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Thursday, December 30, 2010

I look without seeing 12/30/2010

The end of 2010. I am a quarter of a century old and my body,
is still trying.
It tries to figure out where it is.
Last New Years was Arabian nights in the twilight zone. The Doha, Qatar.

Trying to understand why I was about to go through 7 more months of being a Physical Education Teacher. Looking back I miss many beauties.
Looking back I cringe with disgust.

Some traveling to Australia, to Argentina, back through the US and then back to Argentina for 3 months I now find myself preparing for a return to Buenos Aires for at least another 7 months and am feeling again. Feeling does not end. 

"What are you doing? What are you feeling?"
          asked the Over-Soul.

"I don't know."
          responded my false-self.

I am doubtful. 
I do not doubt moments captured digitally. They are full of soul, experience, beauty, challenge, and connection.











In Argentina. In Tilcara planted in the Quebrada. Patience in waiting.
Waiting for our bus. Barefoot never felt so nice. St. Francis biography by G.K. Chesterton. 











.salt flats. Trapped in the blue, grounded in the savory earth.



























4,170meters feels different than sea level. Feeling is fleeting though. 


Australian dreamin' with Kate Marie.


















Its beneficial to 
















The incarnation of my spirit animal.















QATAR AND SRI LANKA















































QATAR











My mountain in the desert. 




Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Modern Reveries 12/08/2010

A little over a month ago I was returning to the church, where I also lived at the time, listening to my iPod on random. My personality is too indecisive with simple things like this so I put it into the hands of my iPod. If only I had a robot companion for other decisive moments where my indecisiveness ran irate. On that particular bus ride I was cataloging thoughts that deal with faith, purpose, struggle, desires, goals, spiritual poverty, moral sickness, love, privilege, and identity. The metaphysical reveries are always accompanied by more materialistic reveries as well. This all due to my years of public transport travel here in the Southern Cone.

The boarding and exiting of passengers, the turning, the stopping, the going, and the travel through the transforming barrios of the porteño urban maze can provide the perfect platform for aforementioned reveries. In the middle of this particular ride the lyrics of one of the randomly selected songs reminded me that everything belongs, is inherently good and that its fine to struggle. Why is a great question for God? God understands anger. His motives are cosmic and distant sometimes. These are current themes of the last 2 months in Buenos Aires and my mind.

It took me some time to realize struggling with thoughts like these do not make me a passive person, anarchist, an ascetic estadounidense, spoiled and fake, yanqui, christian, or damned to hell. Perseverance through the thoughts and darkness is of God. Consistently I tell myself, "Don't let the negativity consume you, confront it and question it. It will eat you alive and deem you stagnate in life, pessimistic in thought, drive you to live without passion." I found myself in a pathetic state trying to grasp on to anything to validate my actions, motives, and purpose in life so the world would give me a big ass pat on the back. That pat never came. The pat never comes. It is an illusion.

Dear God,

Thank you that you have brought equilibrium to every anomaly in my life, this world, and my mind. Even in the times I doubt and things don't seem just, you assure me with your words and promises and bring me your peace that transcends all understanding.

Thank you for this song and the humans who created it in all faith that the notes, lyrics, and rhythms are divine and communicative of the goodness, the light and the beauty that is in the darkness even when our illusions tell us otherwise.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Labels 11-29-2010

I have two obsessive habits. Labeling people and peeling labels off of bottles.

Yes, I label people. When I do so the label covers their mouth. It sticks and is difficult to git rid of it. The same label covers their soul. My first impressions of people seem to morph into outlandish ideas. The label is what I see and tend to. The person dehumanizes little by little. Think of the label as a bit of butter. Its placed on the hot toast. I see it and it is visible and obvious. Then it begins to diminish into the pours of the toast until it blends in. My label disappears visually but permeates their being. I know it is there and am unable to engage without the label making notice. These premature ideas become my characteristics of a person.

I am not capable of drawing a conclusion about others but I take the liberty of doing so. I cannot analyze their being, their actions, what they prefer and their dislikes. To be able to define who they are, or why or why not I am able to like them and share moments of life with them are all just a personal game. A grand illusion that I fall into and live.

So why do I always believe and live in this illusion?
Am I able exterminate my tendency to label someone?
Is it our way of getting to know someone? 

