Wednesday, 29 July 2015

50,000 Shades of Grey

As a Canadian, I come from a culture that is pretty much black and white. We have rules which we mostly follow. Now I know that that is a generalisation. However, we live our lives assuming that the rules will be followed and, if not, there are consequences for not following them. There is a certain safety in that way of life.

Take that to the next level...if a rule gets broken often enough a new one is created to adjust for that.  For example, paying taxes. How many people, who own their own businesses, got 'caught' when the whole GST rule came into effect? Or the 1000 + 1 rules for receiving unemployment? Etc. Etc.

So you take said Canadian and move her to Mexico.  Black and White turns into 50,000 shades of grey!

Mexicans themselves will tell you that ANYTHING can be done in Mexico. There is no such thing as a NO. One just needs to know how to get it. Black can easily turn into grey. You get a ticket from a policeman ... we can make that go away. Have a traffic accident that is your fault...we can change that. When you get a 'no' somewhere you just find someone who knows someone, who knows someone, and it call all be worked out! Sounds like a plan, especially if you are in the wrong!

Now I don't want to talk about corruption, because there is little I can do about it, nor is it my place to deal with that. I want to talk about how this mindset or worldview effects me - because it does, and it is so subtle. An everyday thing, where this hits me, is driving. I don't drive very often here; mostly Ernie does, but when I do, I have noticed a shift (I might add that I notice the shift in his driving as well! He would say I could comment less about it as well). The yellow traffic light is not nearly as yellow here as it is a home. A traffic sign that says no U-Turn is a 'suggestion'.  A yellow curb means very little if anything at all. And the list is long....  

Recently I was talking to a fellow expat and he was saying that the risk is that we adapt this greying concept little by little until it becomes our compass.  It can then slip into every area of our lives.  Things  become grey - no black and white, no right and wrong. We know we can get ourselves out of a pickle by just applying the grey. No one would even think less of us - its understood. Friends would even help you. Whether the worldview within Mexico is that all things are possible (you just need to know how and whom to ask) does not mean that I can break the law, or that things should not be done because they are wrong. Or, can I even go as far as to say, they are SIN?  

I don't want to sound like a Pharisee or even live like one. Nor do I want to make life about rules.  However, I do not want to lose my moral or spiritual compass. I want to be seen and known as a person of integrity. I want to live within the guidelines God has given me, no matter the culture within which I find myself.

P.S. An after thought - I wonder if we don't face similar challenges back home (Canada) given the rampant changes in technology, and the changes in the culture that surrounds us there? Do you not face the same challenges regarding how to maintain a moral/spiritual compass in your life?  

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Good Times

What happens when old people try to use technology?  It does not always work!  It does not always do what one told it to do!  Apparently.  That said, that is why the blog was blank for a week or was it 2?  Ernie, who nicely and carefully edits my posts, even writes them on occasion, scheduled the posts to post and they did not.  Was it the computers fault or ours?  Let's just say, we are saying it was the computers, but more than likely it was us :(   SORRY

Moving along.  Just wanted to share some happenings in-between posts:
Baking Lessons

Alejandrina cutting the finished product

Best part of baking - licking the beaters!

Jordana - frosting!?
At Christmas when my kids were here, my wonderful daughter-in-law, Jaycia, did some baking with our friends daughters.  They couldn't seem to reproduce any of it at home so I did a 'redo' with the mother present.  Problem observed and solved, measuring is important!  They left with a pan of sheet brownies, a sheet pan of banana cake, M & M cake and a Triple Chocolate Banana Loaf.  They were overwhelmed, but I can't eat it and no way was all that staying for Ernie!! Good bonding time with a wonderful family.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Mexican Fortitude

Following the day-to-day happenings here in Guadalajara and around Mexico can be somewhat discouraging. As a foreigner I watch, listen and observe. Many things I can not, for the life of me, wrap my head around. However, watching the Mexican people deal with these things boggles my mind. To be honest, I don't know if I should be amazed, and take my hat off, or shocked & discouraged. Since I have never had to live with these things, as part of my daily life, with no other option, it is hard to say which is the right response, or if there even is one.

I have found that the typical response to negative things here in Mexico is to laugh at them, to mock them, to ridicule them and make ongoing jokes about them.

Here are three recent examples that have flooded my Facebook wall and can be seen in the local newspapers, T.V. and radio:

1. Donald Trump: I don't know if his presidential speech got as much traffic at home as it did here. But WOW! To encapsulate his comments, he basically said that the U.S. had problems with its southern boarder, with all the Mexican murderers and rapists it allows through. You may have seen the fallout from that speech, as people began breaking ties with Trump. My response to that speech was somewhat more intolerant than my Mexican friends.
This says: In protest to Trump: The ladies in this
group (WhatsApp) will not go to Miss Universe!

This says: We're not going!
(both caption and picture to the left talk about Mexicans that will now refuse to join as contestants in the Miss Universe pageant!)

This says: Donald Trump thinks that Mexicans are idiots, 
but he works for me!

(Charles Slim, considered the second richest man in the world, is Mexican)

While I was angered by Trumps comments, offended for my Mexican friends, they just laughed. Trump jokes abound. While Mexicans recognise the border problem, and they even acknowledge that there is one; there was outrage at his racist comments. To imply that all Mexicans are rapists and murderers is outrageous. That's a racist generalisation that's just not true! I happen to have some wonderful and beautiful Mexican friends; too bad Trump hasn't had the privilege of meeting them.

