I’m safe

As you’ve heard by now, a devastating 7.8 earthquake hit Ecuador last night. The death toll keeps rising and thousands are injured. Many are trapped alive. It is horrible.

Earthquake map
Epicenter is the star. Cuenca is in red.

375 miles from the epicenter, I didn’t feel the tremors, although some Cuencanos did. I didn’t realize anything had happened until Facebook pinged me to share whether I was safe from the Ecuador earthquake.

Ecuadorians have been laboring tirelessly to build up their country. They’ve got wifi in many places, have built new roads and airports, and are even building a tram through Cuenca.

As they build, bullies knock it down: El Nino has brought widespread flooding and landslides, low oil prices are hurting the economy, volcanoes threaten to erupt, and now this. And this is huge.

Bricks and mortar can be rebuilt. The dead can be buried. But trauma and grief can steal hope…

If you want to do something, please pray. If you want to do something else, make a donation. 

Either to your favorite relief fund or to one that is here, in Ecuador: http://heartsofgoldfoundation.org/earthquake-relief-fund/

If you want to invest in those who’ll soon be this country’s engineers, architects, doctors, and decision makers, make a donation here: https://www.generosity.com/fundraisers/full-bellies-dreams-of-hope-you

A moment for another makes a difference. The people of Ecuador thank you.

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For you beautiful people who made it to the end. I know you’re wondering: Kyle is safe. :)

 

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Easter Crucifix

Having grown up very Protestant, it is fascinating to be in a Roman Catholic country.

I had to share this pic with you, in case you’ve never seen an Easter Crucifix either.

Easter Crucifix
Easter Crucifix taken Easter Week, in the New Cathedral in Cuenca, Ecuador

Here is a video of church bells playing Easter morning from my apartment’s back door.

I had a visitor for a week, from 3/17-3/25, but I haven’t had time to give his visit a proper blog post. Stay tuned, Kyle will be blogged about. We had some fun times, and I have many fab photos and videos to share of our adventures. :)

Other news: I’m working and volunteering quite a bit. That global giving campaign for Cuenca kids I’ve mentioned previously, will be launching next week. You’ll know about it, don’t worry. ;-) Please prime your heart to help. These kids need anything you can give.

Processing with Jesus

Glowing candles, chants, music, and costumed characters filled the streets of Cuenca last night, Good Friday.

San Blas
San Blas Church with the full moon kissing its dome. 

Penitent and pious, sinners and saints, innocent and guilty processed, pausing only to watch as actors reenacted that night we call good.

All walked with Jesus to His crucifixion. All walked with Jesus to His death.

Jesus carries the cross
Simon the Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross

Sitting in the Cathedral watching people rise to line up, I hesitated to join them. I’m not Catholic, Ecuadorian, or Spanish speaking. I stick out and still feel like a tourist, not like one of them.

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Yet I am a Christian, just like them.

God sees me as His own, and He sees them as His own. We are His.

I joined the Stations of the Cross procession. Video

These gentle people accepted me and my presence with them. I never sensed a judgmental look or comment. It was remarkable and yet not really, for we are His children, all Brothers and Sisters.

They get it, I’m the one who doesn’t…or hasn’t, until now.

Video taken for the audio, as this was spoken at each station. Translation help welcome.

More photos below:

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Remembering St Patrick in Cuenca

Cuenca is full of graffiti. It is annoying, mostly visual noise, but sometimes it catches your eye and makes you smile.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day, friends!

Pat’s a Dude
Although Irish Catholics whoop it up on March 17th, St Patrick was not Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox, he predates all that silly split stuff. He’s just a guy who went where God sent him (through a vision), and because of his obedience, God used him to single-handedly convert the Celts to Christianity.

Yep, he’s a dude.

2016 St Patrick’s Day take-away for me is that our Lord set the stage for Patrick before He sent him. In Celtic prophecy God planted that one looking like, sounding like, and dressed like Patrick, would come from across the sea. God also seeded Celtic mythology with triadic gods, making the Trinity an easy nod.

