Friday, November 10, 2017

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

I was asked to review this title by Jennifer Grant and thought it would be a fun read.  It's full title is "When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?  Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife." Interestingly, right after I started the book, I had an opportunity to get together with a few of the ladies from the Fayetteville High School class of 1980.  It was fun to see these gals and think about how far we've come and the good things that are still in store (like grandkids!). 

Back to my book review, though.  Being a very introspective person, I really enjoyed how Jennifer didn't just share stories from this season of life. She thought about their deeper meanings.  I think my favorite part was when she analyzed the phrase "midlife crisis."  She said it comes from the German word Torschlusspanik, which literally translated means "gate-shut-panic."  Apparently the term dates back to the Middle Ages in reference to the panic medieval peasants might have experienced as they rushed to make it back inside the city gates before they closed for nightfall. In the case of middle age (instead of the Middle Ages), it's the alarm and anxiety you feel when you realize that the door is closing on many opportunities.  For me I feel this most keenly in regard to motherhood and homeschooling.  The door is closing!  I want to stick my foot in it or maybe even take it off the hinges altogether, but that's not the way it works.

This fall I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about the things I have left undone.  It became a real burden for a while.  I've heard that debts can be defined as sins of omission - and I was feeling a lifetime of debt that I was actually starting to lose sleep and shed tears over. Then I realized that Jesus didn't just die for the bad things I've done, but for the good things that I didn't do.  What good news!  I don't have to worry about that door closing.

"having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." ~ Col. 2:14 (NASB)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Noah as Mr. Darcy

Sometimes during the season of being a mom of three teenage boys, it's hard to see how they could possibly become marriage material.  This summer it was fun to see my youngest play a romantic leading man - Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." 

I got to watch him dress up in breeches and an ascot, dance, propose numerous times and use LOTS OF BIG WORDS!

The dress covered in mud


Mr. Collins makes a call

The fight

The first proposal (rejection!)

The second proposal (success!).  Love the reactions of the girls.

Taking his well-served bow

Thanks to his big sister for taking these photos and for giving him a love of Jane Austen - which helped him land this part and be super-excited about it.

Eclipse Navy

This summer I got to see my first total solar eclipse!  It did not disappoint.  

When we were in grade school, both Terry and I have memories of going out on the playground during an eclipse and being extremely underwhelmed.  Seeing a little shadow on the sun was just not that exciting.  But I heard there was something more as these words from an essay by Annie Dillard describe . . .

"I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it."

Fast forward to this summer, and the hype here in Tennessee was extreme.  I even talked my sister and her husband into coming for a visit during the eclipse.  This event was all people talked about for almost on a week.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the word "totality" - I would be totally rich right now.  I was so glad I had remembered to order eclipse glasses on Amazon before we left for Greece.  But then the media started saying that some glasses sold were not up to standards and MIGHT MAKE US GO BLIND.  The ones I bought were not on the list of approved manufacturers, but they seemed alright to me when I tested them out, so I just chose not to worry about it.  I got pretty cracked up at the warnings about keeping pets from looking at the sun.  Some coyotes may howl at the moon, but have you ever seen a dog or cat looking at the sun?  

So we had our glasses, but I had not anticipated the run on moon pies.   I had to settle for some Little Debbie ones, which weren't quite as authentic as the Moon pies invented right here in Tennessee.

So we had our glasses, and our moon pies, and a PLAN!  Our original plan was to drive to Sweetwater along with maybe half a million other folks and watch 2 min. of totality with some friends there.  But then Terry's friend and brother came up with a better idea to beat the crowd and go see 1 min. of totality by water.  Seemed the right thing for the SEAMANS to do!  So Scott and Ann hosted a big lunch at their lake house, and then we all headed out in boats to the line of  totality several miles down Melton Hill Lake.  There were four boats in our little navy, and we were the first to head out.

You couldn't really drive with eclipse glasses on, but it was a fun look!

