Powerful In Any Language

Recently, my long-time and dear friend, Deanna, resurrected a challenge that she made to me 5 years ago – for us to join together in memorizing a beloved Bible chapter in Spanish.  This same dear friend made a profound impact on my life many more years ago.  At that time, I was reading the Bible almost daily, but using various published topic based books and studies.  She challenged me to just read the Word with no specific study agenda, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me through it what He wanted to teach me.  As a result, my life has never been the same.  Although I tried many times previously to read the Bible through in a year, I always fell off.  But I then devised a way to break it up in easy to process sections, with breaks to give time to catch up if I got behind.  As a result, I’ve read through the entire Bible many times since then and have learned so much more just letting God teach me through reading His whole word and not just bits and parts.

When I first moved here 5 years ago, Deanna suggested we memorize Psalm 27 together in Spanish.  She knew this was a beloved chapter for me for so many reasons, and I had memorized it in English many years earlier.  I started trying, but just could not get myself through it.  Looking back, I think it’s because I was so overwhelmed at the time trying to learn so many other new things, that my brain just could not add one more.  Also, being so unfamiliar with the language, few of the words and grammar made any sense to me, so it was like trying to memorize sounds with no meaning.

But not long ago, Deanna asked if I wanted to give it a try again.  I agreed and we each chose the version we wanted to use.  I chose the NVI (Nueva Versión Internacional), because I had learned it in English in the NIV (New International Version).  She decided to join me in using the same version.  Memorization has never come easily for me.  It takes a lot of effort, but I know it’s well worth the effects once I’ve finally “hidden the Word in my heart.” (Psalm 119:11)  It was easier this time, now that I have a better grasp of the Spanish language.  Also, it taught me some new words in Spanish and really helped me work on my “I will” and “He/She will” verb conjugations. 😉

So without further ado, here is Psalm 27, recited by me, by heart, in Spanish (and my friend, Luis, told me it was perfect!).  The English translation is written below the video.  The Spanish NVI wording is a little different than the actual English NIV version, so I translated the Spanish version, so you can better understand it.  (And Truman, my friend, this one especially is for you ☺️!)

Psalm 27

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
     Who will I fear?
The Lord is the bulwark of my life;
     Who can intimidate me?
2 When the wicked advance against me
     to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and adversaries attack me,
     it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Even when an army besieges me,
     my heart will not fear;
even when a war breaks out against me,
     I will maintain the confidence.
4 One thing I ask of the Lord,
     and it's the only thing I pursue:
to live in the house of the Lord
     all the days of my life,
to contemplate the beauty of the Lord
     and recreate myself in His temple.
5 Because in the day of affliction
     He will guard me in his dwelling;
under the shelter of his tabernacle He will protect me,
     and He will put me on high, on a rock.
6 He will make me prevail
     in front of the enemies that surround me;
I will offer sacrifices of praise in His temple
     and I will sing psalms to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, my voice when I cry to you;
     Take pity on me and answer me.
8 The heart tells me: "Seek his face!"
     And I, Lord, your face I seek.
9 Do not hide from me;
     do not reject, in your anger, this servant of yours,
     because you have been my help.
Do not desert me or abandon me,
     God of my salvation.
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
     The Lord will receive me in His arms.
11 Guide me, Lord, in your way;
     direct me on the path of righteousness,
     because of those who lie in wait for me.
12 Do not give me over to the whim of my adversaries,
     for false witnesses rise up against me
     that breathe violence.
13 But one thing I'm sure of:
     I have to see the goodness of the Lord
     in this land of the living.
14 Put your hope in the Lord;
     have courage, take cheer;
     Put your hope in the Lord!

Sunday Morning Birthday!