By and large, Patrick brought the Good News and, besides a few spiritual power encounters with Druids, started dunking people in the river.

Yep, he’s a dude.

Since I’m a foreigner in a strange land and got the divine Nod to stake out some time here, I’m banking on this notion that God sets the stage for those He sends. What that means for me, I don’t know. And maybe I’ll never know, and that’s okay.

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To help me celebrate, I bought my first clothing item: an alpaca wool/cotton blend poncho made by artisans in Otavalo, Ecuador.

$18.

Of course it is green.

Yes, I’m in my pajamas.

Don’t judge.

 

 

 

 
And for you beautiful people who have made it to the end…this is for you.
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I knew “Minnesota” was not fitting in

Last Saturday morning, I prayed about whether to go on a free tour of museums later that day, provided by the city of Cuenca. I had spotted the opportunity in the local news (that is translated by CuencaHighLife for English speakers). I heard Him say “Yes” and then prayed again, and got the Nod.

So, off I went.

I hopped the bus at Parque Calderon five minutes before the time noted in the news.

There were two of us on the bus.

Knowing I was where God wanted me and having nothing else to do, I pulled out my pocket Spanish dictionary and started reading.

45 minutes went by. Finally a few other people boarded. I chalked this up to the “Ecuadorian time” I’d read about, smiled and kept trying to memorize the days of the week in Spanish.

After an hour, seats were filled.

As the bus pulled away, the tour guide asked a question of the group and gestured at guests to answer. People started responding with names of  South American countries and Ecuadorian city names. He looked at me and skipped over me, I was grateful. I wasn’t sure what the question was, but if it had to do with where people were from, I knew “Minnesota” was not going to fit in.

It was at this point I realized that this wasn’t going to be one of Cuenca’s “pity the pathetic expat” tours by giving English translations.*

I was alone in a sea of native Spanish speakers touring this fair city in their language.

Knowing I was where God wanted me, I embraced the experience. I even challenged myself to capture the gist of what was being said.

This was hard.

At our first stop, I exited the bus, but stayed distant from the group, trying to be as invisible as possible, hoping no one would catch on that I was completely clueless. I took photos, smiled, and wondered if the pillars were perhaps, an Ecuadorian Stonehenge.**

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Inside the museum, we all moved as one, from room to room. I listened intently, and figured everyone thought I understood. Then in the middle of a presentation the museum’s guide turned to me and said something in Spanish.

All eyes in the room shifted to me.

I looked at him, swallowed my tongue, felt the blood rush from my face, then fully to my face, and said, “No entiendo.”

I was pretty sure that meant “I don’t understand.”

A woman from the group stepped forward, spoke perfect Midwestern English to me and, without asking me, yet knowing it was the only way, became my tour translator.

This still brings tears to my eyes….

I think I saw wings on her at one point, but she presented herself as a native Ecuadorian living with her husband in Chicago. They were on vacation visiting her Cuencano brother and his wife.

As it happened, she and her husband were in the seats in front of me on the bus, so we got to interact the rest of the tour. They were the kindest people, so gracious. They even invited me into one of their photos.

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Graciela is next to me, her brother and his wife to my left, and her husband on the far right.

Near the end of the tour we exchanged business cards. This remarkable woman, Graciela Chediak, is the President of Ecuadorian Volunteers Association, a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit that raises money for Ecuadorian causes chosen by the Association.

I asked her if she could help me connect to a women’s shelter in Cuenca.  She promised she’d check and of course, she’s already sent me the name, address, and phone number of one.

I don’t know all the reasons God had me on that tour, but I’m pretty sure she’s one of the main ones.

If you’re reading this Graciela, thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope we get to meet again someday.

Here are more photos, for you rare souls who enjoy other people’s vacation pics :)

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A 2o second Panama hat making video I took is at: https://youtu.be/AZAeUx9XUIM

* “pity the pathetic expat” is how I’d see us expats from the outside. Ecuadorians are too polite and gentle to utter, or even think such a thing.

