Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013 Remembering 40 years - What Is Real Holiness?

Today is my 40th spiritual birthday. I was born again on a Thursday night, March 29, 1973, fully convinced I could no longer live without acknowledging Y’shua as Messiah. I have never regretted that decision. He became real to me that night and has never stopped being real. His presence has been with me ever since and I look forward to eternity.

I was having a fascinating (to me) chat with my friend Cristian the other day, about a space he’d opened up on his webpage, Guardadores de Verdades, for people to share. He wanted to include my blog. I wasn’t sure I wanted the whole world commenting on my blog (and I don’t, so far – it’s my space to express myself, but I want to share it in a more limited way at the moment). So we got to talking about how as Christians who have learned what the work of grace means in our lives (an ongoing process, certainly), we are free to truly revel in life. Like enjoying the smell of the mangoes in the market (see my first post), he pointed out.

We see how so many believers, for so many centuries have been so legalized and traditionalized (acc. to Tom – taught legalism and traditions of men) – a work of deception – that they are convinced that if they don’t talk just so and dress just so or even eat just so, they won’t be acceptable to God. They have learned to separate their “worldly” everyday life from their “church” or “Christian life.” Is it any wonder so many can shout till they’re hoarse at a soccer game, but can’t uninhibitedly (I don’t mean in disorder!!) worship God even in church? They’ve been taught that a little “victory shout” is the way to do it. What about the tumultuous sound of praise in David and Solomon’s day when the noise was heard miles away and people thought it was an earthquake?

When did we get so dichotomized?  Wherever does the Bible teach that our secular beings are separate from our “holy” selves?  And what is holiness, anyway? 

I remember hearing two great Bible teachers – Steven Fry and Randy MacMillan – expound on “the holy and the profane,” based on Ezekiel 44, leaving it quite clear that anything that isn’t God’s explicit will is profane, and that which is His will is holy. Now that’s greatly simplified, but true in a nutshell. Our good intentions that don’t go against God, no matter how great, when not God-breathed – are also profane. That was quite a sobering revelation. So I’ve always striven not to fall into the profane (though not always with success – maybe because it was with my efforts, not His grace). It didn’t have to do with my language, but with my heart attitude. And holiness isn’t about our external works, but about our heart. And if He lives in our heart, He does the work, not us.  Anything I do with the purpose of helping God out or trying to seek His approval is works, and works is not grace. (See for excellent teaching on the subject by John Sheasby.)

Now, those of you who are rabidly evangelical may hate the following, because I’m going to quote a Roman Catholic. I think Kevin has a biblical point, and therefore I feel free to use him as a source. I am not “ecumenical,” but I have the Holy Spirit to help me discern truth.

St. Irenaeus, an important second-century bishop, is credited with saying, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” Kevin states in his blog that

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.  [Kevin. (2011) Man alive. Liturgical Year. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from]

People like Francis of Assisi could see God’s hand in the small details of creation and revel in nature. As those who are perhaps more cognizant of His goodness expressed in nature, in art and creativity, why should we not revel in the sunset, in the feel of the waves against our skin as we dip in the Caribbean (sorry, I know some of you are knee deep in snow right now), in the taste of a ripe strawberry. I used to have some friends who said that since Christians “can’t drink or indulge in other vices; the only thing left is for us to enjoy eating.” And do we ever! Hey, wasn’t Jesus called a wine-bibber? I didn’t say a drunk…Can you not imagine Jesus going to Bazurto market to get supplies for his carpentry shop or groceries for his mom? I sure can! And I bet He’d sample the fish chowder along the way and not worry about dirtying His sandals.

