Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Confession

There is an old Scottish Proverb that says "Confession is good for the soul".

This is true for both evangelicals and catholics.  How we confess is quite different though.

I have been told (asked) that we don't confess.  To which I reply, yes we do, just not to a priest.  Which, come to think of it, is also not true.  We confess to the great High Priest.

I have often wondered what one would confess to a priest? Would it be the same as when I confess to Jesus for my sins? Would I hide things from an earthly priest?  Because God knows my sins, and knows what I am 'hiding', but an earthly priest would not.

I remember a lady from our church in Chihuahua saying that she didn't mind going to confession and confessing the same things every week.  However, she hated telling God that she had committed the same sin, week after week.

Recently a friend said that confession made him view prayer like a punishment.  I looked at him and asked "how so?"  Well, after you confess the priest tells you how many times to recite the Lord's Prayer, as part of your penance.  So he began to view prayer as a punishment for his sins.  How sad. Yet they HAVE to go to confession or they can not take communion.

My context is so very different that I continue to try to understand their belief's.  I ask them what they do with Hebrews 4:14-16


While they agree that you can confess to God directly, one still must go to confession to take the Lord's supper.  So while I don't agree, I continue to discuss the Throne of Grace. A final thought... Is their 'problem' one of 'ritualizing' confession, and our problem one of not confessing, or taking sin too lightly?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

How long will you be here?

Ernie with Luca
We are often asked by people here how long we plan to live in GDL.  Well, they usually don't start with that question.

First they want to know how we like Guadalajara (people love it when you like their country). Then, what we like about it.  This is followed by, where we are from, and if we left family behind (they can't imagine moving away from family).  Then they want to know how long we plan to live here.

That answer is not an easy, straight forward one. So, I begin by telling them that we lived in Nicaragua first, that our oldest son was born there. Their eyes get big. I tell them that Ernie used to say that he was there 'hasta morir' (till death).  Well, he is still alive, and not there!
Ernie with Alegra
 I go on to tell them that we lived in Chihuahua for 5 years. As it is Mexico, they ask which I like better, Chihuahua or Guadalajara.  In a very diplomatic fashion I explain that I like them both. They then want to know why we left, if I liked it so much.  Which brings us to Ernie's answer to people who asked him how long we would live in Chihuahua.  His answer changed to "hasta donde Dios quiere" (as long as God wants).

Ernie with Aranza 
So here we are, after 3 years with the same question, how long are you gonna live here?

Well, a certain verse comes to mind; "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Prov. 19:21)

When we decided to come here, we thought about this very thing.  Ernie has lots of plans and dreams about living in Latin America (think retirement). That said, God may have totally different plans.  So we hold our plans in an open hand.

Ernie with Natalia
While Ernie desires to live here, or somewhere in Latin America, as I watch him with children here, I think grandchildren (he would like a quiver full) may just play a huge factor in those decisions. Not that they would be the deciding factor.

Everyone here notices how Ernie loves children, how he befriends their children, and can be found playing with them.  He actually often offers to babysit, and we have on occasion done just that.

Family is such a huge part of life in Latin America. They are shocked that we left our 'kids' in Canada. They even have asked why they didn't come with us, AFTER I told them how old our boys were.

 Recently our youngest son ended up in Emergency with a hockey injury. We got the call while at a Bible study. Our friends here were in a state of panic for us. Is that hard? Sure it is. But it is a cost for what we do. So that is when you put feet to your faith. We demonstrate, or try to, our trust in God. Sure, those are times when one wishes they didn't live a world away but our kids are in the best hands - God's.

Just this weekend, as we were at a family gathering of our adopted family here, someone said that I wouldn't go back to Canada ever because of the weather. I laughed. While I LOVE the climate here, one can adapt to climate anywhere. I told them that what would be hard was the leaving, of people not climate. I told them that I had opened my heart to them and leaving would hurt. Like ripping off a bandaid. That is harder than adjusting from plus 30 to minus 30!

Because, life is more about relationships than climate.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Doings


I remember our drive down here to GDL, I cried most of the way.  Mostly because I was leaving behind my kiddos.  Which, looking back, was really more about me than them.  