** the stone posts represent the wooden hitching posts that were once used for horses. :)

Three in a Week

I thought only death, broken appliances and bad news came in threes.

Maybe I was wrong, maybe good news triples up too…
TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

First off, last week Looking for God made a short list at the online Christian magazine and community, The High Calling. Along with nine other posts, my Why I Like Blue Jeans made it into Great Posts from Around the High Calling Network. This is a big honor and one I keep jumping around the house about! The High Calling community consists of  1,800 bloggers, an editorial staff and top-notch articles and resources for Christians looking for God in their “work, family and broader culture.” Pop in, be blessed and if you blog, do join.

12th century

Secondly, I’ve been invited to work temporarily for a previous employer, First Presbyterian of Maple Plain. I served almost three years there as an administrative assistant and am looking forward to serving again. Clerical skills brush-up, great staff moments and serving God’s people with pencil-in-hand are some of the things I’m most excited about.

Most recently, I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Jonathan at 237blessed. I am thrilled and honored to receive this peer-to-peer nomination! Jonathan “loves the spirit” of Looking for God and says it has “something truly important to declare concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.” It doesn’t get any better than that! Thank you so much, Jonathan!

At 237blessed, Jonathan brings hope and blessing through his use of Scripture, spiritual insight and sensitivity to the Spirit. If you desire a blessing or want to hear from God, visit 237blessed. Grateful I get to be your Sister, Jonathan, and your blog friend.

Of course, with nominations there are rules…

THE RULES TO FOLLOW FOR THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD:

1. Add a picture of the award to your blog post.

2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their blog.

3. Share 7 random facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other Bloggers and inform those 15 they have been nominated.

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Seven random facts about me

1. Cemeteries are cool.

2. I read, write and never spit.

3. Some people call me charismatic, others contemplative.

4. I say “Woosh” too often, people wonder.

5. My 1992 Honda has 223,000 miles on it.

6. I suffer most when I can’t find Jesus.

7. Migraines come and go, but God is forever.

The nominees are, in no particular order:

1.Quirky, compelling and insightful, Nori takes you into her life and lets you sit awhile at Rambling on Regardless. Lucky me, I’ve slogged through bogs, danced in a kitchen and savored raspberry chocolate with Eleanor. She’s a keeper I call friend.

2. Joyce at Joyce de Vivre has a knack for creating Christian community and has created Featured Scribbles to foster Christian blog community. Tireless and passionate, she reminds me to stay rooted and reach high.

3. A-Musing is a newly birthed blog written by an old family friend. Jim shares his heart and always points to Jesus. Glad I get to share him here with you.

4. Bernie at Daily Light uses Scripture, practical insight and prayers to bless his readers. His devotions help me lean a little longer on my Lord. I’ve studied, prayed and joked with Bernie. He’s a Brother I call friend.

5. Brother James came to Looking for God with encouragement and profound presence. When he’s around I breathe easier.  His site, Domini Canes, is beautiful and his words never fail to make me pause and reflect. A new blog friend I sense kinship with.

6. A dear old blog friend who once spent hours interpreting one of my dreams, Cindy at  Anyone’s Guess write wonderful poetry and prose and is soon to have a baby. Her heart is fixed on Jesus, and that means everything.

7. Another long-time blog friend who nominated me for the Sweet Friend Award, blogs at So Much, So Little Time. Kate is, among a few dozen other things, a devoted Catholic, a prolific writer and a published author. Oh, and she just gave birth to her fourth child.

8. Dan at The-Fatalistic-Smile writes deep, mythic poetry that rattles your unconscious and steals your heart. Back in 2010 he guest blogged here, at Looking for God: Into the forest he wanders. He’s a wise soul who has been known to climb rock walls, even with me.

9. Claire is a stay-at-home-mother and blogger from New Zealand. Her One Passion One Devotion says it all. She’s all about one thing and one thing only. More times than not, I leave her site lifted, closer to God.