Maybe it is a challenge one puts up to see if the person is willing to defy the label/challenge and demonstrate who they really are. Through observation I have drawn a conclusion that exposes the paradox found in labeling others.  I become very unsettled and anxious when being labeled. Furthermore, I tend to spend a lot of my time trying to avoid it and challenge the labels. I accept some because they make me feel good and proud but also try to defy them at the same time so people are not able to pin me down. There is a lightness and a darkness to labels. The former is that its sweet and endearing when someone really gets you and both individuals feel closer. The latter is when the labels expose characteristics that you find difficult  to accept or even despise. This is why I peel labels off bottles. The habit marks my desire to not see others with labels covering their souls. I believe the soul is free of label.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Almighty Conflict 11/11/2010

So this blog stems from frustration. Its about a place where shit literally goes down. This is bout confrontation. The entry is a delayed response, the pending statement. It is about conflict that opens up floodgates. 

While going to seminars and classes before stepping into the Mission Year experience, the word conflict frequented the air. Conflict is a part of my life. It varies in duration and intensity. The longer the duration the more it pollutes my mind, my soul, my surroundings, and the people. Recently, I had the conflict of all conflicts. This particular conflict convinced me of Truth. This truth is that there are not many little and big moments of conflicts throughout life and experiences. There is a conflict. The conflict. The conflict. Allow me to try and take you through the process that led me to this Truth; to the Almighty Conflict.

Everywhere I go conflicts arrise. Conflicts at my volunteer sites, at the church, in my apartment, with my group, with my city directors, with my mind, with my family via Internet, the stray dogs running around our neighborhood, with the propaganda, with the advertisements I see, with the people I hear on the train, with my health, culture, my inability to complete simple tasks because of the conflict of laziness, the loud buses driving by our building through all hours of the night, living in a church, not having running water, having no gas, people buying ridiculous food at the supermarket, and the conflicts keep coming. The amount and frequency of the conflicts are overwhelming.

I take God to task and ask why this is so? Reveal meaning to the conflicts please. Lessons learned are not sufficient enough. Who am I to be subjugated by living this way? Are all human beings infested and bombarded constantly by all of these conflicts? All of these problems would just go away if I were not surrounded by people. All these frustrations are the result of somebody not doing something right or because of my unfair circumstances. I am a martyr and undeservedly living with all these injustices, with all of these *conflicts*. Why don't I just move to my own apartment and do things my way so life will be easier and structured perfectly for me!

STOP

Before I get wrapped up in another Paul Holzman self-pity party.

How did I get to this point? Maybe it has something to do with:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don`t they come from desires that battle within you? You want something but do not get it." -- James 4:1

The *CONFLICT*, the Almighty Conflict, is internal. My heart. my relationship with myself. my lack of effort. my inabilities. Let's take a look back to what I wrote on my blog on September 30th, 2010.

Here is a list of things I hope to begin to learn how to do in the next year so I can keep on learning them until my journey here on earth is done, whether it be tomorrow or when I'm old and wrinkled.

- Love God and Love People.
- Learn more about my identity.
- To Serve.
- To live simply.
- Be involved in the neighborhood/community.
- Meet neighbors and build friendships.
- Build relationships with people I would usually just walk by.
- Serve in the community whether the work is something I enjoy or not.
- STEPPING OUTSIDE MYSELF.
- To Get rid of my insecurities.
- To see myself through God's eyes so I can see everyone else through His eyes as well.

It seems pretty simple. But isn't it too hard to do these things alone?

The mind is way to powerful. My mind can easily run with these ideas of self-entitlements and turn them into concrete negative ideas of myself, another person, an organization, my friends, a job, my family, or my faith in God. I would not have recognized these internal battles against my fleshly desires without the confrontation, uncomfortable conversations, awkward discussions and confessions with my team here in Buenos Aires. Community is necessary for us to live and cope with the reality of giving up comfort to live for others in this world. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Prostate Gland. 11-1-2010

Ever wondered what the primary function of the prostate gland is? Well sorry. You are out of luck because I am not going to tell you. Go google it.

Ever been to a seemingly normal dinner and asked directly out of nowhere if you knew what that primary function of the prostate was by a Argentinian Matriarch?

Well if you ever find yourself in this situation just say yes, especially if it is in another language and you cannot understand the informant fully as they explains in detail (and I mean DETAIL).


So, last night at Vicente's in Mataderos, I was with my Mission Year group and Marcelo, the pastor of our church and his mother and renowned matriarch of La Misión and its community. Azucena happens to be trained for the medical field as a nurse. Moreover, according to my team memebers,she loves to share her knowledge with younger people. Consequently, they have had a few interesting conversations and lectures from this sweet woman (she is also notorious for citing full Tangos and Poesías) A true matriarch.

