE better place, and I cannot wait to see her again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In My Neighborhood

In my neighborhood boys play soccer in the unpaved street in front of my house. They play at dusk, which is still hot, just less hot than the rest of the day. Little ones watch and try to play.

In my neighborhood an old man stands under the shade trees next to the community water pots for hours of the day. He seems mostly normal, greets us, often in English. However, he often stretches in the street and clearly holds a flexibility level higher than any average person. I don't know why he does this. Maybe because he can.

In my neighborhood, children walk down the street, hand in hand, arms around shoulders. They know everyone else on the street, know every little one there is to play with.

In my neighborhood there is the most honest butcher and vegetable vendor. He greets me as I walk by, asks after me when I'm sick and never cheats us. There's also the most gentle convenience store owner. He has a graceful way about him, always smiles, and takes care of my roommates and me.

In my neighborhood people walk down the street selling fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread and even cotton candy. It's very convenient.

In my neighborhood a bakery sells fantastic sweets, mostly pastry paper soaked in sugar water. Three dollars buys about a pound of these tasty treats.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Typical Day

Sometimes people want a day in the life. Those are difficult these days, because I'm still not sure what a normal day looks like. However, I'll try. I wake up sometime in the morning, turn off my A/C unit which costs me a significant though worthy amount of money and check my email, hoping for emails from my friends around the world. Note that the previous sentence was not a shameless plug for more emails from you, but also note that this one is. However, should the power have already gone out before I am out of bed, I skip most of the second sentence from this paragraph. I leave my cool bedroom and enter the sauna that will be my day. Lately I've been fixing oatmeal for breakfast, in an attempt to make healthy choices. I am, after all, close to 30. However, I have to let the oatmeal sit for a while as eating hot oatmeal in a sauna is less than comfortable, which I'm sure you can imagine.

After getting ready, I head out to work, Ipod plugs in my ears, normally listening to an old playlist in need of some tweeking. Lately, I've been picking Andy Gullahorn's "That Guy" quite a bit for the walk to work. The walk is a good 15 minutes and helps me mentally prepare a bit for my day. Once I get to school, I drink about half a liter of water, enter my classroom and prepare to teach some of the most amazing students you'll ever meet. Yes, they often drive me crazy, but at the end of the day, at which we have yet to arrive, I realize that I am the one priveleged to teach them English as a foreign language.

My day is broken up by eating lunch, which locals would call breakfast, because they did not eat oatmeal in the early morning like me. They probably just had tea with a biscuit or two. So, together with friends or alone, I eat something from the outdoor cafeteria, usually a bean, falafel or eggplant sandwhich. Trust me, all of them are really tasty. I often end up in the library at some point in the day. It is one of the places that is not a sauna as even if the elecricity is out as they have a generator, so I am just about guarenteed to have temps at the most around 85. I use that time to grade papers, prepare for classes, listen to sermons on my trusty Ipod (Mark Dever is a fave), or talk to friends. I realize that some of you might find it inappropriate to talk to friends in a library, but I figure that if the university choral group can rehearse in there, then I can whisper with a coworker.

I guess evenings are the most diverse of my days. Once I make it home I might stay in for the evening, during which I will probably do a combination of reading, exercising, surfing the internet or the very criticized-but-lets-face-it-we-all-do-it, TV watching. I like to do that last bit while exercising. The best investment I made here was the purchase of an exercise bike. It has a funny smell, which permiates my room when the door is closed. Still, I love it. If it were cooler I could get on it more these days. I miss the cool days, the days of non triple digit temps.

However, I might go on a visit in the evenings, to a student or friend's home. In these cases, we normally have tea and chat it up about a great deal of topics. Tonight I visited a friend with my roommates and we spent some time trying to convince our friend that our respective states were better than any other state. I find that such a fruitless debate. Everyone knows Texas is bigger and better. I suppose I can handle inferiority complexes for the sake of my beloved roommates (see earlier blog post).

And now, I am on the internet, a bit late, realizing that the wisest decision for me is to go to sleep. The internet has truly changed overseas life for ex-pats. It's good, but it's also not good. Minutes turn to hours lost keeping up with life back home. And, I don't mean keeping up with people back home, but rather those things from back home that we simply like. I'm also a big fan of Wikipedia, which my roommates often use as teasing fodder--never like something more than Michael Scott. But, I love to learn and don't have a lot of books, so Wikipedia works great for me. All around, I'm so thankful for the internet, but know that it is also a source of distraction for me at times.