2. Chapo Guzman. The most recent event has been the famous escape of the biggest Mexican drug lord, from a maximum security prison; his second time escaping! This is getting big press coverage, worldwide. My Facebook wall is full of the mockery of the whole thing.
Translation: If you love Chapo, let him go, if he returns, he's yours, if not, he never was.
I will not even make a comment about this - the news media is doing a pretty good job of questioning this whole event, and the 'official' story about how he 'escaped'. 
3. President Enrique Peña Nieto. The biggest, and most confusing to me, is the way they talk about their president. He gets ridiculed for everything. They openly mock and run him down. Never is there a day that he doesn't get bad press for something he said or did. Some times it might even look like he deserves the scorn, but I don't know if we Canadians would respond with mockery to our Prime Minister; but rather with outrage and anger?
I'm not going to divide Mexico, I don't even know how to read let alone divide (math).
For every bad thing that happens, within moments of it happening, someone has created a meme.  They hit the airwaves, Facebook and Whatsapp within minutes of the events taking place. And they laugh. Sometimes they even mix events together.... ...
"Run, Trump, Run" ... "What was it you said about Mexicans?" ... "Chapo... I was kidding!"

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Deep Sea Fishing

     This last weekend I joined approx. 2 dozen other men from the fitness gym and we went to Manzanillo on a fishing trip. We left Friday morning and returned Sunday afternoon. 2 side-by-side houses had been rented (with the back yard on the edge of the ocean), 3 fishing boats had been booked, matching t-shirts and hats made for the entire team, and we were ready!
supper BBQ Friday Night
The winning team! Romo, Gomez, Ernesto, Lalo, Oscar and Zarsas. 
sail fish on his right, wahoo on his left
some of the guys posing with the sailfish :-) 
     I was reminded of Jesus' words to Simon Peter, and his brother Andrew, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). Those who have gone fishing, whether just for sport, or as a livelihood, know that there is more to it than just dropping a line with a hook in the water. Where you fish, whether to troll or fish in place, what kind of hook or bait to use, etc. are some of the questions a successful fisherman needs to have answers to. Cross-cultural 'fishing' has its own added challenges as well.

     One of the guys called me out on Saturday afternoon, as a bunch of us were lounging in the pool. His boat had returned 'empty', and the one I was in had landed a large sailfish and a big wahoo. "You cheated", he said. I asked why. "You've got a direct line to the 'Boss upstairs', and that gave your group an unfair advantage!' I chuckled and pointed out that I hadn't known the rules ahead of time,  and suggested that that option was open to all. Later, as I posted some of the pictures on Facebook,  I also posted a picture of the ocean with Hebrews 4:16 written out - "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
      In any event, my prayer throughout the weekend was that I would be 'salt and light' (Matt. 5:13-16) and that my being there would contribute in positive ways to the rest of the group. A popular phrase, sometimes used by followers of Christ, is 'in the world, but not of the world'. Although that is true, it should probably be said differently, like, 'not of the world, but sent into the world'...  I believe we're here with a purpose, and, if we are part of God's kingdom, then we need to be about kingdom business. That is often very counter-cultural, in a world that often holds very different values and priorities. The task is daunting, but the help is divine! May you too find peace and fulfilment in doing your part.

      posted by Ernie Koop

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Some personal thoughts about the latest polemical and divisive issue...

     Well, here in Mexico, although we're somewhat removed from what has just happened in the US (Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage), and has happened some time ago in Canada, the ripple affect is felt here as well.
     It seems that the conversations tend to polarise and divide people along fairly clear 'for or against' lines. Although I have decided not to dedicate too many of my waking hours to the subject, this issue also speaks to a larger issue for Christians. My policy has generally been to be silent on divisive stuff,  especially when using social media instead of face to face communication. However, I do see merit in talking about the bigger picture, so that we learn something from the immediate situation, that might serve us moving forward.
     As you might guess, as an Anabaptist I am not a sympathiser of the Moral Majority approach of trying to legislate their version of morality on the rest of society. I believe the world is the world and Christ followers belong to a different kingdom. I also believe that God created ALL of humanity with freewill, and, because He doesn't take it away, and respects our freewill, I don't have the right to take yours away either. Just as I wouldn't want another religion (for argument sake let's say Islam) to use a majority to legislate their understanding of morality, and impose it on all the rest of us (Sharia Law), I don't think its right to do the same from a Christian perspective. I believe that we are called to be salt and light, to model, to proclaim truth, and to love ALL of humanity, whether we agree with their behaviour, beliefs, or worldview. I believe we are called to model truth, from the bottom up, rather than trying to impose it from the top down. I actually believe it is ludicrous to expect a pre-Christian to act like a Christian! That doesn't even make sense to me.
     Further, those who are thinking the world as 'going to hell in a hand basket', why the big surprise? Isn't that something scripture describes? Have we lost an understanding of what it means to live out our faith in a context that isn't characterised by Christendom? We are called to be counter-cultural, and yet (at least in North America) we seem to have gotten fairly comfortable just 'fitting in'. Should we not be agonising about how to better reach our neighbours, and those who don't know Christ, than to spend our time in moral judgements, and diatribes, against those who don't hold our values? I realise that sometimes its tough, but isn't it possible to respect and love someone even if we don't approve of their behaviour? Will the way we respond to others draw them to Christ, or away from him?
     How should Christians make their way in this world, "loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbour as themselves"? What does that look like in today's world?
     Here are some links that I found to be informative and thought provoking, and great for helping me to think thru the broader issues. I hope they are stimulating for you as well, whether you agree with the viewpoints expressed or not:

 Mark Gungor "Now You're Upset?"  (article on Facebook)

"Some Advice For Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian (blog article)

Bishop TD Jakes (You Tube video) some excellent thoughts!!

-posted by Ernie Koop