Sunday, October 30, 2011

a long weekend with veggies

This weekend is a four day weekend. Now, normally I would feel the need to go crazy and do something extravagent for a 4 day weekend. At least a trip to the beach would be in order. But I feel like the last week or so has been a bit stressful. So Im chilling at home. I'm tired and not really sleeping well. So it's going to be a calm weekend here in Santiago. I got some fresh veggies and fruit from the market and am fully prepared to spend the weekend in my little domestic haven.



Here are my special finds from the market. Believe it or not, I spent about $8 on all of this. Crazy, right? I remember how last time I lived here, I ate so many fresh veggies. So I am trying to get creative with different recipes. If anyone has any suggestions they are more than welcome!

Jeremy: in India




and my mom....








Saturday, October 29, 2011

a facelift

Its been quite some time since I changed the blog up. My dear friend Megan commented to me that she gets a migrane looking at the bright red, so I figured, why not switch it up a little. Put a little something tranquila to match the tranquila that I feel in my life at the moment. Im back in CHile, living in the neighborhood I love, with a stable job, and an incredibly sweet church. So yeah, tranquila is the word.
The credit for the photo above goes to my brother, Jeremy Lipkowitz, who is an extremely talented photographer. Maybe I'll post more of his photos just for fun. (Of course I'll do this without telling him, but in good family fashion my mom will gossip it along to him!) Anyways, that's all for now. Just a little change to spice things up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

la santa cena

"la santa cena" literally translated as "the holy meal". In English we say Communion. It's celebrated all over the world in churches. It's form may look different in various denominations and cultures, but the heart is the same: to somehow repeat something that Jesus told His disciples to do in remembrance of Him. So we do it.
When I was younger, I didn't really understand what the fuss was all about. I loved celebrating Passover with my family, but when it came time for communion, the connection was missing for me. Part of the problem was that my church only celebrated it a few times a year during a special service. It was a sacred event, which I appreciate. But for me (and seemingly for others) the desire to make the event sacred made me miss part of the point. I wanted it to be full of reflection, deep repentence, and almost sorrow as I took the little plastic cup of grape juice. But I could never get somber enough to feel like I really "got it". When I started at the presbyterian church is when I finally started to wrestle with the whole sacrament. Why do we do it? What are we supposed to feel? How should we serve communion in our church? How often should it be served? Grape juice or wine? Matzoh or baguette? So many questions. But at the heart of all my questions was a desire to know Jesus better through this interaction He told us to do.
As the years have gone by, and the number of cultures and churches I've experienced, my love for the whole communion event has grown. This morning my church served communion and I knew going into it that my friend Yessy would be one of the people serving. And I decided that I would stand in the line to be served by her. Not that she holds any special power, but because she is one of those people that we always preach the gospel to each other. How beautiful to recieve communion (the gospel in material form) from someone who consistently gives you the gospel in verbal form. While Im sure we all miss out of part of the meaning of communion, this had to be one of the best ways to receive it. From the hands of my sister, as she gave me the cup and said, This is the blood of Jesus poured out for you. Drink this in remembrance of Him.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

pushing myself

Living cross-culturally is challenging in so many ways. One of my biggest challenges is understanding cultural differences and allowing space for the differences, but not hiding behind them. Some cultural differences are obvious- language, etc. Some of them show you the sin in one of the cultures. Some of them bother you more than others.
I've been here for 9 months now. And while it feels like time as flown by, it also feels like Ive been here for years. One of the things I like about living in another culture is how much it stretches you. It's just plain hard sometimes to live in another culture. There are plenty of people (mostly North Americans) who go live in other countries but stay in bubbles of their own culture. I am not here to do that. I have a few gringo friends, but I am very purposeful in who I spend time with. I know how easy it would be to spend all my time with people who speak English, who understand my culture, who share my worldview. But I want to be here in Chile, to be HERE.
Some cultural differences are mixed with sin. I could write an extremely LONG post on this but for now, I want to share an example from my own life. The gringo culture tends to be very individualistic. One of the ways that this plays out is in hospitality. We tend to think we are hospitable, but it's on OUR terms. We are okay with inviting people over for dinner, but WE invite them over for the time that WE want. And generally, the dinner lasts a few hours and then they leave. But the chilean mindset is much more open to people just dropping by, almost unannounced. And people staying WAY longer than my comfort level. I've already had a few instances where people came over to my place late on a Saturday night and I informed them that at 2am I was going to kick them out to a bar. I just need to know that if I want to go to sleep at 2am, I have that freedom. But I want to be more hospitable. So I am intentionally pushing myself in this area. The culture gives plenty of opportunity to practice hospitality. So this week, Im letting myself feel the push. When I get a call from a friend asking if she can come over in an hour for lunch, I say yes. When my small group leader asks if our group can meet in my apartment this week, I say yes. I want to be hospitable, so I am opening that door.. slowly. So far, God's given me grace to really enjoy the times and not feel the stress that usually accompanies such events.
I know that God wants to use my cross cultural living to make me more like Him. So I trust Him in this whole process. It get's uncomfortable sometimes but it's ok. I have a God that is bigger than all my discomfort. And it's in Him I rest.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