And, that's a regular weekday for me, weekdays being Sunday through Thursday of course. Maybe someday I'll talk about Fridays and Saturdays.

Much Love

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Big Truck

Hey there friend,
Can't you see,
The glimmer of a splinter seen so easily?
It's swelling your eye!
Making you blink!
It bothers me so much that I can hardly think!

It's all I see
From behind this truck.
This truck full of tinder in my eye that is stuck.
But I don't understand,
It's what's blockin' my view.
Cause I'm only thinking 'bout that splinter in you!

Seriously brother,
You gotta get on this.
That splinter might just blind you if you stay so remiss.
So don't put it off,
What's that you say?
You can't see my face with all the logs in the way?

I guess you're correct.
I'm losing my sight.
I'm gunna need some time to get everything right.
Cause now I know,
What really bothers me,
Is my eye is too infected with all this debris.

OK friend,
Now their out.
But you've got a splinter I haven't forgotten about.
But this time I tell you
Because I love you so much.
I want you to live without nasty splinters and such.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Soul Windows

A proverb states, "The eyes are the window to the soul." It's true. So was Thoreau when he claimed, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

I recently returned from a trip to the Gulf. What a crazy and exciting place. Full of foreigners, there is something for everybody in this wealthy and thriving part of the world. An economic boom has led thousands of South Asians to leave their homes to work in construction, malls, salons and more, in order to send money back to their families. I loved asking people in shops and restaraunts where they were from, because I always got somewhere different. However, I never talked to someone actually from the Gulf. After finding out about their home country, I normally asked if they liked living there in the Gulf, to which they almost always replied no. I don't blame them. They aren't treated all that great, make even worse money, live in labor camps and are away from their families.

I encourage people I know to thrive professionally if possible. If one is going to be doing something for so much of his life, he should enjoy it. But, I'm not sure if this isn't just a lofty ideal. So many of people work in these rough conditions just to help their families get by--families that they don't even get to see all that often. And you can see it in their eyes. Desparation. Clothes, language, even facial expressions can hide earnestness, but eyes most often cannot. Having to cater to the rich so that they can remain poor, if only a little less poor, I very often saw that look in their eyes. It doesn't seem fair.

I got to talk to a brother from the Phillipeans while in the Gulf as well. He didn't have the desparation. He had joy in his eyes because he had the Son in his heart. But so many don't.

Lest we think ourselves better, we do well to remember that we are not without our own similiar systems. Chinese immigrants built our railroad and were all the while treated with disdain not too long ago. And, in general, the rich will often find ways in any country to try to strip the poor of their dignity. We do well to remember that if we are rich enough to be sitting at our own computer, then we certainly fall in the rich person category by normal standards. However, I don't assume we all treat poorly those with less money than us. Even a camel can go through the eye of a needle when its Creator sends it through. And even the rich can be generous and gracious with God given gifts. But, I certainly understand better why it is otherwise impossible for the camel to make it through that needle.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


If breathing is hard then life is impossible.

I realize I write about how much I love life here and rarely give you glimpses of this life that make you understand why I love it so much. I guess I can't explain it exactly. I love speaking another language, which I could manage easily enough in San Antonio, though not Arabic to be sure. I love walking to work, saying hello to the people on the street, seeing the beautiful dresses that the women wear, which carry their owners down the street. I love that someone you don't know will go out of your way to give you a ride across town when you really need to get somewhere.

I guess I love it here because I was made to love it here. My Creator wants me here now, and He gives grace for me to thrive in Him and see His beauty all around me. And the truth is, if I didn't love it, He would still give me the grace to thrive in Him, and that would be enough. For sure there are the hard days, the days when you have a problem at work and would know exactly what to do if you were back home, but have no idea what to do here and want to curl up and watch a movie in your air conditioning rather than deal with the problem in one billion degree heat. There are the days which make those rough days at work seem easy. There are days when you just want to see your family and friends and let them see you and your heart, hear your voice and your passion, allow for comfortable silence over a pizza rather than manage so many relationships via letters on a computer screen. I miss comfortable silences with my far away loved ones. Just being able to be with someone and not say anything works so much more out than so many things I might want to say.