10. Lizy, at Follow Lizy, is on adventure in Glasgow. She’s a brilliant writer who takes you with her and makes you smile. For a sure-to-delight-you peek into Scottish university life from the perspective of a college student from my home church, stop in and stay a spell.

11. New to the blog scene and fresh to my world, forthefrustratedchristian give me encouragement and helps realign me when I’m ready to scream. Thank you and welcome Sid!

12. Estherlou at Estherlou’s Blog has been around the block and is refreshingly herself. She also runs a bakery and sometimes posts photos that makes mouths water. As a new blog friend, I look forward to getting to know her better.

13. Antigone’s Clamor is well written, often takes a stand and makes you think. Sometimes I find myself cheering. Lara has a way with words and loves her Lord. Visit and see.

14.  Jocelyn at Celine is a Filipino living in the U.S. who is sold out for Christ. She’s a bright light in a dark world and helps keep my head where it belongs, in the heart of God. She’s a blog friend who gives great encouragement.

15. Jessica at  booshy makes the mundane delightful and humorous. She’s got dogs, runs marathons, oh and she’s about to give birth to her first child. Never a dull moment by a gifted writer. Glad to call her a long-time blog friend.

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Those are my three and they all happened in one week! As I look for God, I see Him everywhere! Thanks for your presence, prayers and praise. May God bless you because…

‘And That’s All You Have To Know Really’

As Christmas crashes in, it is tempting to sideline the point.

So, to promote focus and smiles, here is a very old tale told by very young souls.

A timeless story as told long ago…

(To watch, follow the video’s prompt to click through to youtube or click on the link below.)

If you cannot view, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZUFE6kt2kA

Title is a quote taken from The Bells of St Mary’s (1945, Leo McCarey)

Why I Like Blue Jeans…

A repost for those who like blue jeans…

I threw out an old pair of Levi’s yesterday. Into our bedroom’s small, green trash can I stuffed them.  Faded blue was white, frayed edges hung low, loose threads here and there. Even so, not worthy of trash, I thought…but then the hole just below the back pocket, that forced the issue. I don’t mind wearing worn jeans, but “holes in questionable places” jeans just aren’t me. So, these dear old friends are quickly becoming landfill tenants.

By and large, what I wear matters little to me–any of you who know me, know it’s true. A quick glance through my closet would horrify any fashion consultant. Most of what I own was given as a gift or as a hand-me-down. I hate shopping for clothes, so tend to go with what is on hand: sweaters from the 90’s, turtlenecks rescued from our teenaged son’s trash, dresses from my great aunt’s cast-offs, items dubbed “did you get that from Laura*?” by my teenaged daughter. Not so with jeans, though. No one can successfully bestow jeans on me, my body shape sneers at anyone who thinks they can…

So, I’m forced to shop. And, for me, shopping for jeans is an arduous task fraught with peril at every clothing rack. Different cuts, sizes and colors overwhelm my psyche and trigger a primal instinct for flight to the nearest exit. The thought of a wall of denim gives me a certified case of the creeps. Guaranteed is umpteen trips to the dressing room, therefore abundant amounts of unhurried time is required; all limbs must be in good working order for the dressing room workout; and shopping friends must remain scarce (I don’t want to know WHAT you think. This is a private matter between me and the mirror–thank you very much!)

My relationship with blue jeans is a personal one…one that began long, long ago…  Levi’s and I reach all the way back to my twelfth birthday when I received my first pair of  jeans (thank you Aunt Sharry!). After ripping the gift open and squealing with delight, I ran to the bathroom, wriggled into them as fast as I could and bolted back for family viewing. They all agreed: they fit well, except for the waist where they hung a bit big and at the bottom where Aunt Sharry quickly folded a cuff. Once a belt was in place, I looked great and oh, so grown up. Finally, I’d moved from polyester to denim–twas a big deal for my tween self!