sustained by grace

This morning I am overwhelmed by not only the quantity of grace that is sustaining me at this moment, but the fact that God (again, because of grace) is letting me have a little peep into the reality of my need for grace. Recently I was unconsiderate of a friend. Very unconsiderate. It wasnt on purpose but my actions showed how poorly I loved her. She confronted me on it and I apologized again and again, truly sorry for hurting her, but the uneasy feeling stayed in my gut.
I am actively preaching grace to myself...
There are some aspects of my heart that are so girly, that they often are sinful. One of them is my tendency to wander off in my mind with a guy. I meet a quality (or so says his facebook profile) guy and its not too much an exaggeration to say that within seconds I have our courtship, wedding, and first three kids all planned out and ready to go. Why is it wrong to do this? Well, for one thing it comes from a heart that is not content with what God has for me in this moment. So this weekend, my heart as usual, not content in the Lord. But God has been (because of grace) teaching me to really surrender to Him. And that part of this surrender is honoring Him with my thoughts. And this is NO easy feat! My mind starts to wander, and I suddenly freeze, cry out to God and stop the movie that has started to play out in my mind.
Again, I am actively preaching grace to myself.
So as I lay here in bed on Sunday morning, overwhelmed by my need for grace, I am grateful that grace, by definition, is not something I can deserve or earn and that the grace that is mine, is mine by the blood of Jesus. That His work on the cross is stronger than anything I could ever do. And that it will never run out. My coldheartedness toward my friend, my lack of contentment in Jesus, all of my sin that is much bigger and grosser than I even know. It leads my back to the cross of Jesus. Where His faithfulness paid for my faithlessness. And by it, I have been given the most treasured possession in the world, a restored relationship with my Creator.
What sweet goodness I get to preach to myself this morning!

Friday, October 14, 2011

beach date

It's Friday, por fin. Last night I got messages from my students that they wouldnt be able to make it to class today... and I thought to myself.. hmm... ESCAPE! I rescheduled my discipleship time with Maka (who definitely will have a blog dedicated to her soon) and I packed a backpack full of goodies- journal, bible, other nerdy books, sunblock, you get the picture. I woke up nice and early to get on an early bus and by 11am I was planted on the beach with a latte in hand. On the agenda for the day: NOTHING. Nope. Today is just a day to chill with the Lord. Enjoy one of my favorites of His creation, the Pacific Ocean. And just breathe deeply.
I was praying on the bus ride here and I was thinking about how I wanted to view this day as a day with Jesus. It reminded me of one of my guy friends who said it was ridiculous for girls to talk like that. And I have to say, of course it's not the same as a real date. But Jesus calls Himself the bridegroom of Israel. He wants us to relate to Him as a loving husband who laid down His life so that we might have a relationship with Him. So while I realize all the lines of corniness are being crossed here, I will stick with my gut and say that yes, I AM on a date with Jesus. He is the lover of my soul, the One who protects me, cares for me, loves me. These are all the things I hope to experience some day in a husband, but ultimately they come from Jesus. So bring on the beach date! This girly heart craves His love!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

dogs and prostitutes

So as many of you know, I live in a somewhat sketchy building. Its 11 floors, with about 6-8 apartments on each floor. There are a couple offices on the lower floors, a gyno office on floor 2 and the bottom is a peruvian restaurant. Half of the apartments are empty and the majority of the occupied ones are used by prostitutes. They dont actually live here, they just work here. I've noticed that "business" hours tend to be 5-11pm. There are some downsides to living in this building. Sometimes the men arent sure where to go to find a prostitute so they just wander the halls and knock on doors until they find one. So I just dont answer my door if there is only one knock on it. Also, the elevator is really small. Like it only fits 3 people and that's with a lot of personal space invasion. Sometimes I get the awkward situation of riding up in the elevator with one of my neighbor girls and their client. awkward. Then there are the few guys who approach me outside my building (or at the elevator) to ask for my price... again, awkward. But really, for the most part, it doesnt bother me living here. That is, until I have to deal with the dogs. There are some stray dogs that live in my building, and the pee and poo they leave in the hall, sometimes right in front of my door, is just NOT COOL. The lady who lives on the floor above me is older, probably in her 70s and she has taken it upon her to adopt all the old stray dogs she finds. She currently has 6 or 7 dogs. dirty dirty dogs. They bark. They pee. They really smell. And again, small elevator. So when she uses the elevator, all her dogs filling the small space, the smell is overwhelming.
The point is, I've realized that I have MUCH MORE patience for the prostitutes than the dogs. Funny, eh.