When you give someone a tip or give a beggar a coin, often you hear, “Vaya con Dios” – “Go with God” I often think, yeah, well, with whom else would I go? And I know He goes everywhere with me. I remember that little poster or saying we’re supposed to remind ourselves of when in doubt – “Is this some place you’d be ashamed to take Jesus?” or something like that. Well you know what, there are few places – maybe none – that fit, because there is no place on earth that wouldn’t be improved by His presence. Didn’t He come to bring light into darkness?  Now hold on and don’t imagine I am saying I can indulge in anything, anywhere, ‘cause Jesus will redeem me. In the first place, He already redeemed me once for all, and secondly, I don’t believe in greasy grace and have never preached it. I’m talking about His redeeming presence. His holiness.

I have learned that there really isn’t anything in my life He doesn’t know about. He really isn’t scandalized by me. He really has forgiven me and is ready to apply His already-shed blood when I blow it – again. It really is HIM doing the change and making me more like Him, not my effort. He receives glory when I am fully alive. He spends time with His kids.  He is the Holy God before whose face I fall in awe. But He is also the one who put me on this beautiful earth to enjoy it. I am IN the world, even if I am not “OF” it.

What is real holiness? It’s wholeness. It’s being fully alive. And if you want to see God in ALL of your life and being, you need to be whole/holy. Isn’t that what Hebrews 12:14 says? And because years ago Jack Hayford did an incredible job of explaining that, I’ll just point you to this article in Charisma magazine where you can read it yourself.

So holiness isn’t about externals, or about our performance, it’s about being fully, vitally and wonderfully alive in Him! Are you?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Poems written in my students' lit class

My acrostic poem of  last Tuesday March 19, 2013, in English Lit class discussion of late 20th c USA, using one of the catchwords

Snaking through
Urban traffic
Between cars and buses
Usually makes me feel like it’s
Ridiculous to live in the
‘Burbs and
Suffer working in the city.

On EXPERIMENTATION – catchword for Modernism, March 2013
Assignment:  Write a six-line poem with one of the catchwords.

Out of the box
Out of the mind
Look at the rocks
See a different kind
Time to experiment
Time to change

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Un paseo en el Mercado de Bazurto

Blog #1


Ultimamente he estado pensando en comenzar un blog. Antes solía escribir mucho más, así que me preguntaba si valiera la pena abrir un blog “verdadero”, pero en estos días he tenido unos estímulos muy chéveres para escribir. Enseño dos cursos de inglés avanzado para futuros docentes de inglés en Cartagena, Colombia, y nosotros trabajamos fuertemente en nuestras destrezas de escribir. Digo “nosotros” porque a menudo cumplo la misma tarea que ellos sólo para ver qué tan factible es. Y últimamente mi gente de 9º semestre (último año), quienes también fueron mis estudiantes en 6º semestre, han estado practicando dar clases en nuestro curso. Uno de ellos tuvo la brillante idea de poner a todo el mundo (a las 7 de la mañana) a escribir un poema en cierto estilo o a expresar cierta época literaria en poesía. Me he divertido muchísimo con ellos y me he convencido que mis pequeños poemas tontos valen la pena leer.
Oh, no pienso en mí misma como poeta: domino mucho más la prosa. Mis poemas son más un poco graciosos, a veces cursi, divertidos, pero eso soy yo. Expresan mis pensamientos, MI corazón. Y si deseas entrar en mi cabeza y en mi corazón, estás invitado.
A propósito, debo decir que mi hija, la Mujer Mar, me ha inspirado a tomar mi plumero y ser una “hábil escritora” nuevamente, como es ella ahora, a los 19 años, una escritora mucho mejor que yo jamás he sido. Ni yo siempre entiendo sus obras, pero las amo. Cada profesor debe esforzarse para producir estudiantes que le superan, y ella ciertamente lo ha hecho. No que yo le enseñé a escribir – Dios hizo eso. Siempre ha escrito, desde que escasamente pudo formar letras. Pero yo sí le enseñé a leer, y si quieres ser un buen escritor, debes ser un buen lector. Gracias, mi amor, por animarme!

