Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baby turtles!!

By now, anyone who knows me at ALL knows I am slightly obsessed with my camera. I take it every where. Heaven forbid a Kodak moment go by without it being eternally captured by my lens. If you've hung out with me for even an extended amount of time, I may also pose you until I get just the right shot. I may ask you to do something ridiculous, like jump off a rock or a tree stump. I may ask you to twist into the "squishy face" or stand toe-to-toe for a foot picture. You may be given a prop to hold or model with. Whatever. All for the shot. All for remembering moments that we can (for the most part) never relive again!! So alas, to my shock, horror and dismay! I did not have my trusty camera with me for one of the most incredible moments of my life!! I was with the Virginia team doing evangelism on the beach in Nosara and had decided I didn't want to bring my camera...mostly because I knew it was going to rain. I had left it at the hotel hoping to go back later in the day for it. 

Fortunately, someone else did....Because that day we saw one of the most incredible miracles of God's creation...the birth of turtles and their brave new-born journey to the ocean!!! Johnny, Shannon, and I were walking down the beach to go shell hunting when all of a sudden I saw a tiny creature scuttling down the beach in front of us. "A baby turtle!!" I exclaimed. It ended up being the first of probably 50 or 60 turtles. We ended up finding the nest and watching in awe as they scrambled over vines and branches to get to the beach sands. They then made tracks to the ocean. When they arrived at the shore, a gigantic, merciless wave would come crashing in and sweep them out, but amazingly, we could see them swimming in the waves that were sucking them out.
 It's truly mind-blowing to think that these palm-sized newborns have the instinct to hatch from their eggs,
start scuttling (for lack of a better word...turtle army crawl? scurry? flipper?...I think I'll stick with scuttle.)

They really did make the cutest tracks in the sand. 


Ok...so lesson learned. When we first saw them, our natural instinct was to pick them up. I mean, dude, we are the touchy-feely generation. BUT we realized after 2.5 seconds we really shouldn't be picking them up. So before you call PETA on me, only 3 or 4 were actually touched...the rest we left alone. We didn't even help them over the vines and tangles and branches because we knew they needed to do it without human interference...  

You have to admit, the turtle is REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY cute!!!! You probably would have had the same instinct.


Some fun facts about turtles. The information is from wikipedia, (the parenthesis are my own thoughts...) Costa Rica is one of the most important nesting grounds for sea turtles. Mature turtles often return to the exact beach from which they hatched. (so maybe in a few years we will see these little turtles again!!) Females usually mate every two to four years. Males, on the other hand, visit the breeding areas every year, attempting to mate (go figure). After mating in the water, the female moves above the beach's high tide line, where she digs a hole with her hind flippers and deposits her eggs. Clutch size depends on the age of the female and species, but can range between 100 and 200 (yowzers!!).  She then covers the nest with sand and returns to the sea. At around 45 to 75 days, the eggs hatch during the night (except, surprisingly enough, for us. We saw them around 3PM), and the hatchlings instinctively head directly into the water. This is the most dangerous time in a turtle's life. As they walk, predators, such as gulls and crabs, grab them (not on our watch!!!). Since they are born at night, they use the light reflecting off the surface of the water to guide them to the ocean. One danger to this process is light pollution from beachfront homes. Many turtles never make it to the ocean because they are disoriented by the light. A significant percentage never make it to the ocean (EVERY single turtle we saw hatch made it to the ocean!!!!).

What an incredible gift that God gave us! The ability to see one of His precious creatures surviving in the wild! What a great lesson for us, as well. When we are born again in Christ, we are also called to make the journey into the kingdom of God. It is a journey by faith that can seem long and difficult. There are natural predators out there that would try to kill and destroy us before we can enter into His kingdom. There are also false lights that would try to disorient us from where we should be going. But with help, we can make it to the shore.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ah, Language

Do you ever get into a situation or a conversation with some one and all of a sudden you're lost for words. Like you want to use a word, but your language just doesn't quite capture it? Like there has to be a better way to describe what is going on in your head? Maybe you need to use one of the follow from a list of not-easily-translated-into-English words:
  1. ToskaRussian – Vladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
  2. Mamihlapinatapei
    Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start”
  3. Jayus
    Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh”
  4. Iktsuarpok
    Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.”
  5. Litost
    Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
  6. Kyoikumama
    Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement”
  7. Tartle
    Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.
  8. Ilunga
    Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.”
  9. Prozvonit
    Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.”
  10. Cafuné
    Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.”
  11. Schadenfreude
    German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
  12. Torschlusspanik
    German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” (Altalang.com)
  13. Wabi-Sabi
    Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.” (Altalang.com)
  14. Dépaysement
    French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.
  15. Tingo
    Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”
  16. Hyggelig
    Danish – Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s likely something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire.
  17. L’appel du vide
    French – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
  18. Ya’aburnee
    Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
  19. Duende
    Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.” There’s actually a nightclub in the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where I teach, named after this word.
  20. Saudade
    Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A picture is worth...

