Saturday, July 26, 2008

Europeans Shopping in the U.S. ran this article describing how Europeans are finding great deals on vacations and shopping in the U.S. because of the weak dollar. Thought it was a good way to help understand what it feels like on this side of the pond. Check it out:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Slaying a Dragon

About 6 years ago, Daniel Cormode and I went swimming in the sea at the Passetto here in Ancona. After treading water for a bit, he and I decided to swim out to the scoglio or the rock reef that blocks the waves from eroding the little stony beach nearby. Well, we got 50 metres out and I quickly realized that I wasn't a very fit swimmer and we still had a ways to go. Now, before you call me a wimp, you need to know that it is pretty choppy and that there can be some pretty big swells. I called out to Dan and told him I didn't think I could make it and he quickly swam to my side and helped me get to shore. I may have been able to make it on my own, but Dan pretty much saved my life that day.

We jump in at the bottom and swim to the far right bottom corner over
100 metres to the rocks (not in picture). Mussolini had the monument at the top
commissioned in honor of fallen soldiers in WWI.
The stairs are designed to look like an eagle.

6 years have gone by and every time I go down to the Passetto and I spy those rocks I remember that and it brings back memories of jogging the 199 steps and the early days of exploring our city. I always wondered if I'd be able to make it out there to the rocks someday, if I'd be able to slay that dragon, to face the fear and do it.

The Germans have a saying, "Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is." It is true. Maybe this is the sole reason I have been brought here, the lesson I am to learn and yet which I resist the most; resist because of the very response, the exacting effect which courses through my veins, the way in which it seizes my heart. Maybe I have been brought here to face and embrace the wolf. As they say, 'Crepi.'

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
-Frank Herbert, Dune

Well, last year, I started jogging 2-3 times a week with Brian and we've kept at it now for nearly a year. A couple of weeks ago we started substituting jogging for swimming/treading - why not, right? It is so nice, we dive off a rock into the deep, cool water and tread and talk and try to get in shape.

Today, there were five of us. Brian and I were joined by Josh, Marcus and Kyle (our newest intern). We had been out for about half an hour and I realized that I was about half way out to the rocks. I looked at the guys and said, 'Boys, I think this is the day!' and started out toward the reef. I made it with no problem and climbed up on top to signal the victory. They swam out to meet me and we had a blast diving off the rocks and acting like teenagers. As Marcus, Brian and I took our last jump in together, the rain and sleet (yes, sleet) came down and we swam back in to shore, laughing and enjoying the cool weather. The people on the shore watched us as if we were illegal immigrants arriving clandestine from the East.

It felt good. It wasn't that I was that afraid to try it again, it was mainly that I didn't want to do it alone. The good feeling was the not being alone. It was trusting them to help me if I needed it. It was that they knew my story, my fear, my dream and my vision. It was their cheering me on and celebrating the little victory together. It was the weaving of our stories together that made it so memorable. We walked triumphantly to our rain-drenched towels and shirts and the slain dragon sunk beneath the crashing waves.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Short-Term Groups

We are hosting a group of college students from our supporting church, College Heights Christian. As I write this on the couch of our living room, Marcus is getting ready to lead the group on their second 'culture quest' - what amounts to a video scavenger hunt. The group's schedule is pretty busy but I find myself surprisingly relaxed and able to not be overwhelmed by their activities. Not only this, but their presence and the various planned events allow our team to have extra contact with people and more time with our friends. While some might worry that exposing our friends to a group of fifteen college-aged students would be detrimental or 'too American', I find that since we try to frame up these encounters simply as that, encounters among friends, that they are beneficial to everyone involved. Tonight, the group will be participating in a live art project with some friends from the Atopos crowd followed by a picnic together. Tomorrow they will be touring out beautiful city, led by one of Marcus' friends, Angelo. Tomorrow night, the group will be hosting an Encounter Coffee House. Sunday, the group will be hosting and leading our church's Gathering. This is one of the very first times, if not THE first, we've had a foreigner teach via a translator. Monday night the group is hosting a Grill Night at the beach to which we are inviting our friends to come and hang out. Tuesday night we are gathering with some Catholic friends for a fellowship and prayer time followed by a meal together. Wednesday evening they will be co-hosting English conversation sessions. So yes, they are busy. And yes. Many of the things they are doing sound 'fun' - and they are!