As you can see, this part of the eclipse party was mainly an opportunity to take fun pictures in goofy looking glasses.  It was exciting seeing the progress of the eclipse, but the main event was the 30 seconds before and after totality and the total eclipse itself.  I followed the advice of many experts to just enjoy the moment by NOT taking photos - instead just focusing on the sounds (the crickets), the immediate cool temperature and being able to take off the goofy glasses and see the sunset in all directions and that spectacular image! 

I was in awe.  Seeing the total eclipse brought an immediate smile to my face that I could not wipe off!

It was truly a spiritual experience.  I kept thinking of Psalm 19 - 

The heavens are telling of the glory of God
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands!
Dady to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, there are no words
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out throughout the earth.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Anarchy in Athens

No, this is not a post about a mutiny on a missions trip!  Instead, it's about our group's interaction with one of the most intriguing subsets of Athens' population - the anarchists of Exarchia.

Before this trip, I imagined an anarchist was someone like the Unabomber who shuns technology and lives alone (turns out that's primitivism).  I had no idea that any anarchists would be organized in groups (I thought anarchy equaled chaos which is quite the opposite of organization).  We saw evidence of organization in this protest we saw while we were there:

It turns out that Athens is the anarchist capital of the world!   This is kind of an ironic statement since one usually associates capitals with governments.  In this case, it just means that there are more anarchists congregated in Athens than anywhere else.  It was fascinating to walk through this area of Athens (Exarchia) and hear about the growing church plant there.

Exarchia is not a dangerous place to be unless you are a policeman or journalist or a fancy car (they like to burn fancy cars there).  Policemen now stay out of Exarchia, which we were told has the lowest murder and theft rate in Europe.  It is self-policing.  The way "anarchy" was described to us sounds more like libertarianism. (I read that libertarians are to anarchists as nudists are to naked people. They're just middle class and organized so they appear less crazy.)   Anarchist groups in Exarchia do organize and "vote" on things - they just want everyone to have a direct say.  In this way, it's a bit like the original Athenian democracy with a dose of feminism (since in ancient Athens women could not vote).

It is definitely a colorful and interesting place!  Many bookstores and LOTS of self-expression in the form of graffiti.  And the anarchist sign is prominent - it's an "A" drawn where it goes outside the circle (outside the establishment).

Notice the parts of the face drawn on the pillars below.  This took some talent.

This looks more like graffiti that I could do:

Yes, it was hot in Athens!

Tim, one of the pastors of the church in Exarchia, met with us one morning to describe their work there.  He explained that anarchists appreciate transparency.  They have found that it's best to be up front that they are Christians and are there to plant a church.  The question is how does the gospel challenge the narrative of the culture?  And how does the gospel fulfill the narrative of the culture? (Tim Keller).  Obviously, as Christians we are never without a ruler, and God calls us to a life of obedience.  This challenges anarchism.  On the other hand, anarchy rebels against hierarchy - no one is more important than another.  This agrees with the gospel.  We should value everyone - even the refugee - and be a servant to all.  

The pastors in Exarchia live there and are both members of anarchist groups (many of which are peaceful - some are even reading clubs or service clubs).  

I asked lots of questions:

(1) Do anarchists send their kids to public school?  (I thought they might be into homeschooling).  Tim said Yes!  The reasoning is that you're not a very good anarchist if you're afraid of your kid being indoctrinated in public school.  However, he went on to say that anarchists didn't often have children because they don't often marry.  It seems even though anarchists don't like the commitment of marriage, they reason that raising children requires this kind of commitment.  So if people want kids, they get married.  

(2)  Why does Exarchia have more trees?  Tim said it's because there are a lot of eco-anarchists.

(3)  What do anarchists think of Trump?  Tim says they don't like him, but they don't hate him any more than any other politician.  They would not have liked Hillary either.  

(4) Can Greeks carry guns?  Yes, they can!  Even concealed weapons.  

Terry and Dale worked all week in Athens to do some repair on the building that the Exarchia church has been renting.  This involved plaster repair, painting, and rigging something on the roof to keep the cats from pooping on it!  Here they are after a long, sweaty day: 

The Exarchia church has now purchased a building that they will be renovating and moving into at the end of October.  This building will house not only the church but several refugee families along with one staff family.  Pastor Tim took us on a tour of the new building. It fits right in with all the graffiti.