At dinner, I sat in front of her with the intention of getting some knowledge and wisdom by way of getting to know her better. Through conversation of course. Towards the end of our dinner our conversation was running a little dry, not sure if it was the full belly or the drowsiness due to the full stomach. Aware of the current predicament, Azucena proceeded to pull a quick one on me.

Paul, escuchame...¿Sabés cuál es la función principal de la próstata? / Paul, listen...Do you know what the primary function of the Prostate is?

¿Perdón? / Excuse me?

(She repeats the question)

I say no.

....

She explains it. I am sure she explained it pretty thoroughly, however, I am left with some gaps.

I tend to have trouble understanding her in general and due to the noise in the restaurant I was having more trouble than usual.

I find it somewhat rude to pretend you understand when you really don't, which I tend to do when tired. But despite my fatigue of the time  I proceeded to ask her for some clarification. Have grace for my anatomy vocabulary is not up to par.

As words like gland, secretion, fluid (and other now very obvious words) begin to flood the table's conversation two of my female teammates on my left catch a few words coming out of her mouth and mine as I proceed to answer her last question, "¿Sabés dónde la próstata es ubicada? / Do you know where the prostate is located? I skip the first word that pops in my head because I figure that ass is definitely not appropriate and search my brain for the more "medical appropriate" term, ano or anus.

To defend myself and the table manners that my mother and father have taught me I was being polite by answering.

Needless to say, this word caught the attention of my teammates and produced some hysterical facial expressions. This made it extremely hard (yes even for this mature 24 year old man) to hold in a smile/laugh as my two teammates Meroe and Caty proceeded to join in on "'The Prostate Gland 101."

Well I couldn't keep that story to myself. This conversation did lead into some awesome advice from a very wise lady about marriage and relationships. I am thankful for the opportunities to learn first hand from people who live life to the fullest and continue to do so at such a delicate age, Azucena.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Short story o cuentos 10-26-2010


This is my first attempt at a videoblog. Enjoy. It is just about how the church came about.
some cool facts to keep in mind...

1.)everything has been recycled and donated to make this building since 1994.
2.)volunteers built it.
3.)used to be a bus terminal.
4.)I live on the 5th floor (top) and my calves are constantly sore.





A look into La Misión from Paul Holzman on Vimeo.



Part dos.


La Misión Part 2 from Paul Holzman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Perspective 10-6-2010



While I was in Buenos Aires back in 2008 I was studying at a private university, living in Recoleta, spending my free time going to "cultural events", museums, festivals, markets, drinking lots of Malbec wine, staying out until 4-5am with friends and from time to time volunteering to to feed a philanthropic bug. I could walk 5 minutes to the Fine arts museum to check out Picasso and Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya, etc or another 10 minutes to see the latest contemporary visual arts exhibit at the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) displaying beauty, exposing poverty, highlighting obscurity, protesting war, or just entertaining my senses. I am not trying to cheapen or complain about that part of my life, I was able to live that and cherish all the experienced moments in 2008. However, I am trying to make sure I grasp the difference of where I find myself today.



(Photos from some areas I spent a lot of time around in 2008)

Today I will be going to Carrillo, near Villa Soldati in Bajo Flores, it all depends who you talk to. When they use the word villa down here it does not mean a nice big comfortable house like in the States or in Qatar. It is a neighborhood that was typically squatted by immigrants of other countries like Paraguay, Bolivia, Perú, and also by Argentines from the more rural or interior regions of the country. This is a picture of a typical villa. Cement blocks stacked upon cement blocks and wires that run all over the place.

In three weeks I have had 2 people tell me the best way to solve the problems in the villas is to just burn them down because all they bring is immigrants who sell drugs which creates crime and violence. I've heard this before. Where? In regards to whom? Spoken by me? By leaders? By angered humans blinded by injustice and hurt?


I'll conlculde with 2 pictures of villa 31 which is the largest villa in Buenos Aires and is found smack in the middle of the Capital Federal. There is a very high concentration of people not living in the greatest conditions living right next to some of the wealthiest people in the Americas and Argentina.



How can peace and injustice be in such close proximity? What brings justice? Can true peace and justice coincide? Is there true peace in those skyscrapers and lofts across the way? God is just and peace. How? I know that God is love. Does love solve this paradox? Just some things I have been thinking about. Trying to put things in perspective. Maybe happiness is inside the villa? Maybe we are the unhappiness and we project it on the aesthetically mediocre and unattractive?