...a thousand words, and maybe a commentary or two from me.

Never be ashamed to be a dancing queen.

I always wondered where peanut butter came from...



Some times you just gotta light a fire under your butt 
to get going.

Never put off the important things 
you need to say.

There is no better death than a death by chocolate.

Galatians 5:15
If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

That explains it.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
   if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
   and the LORD will reward you.  
Proverbs 25:21-22


Object Lesson

There is always a surprise in Princess Club! This week came with it's own unexpected object lesson. The theme of the day was the power of our words. We have been given authority and power in the Kingdom of God. This power comes through our words and we learn these words from God, as He speaks in our lives and as we read His written word that He has left for us.



We read through several scriptures (in Psalms, Luke, and Romans) about our authority that God gives us. To demonstrate the power of our words, we taped paper on all of our backs and each girl was given a distinct colored marker. The object was to write something nice about the girl on whose back you were writing. Each girl got to write on every girl's back.

When we finished, each girl took her paper off her back and got to read all the nice things the others had written about her...that is until one girl noticed a not so nice thing written on her paper. It said she was ugly. Who did that!! We had just learned about the power of our words!! About how we have been given authority with our words to build up or tear down!! Who had the orange marker?? The words were written in orange. The girl came forward but persisted she was innocent.

Freeze frame. At the beginning of group we went over the Princess Rules, which the girls helped to write. Rule number 4 is stated as follows: Only nice words. The consequences were discussed at the initiation of the club: immediate removal from club for that day if the rules are blatantly broken. The girl may return, but not until the next club meeting. (These are very similar to the rules I use when in my classes, which we have been using since September).

Flash forward back to the moment. The other girls were given the chance to speak up, in case that we had falsely accused, but no one came forward. The only fair call was to ask her to leave. I explained to her that because of the rules of the game, and the rules of the Princess Club, she needed to leave for the day. She would be allowed back next week.HARDEST CALL EVER!!! Even though it was not planned and one would NEVER hope this will happen again, it served as an instant object lesson for the power and consequences our words can have.

After she left, we shifted to snack time to relieve some of the tension in the room. During snack Ana Laura and I lead a discussion with the girls about the what had just happened. We again talked about the power of words and how our words have consequences. The girls definitely understood. It actually opened up a really good discussion with them.

And so finished another day in the Kingdom. Oh, and I was able to change the word "fea" into "Bella" (beautiful) with just a few pen strokes on the other girl's paper :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Princess Club #3: Claiming who we are in Christ

 This week in the Princess Club we had a princess visiting from a foreign kingdom. Princess Taylor came to Kingdom Anonos to share in the joyful things that are going on with our princesses!!!

During Princess Club #3 we learned about how we are new creations in Christ. We opened with the story of Shrek and how Princess Fiona on the outside looked one way, but when she realized her true identity, she was completely changed. When we realize our identity in Christ, we are also permanently changed. Of course we also used the analogy of a butterfly. We talked through the process of salvation, how we are all sinners and how the King sent his son to the earth to save it, and gave them the opportunity to accept Christ into their hearts. We also talked about what we see when we look in the mirror and how God sees us.
 

To demonstrate our new truths, we depicted them as follows: 

The butterfly represents us as new creations in Christ. 
God's love is the pocket where He hides us as princesses. 

Just Sayin'

After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.
-Will Rogers

Friday, July 15, 2011

Facts to Ponder About the Human Body

Some facts to ponder...I found the facts on a fact website (go figure). I added some of my own ponderings...

A human fetus begins to develop fingerprints at the 10th week of gestation and the process is totally completed by the 18th... As we all know, fingerprints are one of the main ways we can certify the identity of a person. It is how we can guarantee you are who you say you are. God has us ready to be identified really early in our development!!

It really is true that blood is thicker than water...approximately 4 times thicker, in fact.
More people are allergic to cows milk than any other food. It is estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, including 75% of Native Americans and African Americans, and 90% of Asian Americans.  I will have recipes for almond milk in my next blog.....


A person will die from total lack of sleep sooner than from starvation (Death can occur about 10 days without sleep while starvation takes a few weeks). College students, no more all-nighters!!!


You burn more calories sleeping than watching TV. See comment above about sleep deprivation.

An average person will spend 25 years asleep. Except if you listen to my advice above...raise the bar to 26.


The fingerprints of koala bear are indistinguishable to that of a human. Next time a crime is committed at a zoo, blame the koala.


Skin is a human's largest organ. Humans on average shed and regrow outer skin cells every 27 days (almost 1,000 new skins in a lifetime) and sheds .7kg (1.5 pounds) of skin each year. Most household dust is made up of dead skin cells. Can some one pass me a loofah and some skin cream???!!!