The tracks I saw leading from the water to Lisa’s house (please try to ignore the trash – it was the one month we didn’t have volunteers here to clean the beach)

On my morning beach walk about two months ago, I paused in front of my neighbor Lisa’s house to notice some tracks that I quickly recognized were from a sea turtle. I’ve seen the familiar tracks a handful of times along the beach, signaling that a pregnant female had swam ashore that night to lay her eggs. The tracks are then covered by the next tide, so if you don’t see them right after, you will never know it happened. As I followed the tracks up the bank where they converged (one set leading out of the water and the other back down to it), I found the pit! The eggs were well covered, but you could see the slight difference in the area from the rest of the sand. I quickly sent a text message to Lisa. She went out shortly after, surveyed the spot and marked it with stakes (as they do in other places along the coast where they know there is a turtle nest). In the subsequent weeks, she kept an eye on it to make sure dogs and birds stayed away. From what we read, the gestation period could be anywhere from 40-70 days (depending on the moon, tide, temperature and various other factors) and they can lay between 80-120 eggs! So we were watching, waiting and hoping we might get to see our little babies hatch and make their way into the ocean (although this most often happens during the night).

The nest that Lisa marked with stakes – you can see the difference in the sand from the rest of the beach around it

After 67 days of waiting, our baby sea turtles hatched today! Fortunately, our high tide was at 4:42 a.m. with sunrise at 6:09 a.m. While getting her morning coffee a little before 6:30, Lisa looked out to notice the disturbance in the sand pit and called me immediately to come down. (Thankfully, I’d forgotten to put my phone on airplane mode last night, which is my normal custom). Apparently most of the turtles came out in the dark at the high tide, but we got to watch the last few hatchlings making their way to the ocean. Thanks to Lisa for sharing her awesome photos and video – my phone battery died as soon as I got there. 😔

 

You can click on any photo above, to open a more close up version of the gallery.  Also, here are a few videos of the exciting event (your can hear commentary from me, Lisa and our neighbor Wayne in one of them).

Sunday morning is always a day I stop to reflect on Jesus’ resurrection and our new birth. What a perfect day to also be able to witness this marvel of creation!

For more information regarding sea turtles and their nesting/hatching habits, here is a good website: https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-general-behavior/

The Biggest Waste

I long ago became disillusioned with most of what is practiced and preached as modern day Christianity in the western church.  For many years, I struggled with the dichotomy of the verbal profession and/or mental ascent of believing in Jesus, verses seeing the actual gospel I read about in scripture walked out in individual lives and churches.  I’m not even talking about the many sad stories of self-professed “Christians” who continue to live lives of compromise and sin.  But just the lives I so often saw that “had a form of godliness, but denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5) in their day-to-day practical choices, decisions and living.  So much of what I saw around me seemed to be a wimpy, watered down and even “impotent” version of what I read in the New Testament.  I still remember the time in my life when I consciously made the decision to dare to believe that whatever the Bible actually taught was more than “nice in theory,” but truth for my day-to-day life.  I continued to struggle with the fact that even the most well-meaning Christians and churches seemed to focus their attention on their own particular “pet areas” of the gospel, rather than a more complete, holistic embracing of the totality of its message.

Then a few years ago, through a roundabout way, I was introduced to what has now become my “virtual church” – Pastor Eric Ludy and the Church at Ellerslie, in Windsor Colorado.  It is here that I finally heard power packed sermons that fed my spirit with the truth of the gospel message in its entirety.  These messages, rather than “tickling my ears,” continually call me to “come up higher,” through aspiring to and intentionally pursing a life of “no compromise” in my faith and walk with Jesus.  I’m quick to agree with the apostle Paul in saying, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)

One of these recent messages led me to ponder again the role of and response towards suffering in our lives.  And as the title of this blog post suggests, I think sadly, for many in the western church, the potential benefits of suffering get wasted.  The Bible has so much to say on this topic, not the least of which is:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

We hear it, but do we really believe and live it?  Compared to so much of the church throughout history and currently the rest of the world, we really know very little about suffering.  But if this verse is true, it means that ALL our trials, both great and small, can be used to produce perseverance and mature our faith.  I can look back on so many things that I’ve gone through in my life and see the fruit God has produced when I was willing to surrender to and cooperate with His purposes in it.  Other times, I failed miserably, just seeing the trial as something to endure and get out of as quickly as possible.  Jesus was very clear when he said, “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)  It’s not a matter of if, but only what and when we will have difficulties in this life.  This is true for everyone on the planet.  For the Christian, what a waste if we don’t allow those difficulties to be used to produce good fruit in our lives.