I have great roommates. I love them so much. I know for sure that I do not deserve them. They too are gifts from our Father.

There is Cool. She is so positive and giving. She loves to give and care for others. She's beautiful. She's full of grace and shows me how to give it. She's supportive, a great cheerleader.

And there's also LL. I love to bounce things off of her, listen to what she has to say. I don't share a lot of my strong opinions with many people, but she hears most, because she will never be angry if we disagree, and will always listen then respond, rather than simply wait to respond.

In case you didn't catch it, I'm J. Together we make LL Cool J. Catchy, I know.

I have a family here too, besides the roommates. Jane and Charles are like a brother and sister to me. Their recent addition to the family, Sweetie, is my niece. I realized that I wanted to be friends with Jane when I watched her selflessly love people around her. What a great person to learn from. She shows me how to be more like Jesus.

I have great coworkers, who love me when I am for sure a monster, and honestly share their lives with me. One is like a big sister. I'm not sure if she would like that, since I don't know if I would like my age thrown out like that. But she is, and only in the best way. I know I can go to her for advice and wisdom and she has years of experience that go behind her answers to my questions. Another is new, and I'm really thankful for her too, and how she has become someone I work with so much. She brings much wisdom and encouragement. I hope one day she gets to marry John Krasinski for as much as she loves him. If he ever meets her and doesn't realize how awesome she is, then he doesn't deserve her.

Another couple bring great wisdom and insight into life here. They have extraordinarily good perspective. I recently read The Cost of Discipleship and several times realized that what Bonhoeffer was saying was what these people lived and showed me in real life.

How am I going to leave these great people? I can only trust that the grace that brought them into my life will be enough to say goodbye as well. Saying so many goodbyes has been hard the last ten years or so. I'm tired of it, to be honest. One day we'll all be together, we'll all be at the throne, we'll all rejoice. And it will be for forever! One day.

I didn't mean for this post to turn out like this, but I guess it did.

Much love

Friday, March 27, 2009

Death by Spider--Probably Not

If death should come soon,
Know that a spider caused my swoon.

For while I was standing near his home,
He found my leg free to roam.

He cared not of my plans for life,
He saw me only as his strife.

So down I will go six feet underground,
So that worms might defile my burial mound.

But what will that matter to me?
I'll be with God finally free.

And there I will live out eternity,
With no stupid spiders to bother me.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


It's come to my attention that I haven't blogged in a while. It's true. I actually have quite a few drafts saved, I just haven't refined them.

Work is going well. It's been a bit slow now that the high school has finished classes. I'll start teaching summer school next month. I love those kids. The high school here is so much like an American high school. There are the popular kids, the jocks, the princesses, the suck ups, the picked on, the class clowns, the hard workers, the geniuses.

Sometimes I still have a hard time believing what I do. I'm so blessed.

I was overwhelmed at God's faithfulness today. Overwhelmed.

I wish I were faithful all the time. I wish I were more steadfast. I wish I kept God's promises always at the forefront of my mind, never forgetting what lies ahead and always forgetting what lies behind.

I only have four and a half months here. It's hard to think about that. I love this place so much. My heart aches at the thought of leaving it. I know that's a good place to be. I've been in other places when four and a half months seemed like an eternity.

I've been thinking a lot about eternity lately. It's a pretty huge theme in Luke, which I've been going through for a while now. I suppose another thing that I wish is that I would always think about and base my decisions on eternity.

I reread the story of the centurion who sent word for Jesus to save his servant the other day. I gripped me so much. Honestly, every other time I had read it, I wondered why Jesus marveled at his faith. Almost everyone seemed to know Jesus could heal. That's part of the reason why people spent time with him. Why would Jesus think that was so extaordinary? And then it occurred to me that it was not that the centurion believed that Jesus could heal, but that the centurion knew he was entirely unworthy of such a gift. This guy, who the other leaders insisted was indeed worthy, because he built a building, felt the emptiness of his works, and their uselessness to create a credit to his name in the eternal ledger. He was humble, and God exalted him, just as was promised.