Disclaimer: this phenomena is not specific to Argentina or Latin America. The paradox, anomaly, or whatever you want to call it is a global problem. I have seen it in Doha, Qatar and the United States. I simply must right about the right here and now.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sabbath. Painting. Double Hammock. 10-4-2010

So this year my Monday's will be sabbath days or days of rest.

In my mind I was thinking "no Internet Paul, no Internet!" I think out loud when I'm alone.
Although, as I find myself typing up this blog I continue to indulge in one of the most self-amusing times during my days which involves making plans or developing ideas and never sticking with them. Sometimes these ideas or plans can be a little more detailed than fasting from the Internet for a day.

Example:

"In 3 years I want to be settled in a nice corner studio apartment in downtown Denver with an easy drive to the mountains. I will be volunteering with Latinos, mainly of Salvadorian decent, working on my masters in Social Work (emphasis on border cultures). I will own an English Sheep Dog named Liam, playing Thursday nights with my band The Monotones at the cafe/microbrewery I work at part-time during the week."

thats honest.

Today is a beautiful day in Buenos Aires. I woke up early to check if the gas had been turned back on at the church, so far no signs of any. Consequently, that means no hot shower and preparing my pot of water for Maté on the gas grill. My plans consist of reading, praying, and wandering around the city. Those are some different ways I like to rest and reflect on things.

Before heading out of Bajo Flores, my neighborhood, I will walk around the block.
I intend to chat it up with guy who sells, books, magazines, and newspapers at the corner and talk about a few current events (and see how much a paper costs) then I will mosey on down to this small cultural center just 3-4 store fronts down from our church front door to see if they could use a hand throughout the week. They usually don't.

This past weekend I hung out with the youth of the church. We had a Saturday Night meeting with all of them which will be once a month. Then on Sunday some of the guys came over and we watched some football (soccer) matches while they also played Monopoly. Our group and I ate with the elderly ladies and man, Señor Marcos. Marcos and I seem to have a lot in common (My group in Mission Year consists of 5 women so we sort of have this unspoken common bond).

A few of the ladies sang some tangos for us as well as recited some poetry, it was lovely. Definitely different after church lunch experience. The beauty of different cultures, religions, practices, values and beliefs. I will always opt for after service poetry readings!

Last week my team and I went around to different sites of the community to see and experience some of the possible volunteer opportunities.

I leave you with some pics from the first week. The first few are of a painting that Scott Erickson painted live in the park across from our church/apartment and another one of Marcelo (the lead pastor of La Misión) attempting to hang out with me in the Double Hammock. Peace.




In Plaza Francisco Sicardi







Scott explained his appreciation of most graffiti. Also, he mentioned that graffiti is part of a city and can be one of the most representative elements of the city. Generally, many people tend to see it as dirty, as vandalism, and send out signals of oppression, darkness, pain and hurt. Many people think they must get out of a city to be refreshed and to actually feel the light and newness of life. But the Roots of these Easter Lilies, or of Life, are found at the heart of the city and humanity. If the heart is pure and alive and rooted in Truth and Love it can create something beautiful in the midst of something that is perceived as ruined, damaged, blemished, hopeless, or unattractive.



I forgot this puppy can only support 400lbs and realized that I currently weigh 200 plus and Marcelo is taller than me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to BsAs 9-30-2010

Training in Chicago and Houston for Mission Year is over. It was quite an eye opening experience and provided a time to connect with other individuals with similar desires and passions. I found myself constantly discussing how we want see lives changed and communities affected by building relationships. Many conversations revolved around serving in any way possible as the body of Christ (the real Church) should. A body that gets active in communities while knowing full well that God is already there. Other conversations branched off this idea and emphasized that where we are going God is at work whether we decide to take part or not. Personal Responsibility. 

Thankfully, God knows the desire of my heart, even when I do not.

I am back in Buenos Aires. I will be living above the church with a group of 5 other team members as we embark on a Mission Year devoted to serving people and loving people, beginning with ourselves and amongst our own team.  The following is a list of things I hope  to learn in the next year and will continue to learn until I'm old and wrinkled, god willing.


Love God and Love People.

Learn more about my identity.

To Serve.
To simplify.

How to get involved in a neighborhood/community.

Build relationships with people I would usually just walk by.

Serve in a community whether the work is something I enjoy or not.

Being a servant inside the church (building) and outside of it.

How to step outside of myself more often.

How to confront personal insecurities.