I think this message articulates so well this one of many “upside down” Kingdom truths of the gospel.  I hope you will listen with an attentive ear and maybe choose to look at your current or next difficulty in life through a different lense:

Grape School: A Study In The Exquisite Joys of Suffering

Short But Cute

I just had to share with you this video of my friend, Luis, with one of his ELEVEN rescue cats.  He’s asking her if she wants bread or money?  I uploaded it to YouTube and share it with his permission.  (By the way, for those of you who remember my cat, Emmie, if you could see Mina’s face, you’d say she looks just like her!)

Keeping It Simple

Simple is special

My simple tree with my most special ornaments from throughout my life

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.  I truly make gratitude a big part of every day, but I’m so thankful (haha) that there is a day when we can come together with friends/family and do it together.  I celebrated with 20 of my closest peeps here.  The funny thing is, of the 21 people in attendance, only 5 of us are from the U.S.! 😂 But I love how our tradition (Canada does have a Thanksgiving Day as well, but it’s in October and not as heavily celebrated, so I’m told) is embraced by people from all over the world.  Anyway, I’m sorry I don’t even have ONE picture to show you of the evening, but I was too busy enjoying great conversations and food! ☺️

As I’ve mentioned before (here), I again followed my mother’s long-standing tradition of putting up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving.  In the states, I had accumulated a lifetime of decorations that filled nearly a whole closet and took me two full days to put out.  But when I moved here, I whittled everything down to a small box of my most treasured ornaments from childhood and beyond, along with my first and only Christmas stocking (made by my aunt Catherine when I was born), and my childhood “Twas The Night Before Christmas” book (that my mother claimed I could recite perfectly by the age of 5 years old).  That first Christmas here (just weeks after I’d arrived), Elaine found and bought a small table top tree for $9.99 at a local general store.  When she was going back a few days later, I asked her to pick one up for me too.  That became my first Ecuador Christmas tree, decorated with my “little piece of home” ornaments.

Since then, I’ve certainly had way more time and opportunity to accumulate more decorations for Christmas.  Lots of my friends here really “do up” their houses, and I love visiting and seeing all their handiwork.  But for me, I’ve purposely chosen to “keep it simple.”  Although I’ve gained a few more special ornaments that were given to me by friends here, my solo Christmas display has remained unchanged over these 6 years.  It reminds me of the intentional choices I continue to strive to make in all areas of my life – because I really do believe that a simplified life, is the richest life of all.

Fun Follow-Up

My best amiga’s here, Elaine and Fatima. I’d hate to think of my life here without these two precious women in it.

I know what some of you are thinking – “What?! We hardly hear anything from you for the past year, and then we get two blog posts back to back?!” I know, I know – what can I say? I can only write when I feel inspired. And today I was inspired to write this fun follow-up, after my rather serious anniversary reflection yesterday.

After I wrote that, I got ready to go to a party at my good friends Bill and Elaine’s house, in honor of my anniversary (just kidding!) Actually, Elaine just wanted to have a fun party to gather friends and give us all an excuse to get dressed up, so she called it an “Evening Soirée.” She ended up picking the date of Sunday, 11/11, to accommodate my work schedule and in honor of American Veterans Day/Canadian Remembrance Day. It just so happened it was my anniversary too. Which is fitting, because I first met Bill and Elaine roughly 8 hours after my plane touched down at 11:11 PM on 11/11/13.

