Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Long Kiss

Lately I haven't been reading as much as I'd like from the Bible. I'm reading lots of spiritually-oriented books, but have not been spending as much time actually reading through the Scriptures. So I decided to go back to an old college-days habit of reading through the New Testament in a month. This breaks down to about 9 chapters a day. Now, I'm already behind but I'm finding that I'm spending more time reading, reflecting and actually craving to spend that time in the Word than when I hadn't been setting this goal for myself.

I decided to do it in Italian and it has been really cool. Over the years, I've noticed several little differences between the Italian and English translations: simple nuances that shed a new light on well-known verses and phrases. This morning I came across another.

Text: Matthew 26:49
Scene: Garden of Gethsemane. Judas and his large crowd of guards and thugs arrive and approach Jesus and his 11 disciples.

The Italian version says this: "E in quell'istante, avvicinatosi a Gesù, gli disse: «Ti saluto, Maestro!» e gli diede un lungo bacio."

My literal translation would be this: "And in that instant, coming up to Jesus, he said, "I greet you, Master!" and he gave him a long kiss."

So, you might say, what's the big deal? It's just an adjective. Well, it isn't a big deal. But it does add something to the scene. The Italian translation gives a more human, intimate portrayal of the contact between Christ and Betrayer. We're not talking about a peck or an 'air kiss.' We're talking about a lungo bacio.

The ONLY person I give lunghi baci to is my wife. Here we see Judas giving the sign to the crowd and it makes me for an instant stop and think. Why a long kiss? Did he really care for Jesus? Was he having second thoughts - coming face to face with the man who had called him and taught him so much? Or was Judas really so fake, so blind that this long kiss was meaningless, just a showy demonstration of his position as someone who was close to the Master?

Not sure - but as I read through the all-too-familiar scene this morning, this one word made me stop and picture the scene. I found myself re-reading, thinking through it, asking myself questions I hadn't asked before and getting another glimpse into the life of Jesus.

Friday, September 12, 2008

All Roads Lead to...the Fencing Complex

This picture is taken from our living room balcony. It captures the reality of living in Italy. Turn right and you will end up at the fencing complex. Go straight and you will end up at the very same fencing complex. Complex. Like so many things in Italy - there are many different ways of accomplishing a single task.

Both Barzini and Severgnini refer to the contradictory nature of Italy. Tim Parks, a British author, does a great job of creating tension in his stories that put a skin on this concept. We live in a land of contradictions. (Check out this post about some examples of contradiction in the city of Verona.) Just this morning, Jen was pointing out how contradictory it is that Italy's military is so small when it's renown for its military machine's place in history during the time of the Roman Empire.

No deep application here - just pointing out that it has often been tough to learn to live with the greyness of living the 'missionary life' in a land that is so very grey. Turn right, go straight, enjoy the ride, you will get there eventually. Think there are any applications here for Italians' spiritual lives?

Bitter Grapes

The other night our family visited the nearby town of Camerano with our intern, Jen, to take in the yearly Festa del Rosso Conero. The Rosso Conero is a red wine produced in the Marchegian hills that surround Ancona. The festival includes concerts, specialty food stands (piadine, olive ascolane and of course, wine), and craft booths. We had been several years ago but this time it was quite a bit bigger. We had fun walking through the little streets of the city center and taking in the sights, sounds and tastes.

Some of our best Italian friends live in this town. They are, in fact, the first friends we made in Ancona. I was hoping to reconnect with them since we hadn't seen each other in quite a while. Bad news. I called them and found out they separated recently. Kind of put a damper on the evening for me, but we still enjoyed the festa. Wish you had been there!

Check out the pictures and video below!

Haven and Harrison posing in the cantina

Isn't Heather the cutest?

Some of the workers posed for us in their 'contadini' hats

Camerano's central piazza

A little clip of some street in Italy is NOT like this every day...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Death of the Kebab

Summer of 2003. CIY group in Ancona. I head out with a few of the students one night to see who we can meet. We end up hanging out with some breakdancers and following them to a little hole-in-the-wall joint near the port. We line up and it is hot. The guy in front of the large spit of meat is sweating all over the place. People are standing around eating what looks like a gyro or burrito. We get up to the front and follow our new friends' example and our lives are forever changed by the kebab.