Is it worth it? Does our community here in Ancona benefit? Do these students really benefit? Does our supporting church grow through this? Does the mission of the church (on the macro level) get advanced through this kind of 10-day experience? Would there be a better way for these students to use the money they raised and time they set apart? These are all questions I hear others raising and they are all ones that we are trying to answer as well.

The group sitting on top of the port wall at La Lanterna Rossa in Ancona.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Don't be sad Papa...Jake lives on...

Papa and Nana, we wish we could be there to cheer you up in person. We love you!

24 Hours of Prayer in Ancona

Last week we hosted our third prayer room in Ancona. This time we shortened the time to 24 hours and moved the location. Our friend, Francesco, let us use his place, ATOPOS, to host it. We used a room in the back where he has some art by a Romanian guy (brilliant) on display. It was so cool to see everyone get involved again. Jen, our intern, and I went out in the city and asked for some prayer requests to bring into the prayer room. It was interesting to see people's reactions. Here are some pictures...

Happy 4th - Italian Style

May your day be GLORIOUS! Whether at home in the a/c, at the lake getting burned by the sun, gathered around the grill or hanging out at the pool - have a great day and please, PLEASE don't take family for granted! We're heading to the beach for the afternoon and grilling this evening with the team.

This picture, taken from our balcony, has nothing to do with the 4th except for in the distance you can see the beach where we will be (and unfortunately an oil drilling platform...).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wasps, Overgeneralizations and Clam-loving Three-year-olds

Want a little peek into our day? Thursday mornings are "Girl's Morning Out" - Heather, Heidi and Jen went out for coffee and accountability and fellowship. Meanwhile, the kids worked on homeschool and chores and we began studying the States and Capitals. For lunch I warmed up leftovers. "Of what?" you may ask. Of Heather's first-ever attempt at fixing seafood. Well, other than tuna fish sandwiches (for me) or fish sticks (for the kids). She made spaghetti alle vongole. (little clams steamed in oil, white wine and garlic and added to fresh spaghetti) Out of the park, delicious. The kids and I love was a kick for us to watch them devour it, especially Harrison.

I picked up my scooter today...grr... It is SO efficient having a scooter here - a gallon of gas ($10 US) will get me by for 10 days' worth of driving and you never have to pay for parking. The seat was torn and falling apart so I took it in a couple of weeks ago to see how much it cost - 50 be recovered by a guy who normally does seat covers for sailboats. That's quite a bit of money, but we had a little money set aside so I said go ahead. So, I picked it up last week - and was informed that it was time for the bi-annual revision which meant it needed new tires and a brake pad. Gulp. So, I pay my due and drive it home only to find two days later, the back tire completely flat. Where was I? Oh yeah, I picked up my scooter today...again.

On the way home I stopped by the bank to make a deposit and while sitting there I watched the lady who stocks the shelves (they sell all kinds of gift items) get frustrated by a little Ukranian boy who kept walking around and looking at the toys and books for sale. She made faces and even called the mom down for not having control of her son. As I left, I overheard her telling an older Italian man - "It's always the foreigners! Always the foreigners!" Deep breath - keep your calm, Jason.

Then, when I got home, Heather said she thought we had wasps building a nest in our bedroom. Huh? Well, she was right. Behind our dresser we found the beginnings of a wasp nest - Jacob and I destroyed it - crisis averted.

The rest of the evening Haven will be celebrating her Cabbage Patch Doll's birthday. JayLynn is two years old today. Marcus pronounces it, "Jay-lay-en" - Southwest Missouri-style. Chloe Rotert is bringing her doll over for the overnight party. I may make some cookies. Jacob and Harrison made me drag out the old hamster cages from storage and they are putting them together - they have saved up enough to buy a couple.

It is about 90 degrees in our house right now- trying not to use the A/C - but boy is it a temptation. What's going on in your world today?