After all the claiming luggage, clearing customs and the 3 hour van ride to my new town, I didn’t get to bed at my new rental house until 4:30 AM. I woke up the next morning around 7:30 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. I went outside to survey my new home for the first time. I was talking quietly with my new landlady, so as not to wake my friends Gail and Jefferson, who had come with me to help me with the travel transition and getting settled. After just a few moments of conversation, my landlady informed me she had also rented out her upstairs unit to a couple from Canada, since they just needed the apartment for 3 months, and that was how long she would be in the states. Shortly thereafter, Elaine’s face peered down over the balcony. My landlady then introduced us and the first words out of Elaine’s mouth were, “You look like hell!” 😮 I then explained to her that we didn’t get to bed until 4:30 AM. To which she replied, “Oh, well, breakfast is ready – come and get it!” And that was my first introduction to Elaine. That’s my Elaine – blunt and hospitable all at the same time. Little did I know that brief introduction would begin what I am confident will be a forever friendship.

As I have said numerous times before, God truly knew what He was doing well in advance. Bill and Elaine had rolled into town just 3 weeks earlier, checked into a hotel and then scoured the village for a place to rent for several months while their house was being finished. Their choices were meager and pathetic, until through a series of “coincidences,” they happened upon this place, which wasn’t really for rent any longer because I had reserved the spot. But as I said before, the landlady decided to go ahead and rent the second unit to them, since she wouldn’t be here for the time period they needed it. That “coincidental” act in turn brought me some of the dearest friends I have ever known. So it was extremely poetic to get to celebrate my 11/11 anniversary with them. Words cannot even begin to describe how much these two wonderful people mean to me. They truly are my family, not to mention that shortly after we met, they became the parents to my now god-dog, Tag. He and I are still abundantly blessed that they adopted both of us into their hearts and lives.

Moving Right Along

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything, and I haven’t written much at all for over a year. It doesn’t mean that nothing is going on. But I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of work, social gatherings, household chores, and just day-to-day life. It’s hard to believe that 5 years ago today, I left behind everything familiar that I’d ever known and moved to a country I’d never been to, where I didn’t speak the language or know another soul! It’s amazing to look back and see God’s providence and provision from Day 1 (and even beforehand). Oh my, I’ve learned so much these past 5 years (not the least of which is the Spanish language)! I’ve grown by leaps and bounds, learning so many life lessons I’d never have gotten if I hadn’t “stepped outside the boat.” My former life back in Texas feels like it was a million years ago (except I still have the same cat and job, and am blessed to have kept many friendships as well).

Since then, the U.S. has continued down the rapidly declining trajectory that God had showed me would happen before I left. Whenever I talk to someone back in the states, I can practically hear them shaking their head as they recount whatever the latest “insanity de jour” is that is happing. All the while, I remain completely unplugged from any of the drama that continues to swirl out of control. I don’t watch or read any news from over there, and my life is so peace-filled and far removed from that existence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t deal with any problems here. But it is completely different from the frantic, helter-skelter, stress-filled existence (I cannot even call it “life”) that most people in America are dealing with. Adding on top of that the powder keg of hate and violence and the gasoline of the media, and it’s only a matter of time before a cataclysmic explosion occurs. Those who know me well know I predicted this decline before I left and sadly, I don’t see any hope of it reversing.

I truly thank God every day for calling me out of the madness. I would have never chosen to leave of my own accord. But I feel abundantly grateful and free. Again, it’s not that I’m living an easy life. In many ways life in a third world country is way more complicated. But paradoxically, it’s more simple at the same time. I’d call it “basic” – and there is something to be said for pairing things down to what really matters and getting back to a more “basic” life. It’s actually the kind of life most of the people in the rest of the world are forced to live. I certainly don’t sit around twiddling my thumbs. My days are full and I’m never bored. I have plenty to keep me occupied, but my life here is not so much about “doing,” it’s more about “being” – being intentional, thoughtful, thankful, joyful, reflective, prayerful, peaceful, etc.

Honestly, the U.S. isn’t the only country on a downward spiral. It seems that in one way or another, the whole world is spinning out of control. Of course, all this was prophesied long ago, and for those with “eyes to see,” we know it’s all coming to its conclusion very soon. Despite living the most blessed, peace-filled life I’ve ever known, I still personally can’t wait until “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” “Even so, come Lord Jesus – AMEN!”