I wore them often and eventually broke them in (for young whipper snappers: back in the old days new jeans were stiff and unyielding, requiring time, washing and bending before one could move without discomfort–I’m not kidding!). They served me well, til puberty kicked into high and they couldn’t hold me anymore. Blue jean graveyards should exist, landfills just don’t do them justice.

What do these hip hugging mainstays mean, though, I wonder? Maybe I feel a cultural connection with other Americans when I wear them. Maybe I like their versatility, as all fashion experts assert that anything can be worn with jeans (although none of them would couple anything in my closet with a pair of jeans). Maybe a bit of that or a bit of this fits here…could be.

What keeps coming back to me, though, is that they’re a constant through time. To think my twelve-year-old self wore a pair of Levi’s blue jeans and that my forty-four year old self still wears Levi’s blue jeans carries some comfort. They’ve been at every turning point, heartache and joy in my life. They were there when my parents divorced, when I went on my first date, when I got my first job, when I went to college, when I said “I do”, when I nursed my first child, when that child went off to college…. I’ve prayed, sung, wept, laughed and screamed in blue jeans. They’ve been there all the way, fully present and soothing me with their quiet touch.

In a way they remind me of One who has been present through all those times and more…and, thankfully, I’ll never have to throw Him in the bin. Nope, He has stuck closer than any inseam Levi’s could devise.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Thank you, Jesus, for sticking closer to me than I am to myself…for sticking closer to me than anyone else or anything else and through absolutely everything I’ve ever known. How to express my gratitude, I don’t know…but I am forever grateful…yes…forever I am grateful…

*name changed to protect the innocent, kindhearted soul whose taste in clothing I like

–pic taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Denimjeans2.JPG

 

Blame God So He Can Take the Credit

Finger pointing
Image via Wikipedia

Chronic complainers are the pits. They grumble and groan about the latest mishap or injustice. They grind on our nerves with their “poor me” stories and negativity. I don’t know about you, but when the wheels of discontent start spinning, I start looking for the exit, plan my dip out of sight.

Anger and resentment often accompany complainers. Some, like me, hide their emotions and put on a good face, but we all know in their heart they sneer and judge.  Some express discontent, bring it forth and wear it well. We all know who they are.

Usually complainers point at a person, they complain about another: the boss didn’t follow through, the pastor forgot to call, the neighbor’s dog “did what?!” Others become the problem, the source of pain.

Complaints can be constructive, though. When presented well to the right person, they can be a catalyst for change, a way to move toward improvement, relief, better days. Chronic complaining to the wrong person, though, pollutes and denigrates. Morale sinks, faces drop, shoulders stoop.

This morning I read Exodus 16, a story about whining Israelites in the Wilderness that occurred shortly after God, through terrible plagues and a bout of military men at the bottom of the sea, “convinces” Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. Standing before Moses and Aaron, the whole community complains: “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you [Moses and Aaron] have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Even though God is leading this motley crew of Hebrews, the people blame Moses and Aaron for their suffering. They wag fingers at fellow human beings, even though God orchestrated or, at the very least, allowed the event. Moses and Aaron, wise as they are, point back and wag away: “Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”  Moses and Aaron remind the Israelites of the One responsible, the One leading, the One who placed them in this barren and deserted wasteland without provision.

Then God whispers into Moses’s ear and Moses turns to Aaron and says, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

God takes the blame, gets an audience and then He wows them. For forty years quail come to the camp every evening and manna blankets the desert floor every morning. Meat and bread, enough for everyone.

The take away, for me, is this: when I’m right were God wants me to be and things go awry, the earth starts to shift, suffering sets in, I need to quit pointing fingers at others and start wagging away at my Lord. If He has placed me where I’m uncomfortable or searing pain wins the day, then it is certainly okay to give Him an ear full. I think He prefers it, actually, for when we’re at our wits end, on our face before Him, we tend to get out of the way and make space, space for Him to show up and save the day. He gets the blame, He gets the credit.

Why? I wonder…maybe it is an opportunity to grow in faith, to release an idol or two, to remember Whose we are and Who’s in charge.