A couple of years later, due to the success of the little place, the owner opened up a new location nearby and it became a regular part of the culture of our team. It was our default place to go when we needed to talk, get away, celebrate or get a non-Italian snack. 3.50 euro got you a delicious wrap filled with grilled beef/pork (not sure really), falafel, tomatos, lettuce, french fries, onions, a spicy red sauce, a cucumber sauce and a lot of mayo. But it became more than that. It became an experience, a haven, a refuge. It became our place. The Cheers bar. Central Perk. Monk's Diner. I even wrote a poem about it.

We were shocked and saddened to discover last month that the owner, Khaled, sold the business. A fresh coat of paint, most of the familiar signs taken down, carrots added to the menu, falafel taken off. It looks the same. I want to believe it is still our place...but it's not. We went tonight after the Finance Party and I'm sad to announce that I may have eaten my last kebab from our place. I won't go into details, but I regret to announce the death of the kebab.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What a difference a point makes...

Wow - have you been watching the dollar climb slowly back up? What a relief! I was crunching some numbers today, curious to see how much of an impact it was making on our day-to-day living. Check it out.

(disclaimer: I was NOT a math-major...)

Our average monthly budget, including personal and ministry expenses is $5000 U.S. Of that amount, around $3500 gets converted into the local currency, which is the Euro.

When the euro was introduced in 2002, one Euro was worth 0.89 U.S. cents. E 1.00 = $ 0.89 U.S. This means that on a month-to-month basis, we had a spending power, in the local currency here, of around 3,933 euros. $3500 U.S. = 3,933 euros. That was 2002.

In July of this year, the euro reached an all-time high of just over 1.60. This means that the same $3500 U.S. was worth approximately 2,188 euros. That, my friends, is a difference of 1,745 euros. Yes, you read that correctly. That means that in July of this year, we were living on 1,745 euros less than we had 6 1/2 years before.

Since then, the dollar has slowly regained ground and today is hovering near the 1.44 mark which means we're back at E 1.00 = $1.44 U.S. This means we have approximately 2,431 euros this month to spend which is an increase since July of about 243 euros - which is really nice.

If the euro dropped one more point, we would have an extra 17 euros to spend next month and with a 12-gallon tank of gas costing 75 euros these days, it can go a long way!

So, one might ask the ethical question - "In the dreamy situation where the euro fell back down to the $1 U.S. = 1 Euro level - what would you do with the extra 1,313 euros?" :)

God has taught us so much about learning to live on less, learning to trust Him, learning that needs and wants are two very different things. We would welcome the break, the cushion, the breathing room. We would lower our budget and probably save some in case it ever reversed again, which it probably will. Hopefully though, the lessons we've learned would stick with us and we'd be generous as our Father is generous.

And that, I believe, is a good point.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let the games begin!

The soccer season started last weekend and Ancona kicked it off with a bang - they tied. 2-2. So we start off in 8th place among the 22 teams in the 'Series B'. This Sunday we play Ascoli Piceno which is Ancona's arch-rival. (Even a newby could guess this by looking at some of the spray paint around the city.) Several of us are planning on going and it should be crazy. One of the things I like about the soccer system here in Italy is that at the end of the season, the bottom two teams get bumped down a league and the top two get bumped up! This means that a seeminly small, unknown team has a shot of making it to the big leagues! It keeps the sponsored teams playing hard just to maintain their contracts and position in the A series. Last season Ancona got bumped up from Series C and they have a shot this year of making it up to A if they play well. Go, Ancona, go!

-photo taken by the very talented Aubri Casey

Monday, September 1, 2008

Paloma on Survivor

Crazy. I've been a fan of Survivor since the first season. My parents would send me vide0-taped episodes (we're talking VHS here, who has those anymore?).

We just heard that the daughter of a friend of ours will be one of the survivors on the new season, Survivor: Gabon. Our friend is a Chilean missionary working with a church in Los Angeles, Fernando Soto. This is the first MK that I know of on the show and we'll be watching and cheering her on! Oh yeah, her name is Paloma.