El Blog:  Un paseo en el Mercado de Bazurto
No tengo idea qué tan largo va a ser esto. Sí me gusta escribir para que otros lean, así que intentaré darle un largo “razonable”, sea lo que sea eso. Este es el primero, así que sé misericordioso.
Hoy volví a uno de los mejores lugares en todo Cartagena para experimentar una inmersión total cultural, el mercado de Bazurto. Oh, he ido muchas veces con mi esposo, Norman el super-comprador (el mejor regateador del mundo), pero normalmente espero en el carro. Tienes que entender que el único lugar para estacionar en este mercado tradicional al aire libre es allá en la “carretera” destapada que serpentea a través del mercado, entre camiones y jeeps y cajas vacías, y especialmente entre la basura en proceso de descomposición. Cuando ya no puedo aguantar más el calor, me siento en el carro con el aire acondicionado puesto y leo, o hago siestecilla “de gatico”. Claro que no hago siesta como nuestra gata, que le gusta dormir debajo de una mesa o, mejor aún, encima de una, pero ése es el modismo en inglés. En todo caso, Norman en general ha preferido mercar solo como yo le atraso. Es mucho más alto que yo y su zancada es por eso mucho más larga que la mía. Pero hoy sugirió que le acompañara. Nos encanta hacer diligencias juntos, aun sea para ir a pagar los impuestos juntos o cuando yo le llevo al oftalmólogo, como hoy, a las 6:30 a.m. en mi día libre, y luego comemos una arepa rellena de pollo en el supermercado Olímpica. (Comí la mía con un café con leche, gracias.)  Ya te diste cuenta que escribo en mi propia version de monólogo interior? Claro que no preparo los bosquejos para mis clases así, pero éste es MI mente que estás explorando, recuérdalo.
Bueno, así que dejamos el carro entre las cajas y los camiones, puesto el alarma por supuesto, y troté detrás de Norman mientras literalmente zigzagueaba entre los pasillos angostos llenos de frutas, verduras, basura, quioscos de almuerzos (era mediodía – cocinan todo el día allí), basura, vísceras, maíz y yuca recién molidos, fríjoles; ni mencionar toda clase de ropa, cosas de hogar, nueces y frutas secas, pilas de papas y piñas, calabazas y cañafístula – dije basura? – etc.
Ya mencioné los olores?  Ah, la dulzura de las frutas – piñas, papayas, mangos, nísperos y zapotes (éstos no existen en USA).En otro área el olor de pescado – pescado crudo, pescado salado, pescado ahumado, pescado bien muerto, pescado sancochado, pescado frito, y sopa de pescado… los pelícanos que congregan por el canal son muy saludables…no olvidemos el efluvio de la basura…serpenteamos por unos pasillos vacíos que sólo hedían a desechos humanos. Se me ocurrió que estábamos en un espacio ideal para ser atracados. Esto me hizo admirar más a mi esposo valiente por afrontar estos pasajes oscuros…el único lugar que estoy agradecida por no visitar hoy fue el mercado de carnes donde puedes encontrar  todo lo que necesitas desde espinazo para sopa a lomo fino, y cualquier corte de carne de res, pollo, carnero, cordero o cerdo. En Colombia no comemos a sabiendas carne de perro, gato o caballo. Lo que sea…El hedor en esa parte del Mercado es suficiente para revolver el estómago hasta del gringo naturalizado más aclimatado. Sólo entré allí una vez. Una vez fue demasiado. Y sí, me gusta la sopa de espinazo de vaca. O tal vez sea cola de cerdo. Lo que sí sé es que solía arreglar el cabello de Mujer Mar en colitas cuando era pequeña. Sea como fuere,  existen pocos platos que no comeré en Colombia:  riñones, morcilla y viuda de pescado. El último es más un estofado de pescado y, además del pescado, contiene papas, plátano maduro (que no me gusta en ninguna sopa, sobre todo cuando saben a pescado) y yuca. Sólo la probé una vez, y me dicen que no fue bien hecho, pero lo odié y ni siquiera mi dulce suegra puede convencerme a comerlo ahora. Cada vez que viene y comemos pescado me pregunta si lo voy a hacer “en viuda”, y le tengo que recordar que no como éso, por si acaso intenta servírmelo en su casa algún día. Hace mucho pasé el punto de comer algo – cuando entre la familia – sólo para no ofender. Si llegue algún día a la selva y me sirven mico, tendré que ser más diplomática. Que Dios me ayude si me sirven la cabeza!
Sí, Bazurto es una experiencia cultural total. Se ahorra una cantidad de dinero mercando allí, pues se evita los intermediaries y los precios de las grandes cadenas de supermercados, y simplemente se tolera las partes horrorosas. Es verdad que un mercado como ése no existiría hoy día en USA por las leyes del depto. de la salud, pero éste no es USA. (No creo que ni el mercado Fulton de pescado en Nueva York era tan amenazador de la salud como es Bazurto.) Y Bazurto no es para todos. Si eres fastidioso o crees que lo hacen mejor en USA porque lo hacen “más limpio”, no lo has entendido. Aprendí hace mucho tiempo – y llevo 26+ años aquí – que “diferente” no es “mejor”. Esto ha hecho que sea mucho más fácil acostumbrarme a vivir en una cultura “extranjera” o “diferente”, y me ha ayudado a evitar quejarme de mi país adoptado (no que no nos quejamos de muchas cosas, de todas formas), o más importante, de criticarlo por no ser igual que la tierra de mi niñez. Extraño a los Estados Unidos? A veces. Colombia ahora es mi vida. Lo ha sido por muchos años. Después de volver a Bazurto hoy, experimentar todos los intensos colores, vistas, sonidos y olores – y comer sopa de pescado con Norman – tuve que preguntarme si realmente podría vivir en otro lugar. Tal vez otra parte de Colombia, pero abandonar este país que me adoptó sería muy difícil.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Stroll through Bazurto Market