After seeing it, I am a little skeptical it will be done on time, but we could all see the potential!  I am excited that our church in Knoxville is helping to support this work. 

I think if I was to live in Athens, I'd probably live and go to church in Exarchia.  Could be because I am about as upset with my government as they are with theirs.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fun @ Faros - Our Ministry Week in Athens

Faros ( Φάρος)  means "lighthouse" in Greek.  Faros is a Christian organization in Athens that has been working to help refugees since 2014.  They operate the "Center of Hope" for women and children and a shelter for unaccompanied minors (boys age 11-18).  They seek to fulfill the Greatest Commandment (love they neighbor) and hope for open doors to fulfill the Great Commission (sharing the gospel with all the world).  

They employ local Greeks to help with this ministry.  Our group was asked to come help staff Faros in August because many of the locals take holiday that time of year (and many have NOT taken a vacation in years due to this refugee crisis).  

(Side note: On Lesbos the first week in August, there was a church right next to our hotel, and I started seeing lots of women dressed in black hanging around outside the church.  It seemed like a party, but I assumed it was a funeral.  It turns out that these were Greek Orthodox women preparing for their big holiday which is the Dormition of Theokotus - which celebrates the death and resurrection of Mary.  They wear black from Aug.1-15, and there are church services every day.  I knew nothing about Greek Orthodox beliefs, and even though I don't share their belief about Mary, I found it fascinating). 

Anyway, the women in our group were set to spend the week helping out at the Center of Hope.  

Mondays are always "Beauty Day" and it was our busiest day of the week.  We gave facials using a honey scrub and a banana mask ~

And then we applied nail polish.  Lots of it.  The little girls loved this so much that they would go through the painting process up to seven times - each time removing the color and trying another one.

The Center of Hope also offers counseling and Greek and English classes, so there was lots of opportunity for childcare:

I had a great first day and especially loved playing with two very active little boys.  One ended up bumping his head and then sat in my lap cuddling for almost an hour.  

For the rest of the week, though, they needed two volunteers to help with the kitchen at the boy's shelter.  The rest of the team stayed at the Center of Hope while Mary Beth and I helped Usman, the Pakistani cook.  I've always wanted to be a lunch lady and wear one of those great hair nets.  

The building had no AC, and we were cooking a hot meal and washing dishes in hot water!  The first day the high was 104 in Athens.  This made the rest of the week seem downright cool to me when it was only 99.  

We really enjoyed working with Usman.  He only spoke broken English, but we found out a lot of his story.  He is an immigrant now, not a refugee.  He worked in military intelligence with the Pakistani army.  Once he found out that I liked bread with butter and jam, he fixed us a treat each morning.

We served a large crew of boys daily.  They serve them ethnic food they are familiar with instead of Greek food.  

These boys are stuck in Athens with no family or means of support.  About 20 boys live here in the shelter, and about 20 came in for lunch each day we were there.  There are still many more unaccompanied minors in Athens that must resort to selling their bodies in order to eat.  It is really sad to think about.  Mary Beth and I both raised teenage boys and kept thinking about what would have happened to them if they had been in that situation.  These boys did not seem that different from our boys.  They eat a lot, they love sports, and they nearly all have phones.  Usman tells us that the Iraqis and Syrians play football (soccer) but that the Pakistanis play cricket.  Besides being the cook, Usman is the coach of the cricket team.  The boys are also foosball fanatics.  They came to the kitchen constantly for oil for the foosball table.  We heard a huge ruckus one morning and it turned out they were cheering the winners of a foosball tournament.  Usman and Babis took on the winners the next day.

Besides providing hot meals and shelter, the workers here provide so much LOVE.  You could just feel it all over the place.  There are really long-term relationships developing with these young men and some are coming to Christ. It was an honor to be able to help out with my skill set - chopping vegetables and washing dishes.