Laughing lowers levels of stress and strengthens your immune system. Proverbs 17:22
¨A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones

Unless food is mixed with saliva you can't taste it. A good reminder to completely chew your food...at least 20 times per bite (that´s from my therapist´s perspective and research in the field!!!)


8% of people have an extra rib. Adam must have been one of those 8%...Just sayin´. 


Your tongue is the fastest healing part of your body. Still not a good reason to pierce it or stick it to a frozen street lamp.

The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression. Well that's depression.



          

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sk8 Club

Not only are their new princesses in town, but the men are being trained as warrior princes! (Of course in a manly, dignified way... of course....) A few months ago we had the pleasure of hosting Jud Heald, a professional skater (check out his website at d2lrevolution.com). The video here is one of his skate runs during a contest. Jud and another fellow skater use their skating to reach the younger generation. They demonstrate some phenomenal tricks and then share the message of the gospel. They always allow the kids time to practice their moves, too. 

Many of the kids here in Anonos also love to skate. The younger ones love to ride down the huge hill by the house sitting on their patched together boards. The older ones will some times walk to the Parque Sabana, the large national park about a mile from here, to practice different tricks. After Jud was here, Steve and Tito decided we needed a skateboard ministry here, too. So they built ramps and rails and every Saturday they bring them down to the bottom of the hill. They used to use them in the Planche, but with the constant need for cleaning it and from a safety perspective, they have moved to the road in front of the casita.  The kids skate for about a half an hour and then Steve or Tito share a 15-20 minute message with them and then they can skate for another hour. It has been a very positive and relevant way to meet the kids in their most formative years.

When people say they have nothing to offer others, many times they are just thinking inside the box. What do you enjoy doing? What skills or talents do you have? Can you teach those to other people? Can you encourage other people in those same gifts and talents? Do you enjoy children? Teens? Young adults? Young professionals? Adults? God's kingdom is not about a building. It's not about being inside a building once or even twice a week. It's not just about reading the Bible (although that is exceptionally important!!!) It is not always about serious study groups and intense conversations.  God's kingdom is in the every day. The simple. Every moment. It is using what God gave you to advance His kingdom. Taking your abilities, passions, and talents and using them for God's glory as well as the encouragement and growth of the church. I encourage you, too, to look for creative ways to be the light of Jesus in your community.

Steven lands this impressive move...
video

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Princess Club: Our Identity in Christ

YAY PRINCESS CLUB!!!!!!!!!!! Week two was just as incredible as week one!!! This week we learned about our identity in Christ! If He is the King of Kings and we are his heirs, we are Princesses!! We learned that we were carefully and purposefully formed in our mother's bellies by God. We are beautiful and have value in God's eyes!! We went over our key verse: Colossians 1:12: "(God) has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light." We also found our theme song: "Yo Soy Tu Amado" from the Gracias Por La Cruz album from Vineyard music. (If you click on the song title, it will take you to a website where you can listen to the song. The words are as follows:

YO SOY TU AMADO (Your Beloved)
Señor fuiste Tu quien creó los cielos.  Lord it was you who created the heavens.
Señor fue Tu mano quien las estrellas creo. Lord it was your hand that created the stars.
Señor Tu voz viene como la mañana. Lord your voice comes like the morning.
Y aun las olas del mar se postran ante Ti. And even the waves of the sea bow before you.
Quien soy yo comparado a Tu gloria, Señor? Who am I compared to your glory, Lord?
Quien soy yo comparado a Tu majestad? Who am I compared to your majesty?
Yo soy Tu amada, por Ti creado. I am your beloved, by you created
Y me amas como soy,  And you love me as I am
Me has escogido para tu Reino You have chosen me for your Kingdom
Y me dices que Tuyo soy. And you tell me that I'm yours.
Yo soy Tu amada. I am your Beloved.

  

The girls had a great time decorating their frames. Ana Laura and I had taken pictures of them when we gave them their invitations or the first week of the club.


 Rule #2 in the Princess Club is: Justice and Equality for everyone. Each girls was given the same number of foam stickers, a crown, and sequence to decorate their picture frame. I loved the creativity each girl showed in decorating their frame. Each frame showed a bit of each girl's personality. I loved the fact that Marilyn decided to put the crown sticker on her head in the picture. It started a trend and most of the girls followed suit. They are learning TRUTH about their IDENTITY in Christ!! It starts NOW! Not when they are adults. Or teenagers. Or in college or their career. Their Identity is formed NOW!!! They ARE princesses!!

 
Ana Laura explains more about what it means to be a princess while the girls eat their princess snack. Ana Laura made princess wand cookies with frosting and sprinkles...YUMMY!!!