Blog #1


Lately I’ve been thinking about blogging. I used to write a lot more, so I wondered if I should bother opening a “real” blog, but lately I’ve had some neat stimuli to write. I teach two advanced English classes for future English teachers in Cartagena, Colombia, and we work hard on our writing skills. I say “we” because I often do the same assignments as they do just to see how feasible they are. And lately my 9th semester (senior year) people, whom I also taught in 6th semester, have been doing some practice teaching in our class. One of them got the clever idea to have everyone write a poem (at 7 in the morning) in a certain style or expressing a certain literary period. I’ve had so much fun with them and have convinced myself that my little poems are worth reading.
Oh, I don’t think of myself as a poet: I’m much more of a prose writer. My poems are more tongue-in-cheek, often corny, fun, but they’re me. They express my thoughts, MY heart. And if you want to come inside my mind and my heart, you’re invited.
By the way, I have to say that my daughter, the Sea Woman, has inspired me to take up my pen and be a ready writer again, as she is now, at 19, a much better writer than I have ever been. Even I don’t always understand her work, but I love it. Every teacher should strive to produce students who surpass them, and she certainly has. Not that I taught her to write. God did that. She always wrote, from the time she could barely form letters. But I taught her to read. And if you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Thanks, honey, for your encouragement!

The Blog:  Un paseo en Bazurto – A Stroll through Bazurto Market
I have no idea how long this will be. I do like writing for others to read, so I will try to keep it a “good” length, whatever that is. This is the first, so be kind.