I have such sweet memories of life in the different places I have lived that I should know by now that moving isn't nearly as bad as I think.  Life can be lived to the fullest, anywhere you are... if you focus on the positives.  And there usually are lots of positives if you choose to look for them.  Most often I don't even need to look that hard.

So, living in GDL can be good or bad, depending on my focus. My kids aren't here, or my family, or my friends... ... but look what is here... ..

Let me state the most obvious stuff just to get it out of the way.... the weather (blue skies and sunshine), the food (tacos, chilaquiles, etc, etc), the warm, kind, friendly people.  

However, what do those things look like in my life?  Well, we get to enjoy the people in various ways. 

SEAN group that meets on Thursdays
We get together with several different groups to study Scripture.  It has been such a blessing to do this.  I truly love studying the Bible with my Catholic friends because they open my eyes to new ways of seeing things.  We are growing together.  I also love their hunger to learn and grow.  Each group has their own dynamic and thus brings their own blessing to my life, and I hope we do to theirs. 
Natalia's Birthday 






Another way we get to enjoy people (and food) is through celebrating birthdays.  

Ernie playing with the kids 



Ernie and Elena














Also we have enjoyed people by our friends introducing us to things they are involved in.  Recently Ernie and I joined our friend, Elena (from the gym) at a home for children.  Together we served the children breakfast and then played with them.  It was very clear that they were in need of people to come alongside them.  We got to know our friend Elena better and found a way to bless those in need.  We are looking at ways to bring others in as well, to join us in reaching out.

As you can see, many of our people events are connected to the gym.  That is where we have met most of our friends.  We see them daily, as we all go Monday to Friday.  We don't just work out together, we hang out together.  We build friendships.  As a matter of fact, our gym has a reputation for being a social club vs. a training gym.  Good for us, as we joined in order to meet people. 

Nelson, his daughter Natalia, and us 

Pictured above is Ernie and I with two of my instructors, Nelson and Natalia.  I take several of Nelson's classes and occasionally his daughter's. We have also become good friends.  They are from Columbia.  They took us to a Columbian restaurant to try some of their typical dishes.  We had a wonderful time, enjoying new foods and getting to know them better. 

There are many such opportunities to join people over a meal, and build friendships, as Latin's are a very relational people. Just up Ernie's alley! 

So, when I think back on 3 years ago, when we first arrived here... I can hardly believe the difference.  While I enjoyed the relaxing days, going for walks in the park, it lacked the richness of people and relationships.  Now it's about trying to balance all the people things, which are great, with down time to rest (hear an introvert in me coming out?).

Mondays I am now teaching an English conversation class, (Ernie has a Skype Bible study with our sons and their friends),  Tuesday evenings is a Bible study group, Wednesdays is another group, Thursdays is SEAN, and our weekends are either catch up times or social activities/ parties.  Ernie also has an online 'Sunday Reflections with Ernie' video he prepares and then posts on Sundays. 

All good things.  So, while we still miss our kids and families, we have a rich meaningful life here. Not because it is better than 'home' but because we chose to focus on the positive and try not to complain about the negatives (Mexican drivers)....















Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Music and Dance


Dance, Bailar, Dance! Oh to be able to dance like my Mexican friends, or even better, my Columbian friends. Dance is just part of Latin culture.  Each state in Mexico has its own traditional dance, with accompanying wardrobe.  I know, because I was invited to watch 3 hours of it.  WOW! Espectacular!

If I struggle through a night of Karaoke, a party with dance is just as bad! Maybe the difference is that I KNOW I can't sing well! I can carry a tune, as long as no one, who can not, is NO WHERE near me! Or, I will follow them off tune. However, no one is asking me to be a part of their singing group!

Now Dancing? Another story.  I somehow think I should be able to learn (two left feet notwithstanding)!

Its like the meme at the right:

"Sometimes I wish I could dance 'La Bamba', but then I remember that I don't have 'una poca de gracia' (a bit of grace) and something else, and I forget about it"

I always tell my friends here that I don't have one single drop of latin blood, therefore I can not dance like them (If only a simple transfusion would work).