two thieves of the gospel

This week I get to participate in an incredible conference called "Transformacion de la Cruz" or "Cross Transformation". It is coming out of John Piper's ministry Desiring God and it focuses on why the cross has to be central to every area of our ministries and lives.
Last night the key speaker, Pastor Glenn, gave an excellent talk about the two thieves of the gospel- religion and irreligion. He described the irreligious as the person who tries to lower God's standard to justify himself. And the religious as the person who tries to raise his own justification to get closer to God's standard. Both descriptions stung. Depending on the situation, I will choose which of these two thieves of the gospel serves me best. It is so hard to accept my absolute failure and God's absolute perfection... and the only way I can deal with these two unavoidable realities is to cling to the cross. For it is there that these two realities are reconciled.
I know this may sound like lofty theology, but it has become the very truth that I cling to in moments of despair. It isn't natural to think about the cross. But I've found that this is an area where discipline has really served a sweet purpose. Good theology is only good as long as it makes its way into your heart. I can speak about grace and the cross but if I am not living it, it's useless. Thank God that even the act of remembering and practicing grace is an act of grace in and of itself. He is good, He is good indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How big is your Jesus?

When people ask me what I do here, I am always a little dumbfounded as to how to answer. I teach English here, but I am here because I want to live here. I want to serve the church here. I want this neighborhood, Bellas Artes, to know Jesus. So I serve the church here. One of the ways God has me serving is in discipling some of the girls in my church. I have 3 girls that I meet with individually for a few hours each week for discipleship. It is such a blessing to meet with them, preach Jesus to them, and walk with them through the mess that we call our relationship with the Lord. One of the big topics among all the girls is idolatry. I've talked enough about this topic on this blog that I shouldnt need to say that I am not referring to little golden idols, but to our hearts' unrelentless search for satisfaction in things outside of Jesus. Really, it's pathetic. I've found myself asking the girls (and myself!) "how big is your Jesus?" Is He small so you can control Him (or so you think)? Is He small so you doubt that He can truly satisfy you? Do other things seem to be bigger and more satisfying than Him? Or is He creator of the universe, your Lord, the One who knows and loves you and has purchased you with His blood? How powerful is your Jesus? How good is your Jesus? How big is your Jesus?

back on the horse...

Im not really sure where to start. Too much time has passed and too much life has passed. It’s been about 3 months since I last posted. A few of you have asked why I stopped blogging. I started blogging 6 years ago when I first moved to Chile. This blog has seen me through quite a few stages in life, even through quite a few countries. I blog for others (my family, my friends) but I also blog for myself. But recently, life has been a bit full. In the last three months, my work load has increased a bit, my commitments with my church have increased (the amount of activities, the sentiment has always been 100%) and some key players in my life have come and gone. One of the bigger moments recently was when my boss, who has been an incredible support for me in my life here, died. Very unexpectedly. She was young, in her mid 30s, and for all we knew vivacious. I don’t want to get into the dirty details here but I will say that the cause of death is still not sure. She left behind her husband and 3 year old daughter. While it didn’t effect my everyday life, it has definitely changed my role in my job. I am helping the widower (my new boss) with logistics in the institute. And the future of our institute is a bit unclear at the moment. Again, no need for details. But its been a bit crazy.
Another part of my absence has been the rollercoaster I’ve been on with the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, His faithfulness never fails. But mine is ridiculously inconsistent. Since May I’ve shed quite a few tears in my struggle to believe that the Lord is both good AND all powerful. He’s been exposing my heart to the ugliness that lies beneath my fa├žade of godliness. I say that I trust Him, but when push comes to shove, I panic at the thought that He might have plans for my life that don’t match up with what I have dreamed of. I have wrestled with Him, knowing (and even desiring) that He will win. But the angst in my heart grew strong and spilled out into tears. People kept asking how they could pray for me, and my answer was to pray that I would find my JOY in Him, and Him alone. I was so tired of my heart’s pursuit of idols. I just wanted to enjoy Jesus. But my heart was stubbornly clinging to these idols that I knew would never truly satisfy me. The last two weeks have been much better. Prayers have been answered and I feel a million times more tranquila. I find myself literally skipping down the street in joy after our church leadership meetings, singing praise songs as I clean my apartment, and laughing a LOT with my girlfriends. The Lord has been filling my life with joy. He has been reminding me that gratitutde is not an action but a general attitude in life. So I am choosing gratitude. Choosing joy. Choosing to believe that Jesus is infinitely more satisfying than anything else.