Today I returned to one of the greatest places to experience total cultural immersion in all of Cartagena, the Bazurto market. Oh, I’ve been there many times with my husband, Norman the super-shopper (the world’s best bargainer), but usually I wait at the car. You have to understand that the only place to park in this old-fashioned, open-air market, is out on the dirt “road” that snakes through the market, among trucks and jeeps and empty crates, and especially among decaying garbage. When I can’t take the heat anymore, I sit in the car with the a/c on and read, or catch a cat-nap. I do not nap like our cat, who lays out under a table or, even better, on top of one, but that is the idiom. Anyway, Norman has usually preferred to market alone as I slow him down. He is a lot taller than I am and his stride is therefore much longer than mine. But today he suggested I accompany him. We love doing errands together, even if it’s going to pay our tax bill together or me taking him to the ophthalmologist, like today, at 6:30 on my day off, then having a chicken-filled arepa at the Olímpica supermarket. (I had mine with a latté, thank you.)  Have you noticed that I write in my version of stream-of-consciousness, yet?  I don’t do my teaching outlines like this, but this IS my mind you’re visiting, remember.
So we left the car between the crates and trucks, alarm on of course, and I trotted along behind Norman as he literally winded his way in and out of narrow lanes filled with fruits, vegetables, grains, garbage, lunch stalls (it was noon – they cook all day in those kiosks), garbage visceras, freshly ground corn and yuca (manioc), beans; not to mention all kinds of clothing, household items, nuts and dried fruit, piles of potatoes and pineapples, squash and carob beans – did-I-say-garbage? Etc.
Did I mention the smells?  Ah, the sweetness of the fruits – pineapples, papayas, mangoes, nísperos and zapotes (these do not exist in the USA.) In another area the smell of fish – raw fish, salted fish, smoked fish, dead fish, steamed fish, fried fish, fish soup… the pelicans along the canal are very healthy… Let’s not forget the effluvium of the garbage… we snaked through some empty aisles that only smelled of human waste. It occurred to me we were in an excellent spot to be mugged. Made me admire my fearless husband even more for braving these dim passages…the one place I’m grateful we didn’t go through today was the meat market, where you can find everything you need from cow tail soup to filet mignon, and any cut of beef, chicken, mutton, lamb or pork. In Colombia we do not knowingly eat dog, cat or horsemeat. Whatever. The odor in that part of the market is enough to churn the stomach of even the hardiest gringa-born, naturalized citizen. I only went there once. Once was enough. And yes, I like cow-tail soup. Or maybe it’s pig tail soup. I do know I used to fix Sea Woman’s hair in pig tails when she was little. Be that as it may, there are only a few dishes I will not eat in Colombia:  kidneys, blood sausage and “fish widow soup.” The latter is more of a fish stew and, besides the fish, contains potatoes, ripe plantains (I don’t like sweet plantains in soup, especially if they taste like fish) and yuca. I only tried it once, and they tell me it wasn’t well-made, but I hated it and not even my sweet mother-in-law could convince me to eat it now. Every time she’s here and we have fish, she asks me if I’m going to make it widow-style, and I have to remind her that I don’t eat that, just in case she tries to serve it to me at her house some day. I am long past the point where I will eat something – when among family – just to be polite. If I ever get to the jungle and they serve me monkey, I will have to be more diplomatic. God help me if they serve me the head!
Yes, Bazurto is a total cultural experience. You save a good deal of money by shopping there as you avoid the middle-men and big supermarket chain prices, and you just put up with the disgusting parts. It’s true that a market like that would hardly exist in the US, because of hygiene regulations, but this is not the USA. (I don’t think even the Fulton fish market in New York was as hazardous to your health as Bazurto.) And Bazurto is not for everyone. If you’re fastidious or if you think they do it better in the USA because they do it cleaner, you’ve missed the point. I learned a long time ago – and I’ve been here 26+ years – that different isn’t better. It’s made it a lot easier to get used to living in a “foreign” or “different culture” and helped me avoid complaining about my adopted country (not that we don’t all complain about many things anyway), or more important, criticizing it for not being the same as where I grew up. Do I miss the USA?  Sometimes. Colombia is my life now. Has been for many years. After re-visiting Bazurto today, taking in all the rich colors, sights, sounds and smells – and eating some fish soup with Norman – I had to ask myself if I could really live anywhere else. Maybe some other part of Colombia, but leaving this country that adopted me would be hard.