I have actually told a few people that the movie "Footloose" could have been filmed in my hometown. That I grew up with the belief that dancing was a sin (and many would still say it is).  I am not here to debate that concept...

So, while part of my brain is telling me it is bad, the other part of me wants to learn.

I do better with my class called Danzika, because it is dance moves mixed with the concept of aerobics.  The movements are front, left, right.  Repeating themselves (I can hear my teacher saying, ChaCha, Tango, Mambo, etc.).  I love it, but my teacher, ever patient, would say that what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm. Not to mention tenacity!

I have attended Latin Rhythm class....now there one sees my lack of talent.  But they love how I try and how I can laugh at myself. They are so disappointed when I don't get up at a party to dance with them. The ladies often just dance in a group. So I can hide :(

This is something that is just part of life and culture here. One can't avoid it. Most parties have dancing, there are dance studios everywhere, they have several dance classes at the gym. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I say.  Maybe one day Ernie and I will take private lessons (so as to not embarrass ourselves publicly)...








Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Karaoke Night

Music is such a huge part of life in general, but even more so in Mexican culture. There is nary an event without music.  I am always glad if it is at a reasonable volume - meaning, one can hold a conversation over it!! An event without music is considered 'triste' (sad).  

Thus, whether it is a wedding, a birthday, a baptism, an anniversary, or just a get together, for no particular reason, music is a must! If nothing is playing, when people arrive, someone connects their phone and playlist to a sound system.  They listen to all kinds of music too.  If it is in English it is usually old, from the 70's or 80's, but I have also shook my head to hear Dolly Parton playing. 

So, it is no wonder that Karaoke Nights are also common.  It makes no difference if you can sing or not; you take a turn.  I am glad I know one song, more or less complete.  But they are broadening my play list! 

After being at several of these nights, where I can read the words and analyze them, .... ... I have noticed something peculiar.  If the artist is a man, the songs are romantic, like over the top.  Songs like: Besame Mucho (Kiss me lots), El Amor de Mi Vida (the love of my life), Me Voy Enamorando (I'm falling in love), Si Nos Dejan (If they let us), etc.  Latin Men are "Conquistadores" (Conquerers). 

If the singer is female, like the famous Paquita La Del Barrio, the titles are less romantic and a little harsh against those romantic men mentioned above.  Songs like "Rata de Dos Patas" (Rat with two feet), "Hombres Malvados" (Bad Men).  Jenni Rivera, another favourite on Karaoke night, also sings of heartache and loving cheating men, "Resulta" (So Now), "Paloma Negra" (Black Dove).

They love playing some of the more 'edgy' songs to see my reaction.  They are never disappointed as I am shocked at the lyrics of some songs.  

Sadly, these songs are somewhat reflective of relationships here.  When I get together with the ladies they talk about men being unfaithful, many having lived it, and how that is just the way it is.  They seem to have resided themselves to the fact.  They sing those man-hater, cheater songs with lots of passion.  

The men talk about it being 'normal' to stray, given they were made to procreate. A need to spread their seed is inherent!  When they are trying to get, or conquer, a women, they are over the top romantic.  They too can sing romantic songs with passion, to their wife.  But if the opportunity presents itself for another women, they would most likely take it.

Now I do not want to paint every single Mexican as unfaithful, but it is very common.  And, what is somewhat sad, is how 'normal' it is seen. To hear the women talk, it is a given.  Which probably explains their drive to remain beautiful and attractive.  

Given this 'reality', they find Ernie and I a little peculiar.  We have been married 28 years, and only to each other.  Our children are ours' together.  When I tell them some of our story, they are even more amazed that we are still married.  When I tell them we have gone to marriage counselling to that end, that too seems amazing to them.  

I would not say that we have a perfect marriage, but we are committed to each other, forever and ever, amen.  I pray that God grant us the grace to continue to walk in faithfulness to one another and be able to be an example of a godly marriage to those around us. 

May our theme song rather be "I will always love you" (Whitney Houston)