Events as of Late


As many of you know by now, from Facebook, the New Life team from Columbus, Ohio, suffered a devastating loss while on their missions trip here to Los Anonos, Costa Rica. One of their members, Dean Stoecklin, went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, July 3, 2011. Dean died of an aneurysm that ruptured while he was swimming in the ocean in a city called Jaco. Dean was an incredible example of the love of Christ while he was working here in the community.
 
He was involved in many of the work projects over the last week. He helped fix the gutter behind the Casa Nueva so when it rains the water will no longer pool in our back yard, he helped construct the swing set so the kids here can play safely, and he built a fence around the new trash receptacle on the road so when people throw their trash there it won't fall onto the neighbor's house below. Dean also made a personal impression on the lives of several of the young guys here. He shared from his heart and prayed over several of them. He also made an impact on his own team members. One team member, Mike, remembered how every morning Dean would wake up early and would be sitting on the porch reading his Bible. Mike recalled how he would look forward to getting up early to see Dean sitting on the porch and he would go join him.
All of us who climbed the mountain can also never forget how the entire sole of Dean's boot literally fell off as he climbed, yet he never complained and just kept climbing. The guys demonstrated their creativity and MacGyver-like skills as they fastened the sole on just long enough to finish the hike.



 From us here in Costa Rica, we have a wall where we post pictures of who we are as a church. In honor of Dean, we have included a memorial to him on the wall. Thank you, Dean, for all the work you did here in Los Anonos. You served the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You left a legacy here that can never be forgotten. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

HIking to the Cross

 For the last 10 days we had the pleasure of hosting New Life Church from Columbus, Ohio. As many of you have seen or know, there is a mountain range that lays directly behind the community. Three crosses stand guard, watching the people in the valley below. At times, teams have made the trek up the mountain to see the crosses. This team also decided to go, and I wanted to join in on the experience. We took Randall and Kevin from the community with us. The weather was beautiful in terms of temperature, but it was exceptionally foggy. 

 

A mini bus came to the house and picked us up to take us to the base of the mountain. The guys were joking as we got closer and closer that they were dropping us off too close and it would be no challenge...And then we actually began climbing. The beginning of the hike was INTENSE. We walked up slippery, rocky terrain at a VERY steep incline. Fortunately the path leveled out and we could take a break. The view even from here was incredible. The only  downer was the thick cloud cover over the city.





The team decided to drink in the view at the scenic over look. It was a great place to rest...and tie Dean's shoe back together. Yup. Dean had brought a pair of work boots that were just a few years old (he admitted they were about 14 years old...) and the sole started peeling off from the toe back. They had been lovingly duck taped together, but the sharp incline and the rockiness of the terrain were proving too much for the boots. The guys went MacGuyver and tied the sole on with shoe laces. We resumed the hike.




Of course the two Ticos we brought with us had done the hike before. They must have been used to the altitude...Kevin hiked up in a sweatshirt and jeans without even breaking a sweat while the rest of us huffed and puffed through the thinner air.

There came a point in the trail where we could see the cross directly before us. So close...straight up the side of a hill. The challenge was on: stay on the path and curve around and up the mountain or go straight up the side through the pasture. Six of the group were up for it. Straight up they went. Including Randall, one of the bravest guys I know here.I took the long path. As we were walking, I commented to one of the guys, isn't that some times how it is for us as Christians? God calls some of us to go straight up, taking hard paths, but through green pastures, while for others of us there is a clear path that He makes for us and guides us on through the cleft of the rocks. Both are difficult walks, but both lead to the cross.

So we had made it! We made it to the cross!! Dean's shoe was mostly intact. Although Holly's was starting to come apart now...Several of the guys bowed down at the foot of the cross in reverent prayer. Several guys scaled up as high as they could up to the base of the cross. Some of us sat in silence. Others talked. Many people read the Bible. Of course we also had to document our feat (including a few pictures of me running to get back to the group before the timer went off on my camera).

But we were only to the first cross. We were only about 2/3 of the way to the top and the second cross. Again, isn't that just how the Christian life is? We get to the cross to come and die and realize God has called us to so much more. He has called us to pursue Him even further. To keep going. He has something else in store for us.

So we continued climbing, pursuing the cross. Then one of my favorite memories of the trip happened...I was following behind three of the group. We were going up this steep ravine like area where we were surrounded by rocks that were at least 6 feet high. I heard something about head level and turned to look directly into the eyes of a cow. I yelled ahead "Hey, who else saw the cow?" They turned to yell "What the heck are you talking about?" Only to see a cow literally 18 inches from the path they had all missed. On our way back, the  guys spotted another cow on the path.



The hike to the second cross was much shorter and we made it in less than 20 minutes. At the top we read the crucifixion and resurrection and ended with the Great Commission.


 Matthew 28:
 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is what the Ohio team did. They went out to make disciples of Costa Rica for the Lord. They came to teach and obey. And Jesus was with us and guided us, each on our own path to the cross.