To see myself through God's eyes so I can love myself.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So my group and I (see pic above Me, Caty, Meroe, Katy, Claire, Maricela), city directors, pastors, and other staff from Mission Year have all been working on a Purpose Statement and Covenant for Mission Year Buenos Aires. There are a lot of issues due to the differences in culture and location but we have been filtering everything through this statement so far.

"To experience/worship God in a real way by living intentionally through a relationship in Jesus Christ by serving, building relationships with others in the neighborhood, community, and La Misión"

We are now at the end of week 2 in Buenos Aires. Difficulties have already arisen and we are gingerly walking forward, together.

If you would like to take part in this small part of my journey with me I ask you to check up on my blog entries, to leave comments, encouragements, prayers, anecdotes, stories, songs, etc. and you can email me at paul.j.holzman@gmail.com and I will add you to an email list where I will be asking people to send me updates of their life so we can live and share in community despite the distance between us.

If you would like to support me financially as well you can click this link Financial Support and choose monthly or one time donation. If you prefer snail mail let me know and I can get an old fashioned envelope and address for you. Love and Peace.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sitting is nice 8/8/2010

I am finally able to sit down again and take in many things from the past month. Sensory overload. I guess i did sit for 26 hours which is how long my bus ride was from Buenos Aires to Salta.

Since July 1st (last day of school in Doha) I have been able to visit Kate in Australia for 16 days and volunteer with her for I.Heart.Revolution. Then flew back to Doha for 2 days, then to Houston for 2 days, then to Argentina where I have been the past 2 weeks.

It was surreal being back in Buenos Aires, however, I felt at home. During the first week I was able to hang out with old friends and catch up on life in the city. I am now in Jujuy and it is beautiful. My favorite pueblos so far in the north are Iruya and Tilcara. The bluest skies and colorful mountains compliment an inviting winter climate.

Beginning on September 5th I will be beginning a program called Mission Year. I have known about the program for awhile but found out 2 months ago that my church, (when in Houston) Ecclesia, has a partnership with a church in Buenos Aires and is sending a group to live and work at it. As soon as I heard that my heart jumped out of my chest. Chance? Coincidence? God? Universe aligning? It jumped.

I had a moment of doubt in regards to the program and was also worried about committing the program just because it was in Buenos Aires. Although, when back in Houston visiting my Mom and Dad on July 24 and 25th I was able to attend their church. The church's pastor, Chris Seay, mentioned he was going to Buenos AIres that night to deliver tools for construction at the church site I had previously heard about. Funnily enough I was leaving that night to Buenos Aires as well.

I approached the pastor after the service and it worked out well because he needed somebody to take another bag of tools. Plus, we could also talk about the church´s vision in Buenos Aires. I was able to share with Chris where I was at in life and also let him share everything about the partnership between Ecclesia and La Misión (the church in BA). The first 3 days I was back in Buenos Aires I was able to see the partnership in person, meet the pastor there in Buenos Aires, meet some people I would be working with, see the neighborhood, and learn more about the different ventures the churches are using to assist the community in development.


September 5th I will begin my training in Chicago after a long road trip up through Oklahoma, Arkansas, to Montana and North Dakota to visit family. On September 11th I will have another few weeks of training in Houston. September 24th we begin our training in Buenos Aires. Next post I will put some pics up from these past couple months. I am on an old PC in a hostel so no pics for now. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Adjusted to Life in 6/5/2010

I feel somewhat established and independent and this is what a recent graduate of an American University from the United States is supposed to feel. Although, it could just be a forced illusion to console myself. I have decided I will not work here another year, maybe this confirms that the established and independent self-proclamation is a farce. 

Officially I have 2 weeks remaining with the students. In less than one month I will be on a plane headed to Sydney, Australia to see my sister, a positively overwhelming predicament. Thereafter I will return to an empty flat and a much less populated Doha. Summers are told to be ghostly and eery due to the intense summer heat driving out its ex-pat habitants. I must return to clear out the last of my things and return our cable box and internet router to Q-tel for some extra cash. Two days of oddness and solitude.  After, I will head back to Houston. As I grow older time accelerates. How could I slow down?



Years 5/6 boys basketball team.
Top From Left (Mohammed, Ayman, Abdulrahman, Khalid T.)

Bottom From Left (Khalid S., Johan, Khalid)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Call to prayer 5/2/10

Woke up to the adhan today. The foreign routine has become quite familiar due to the mosque 3 blocks down the road. Sincerely, i've grown fond of the calls. The first call to prayer is around 4am and today I woke up without any sleep in my eyes.

 I wonder, "What makes it so great to wake up and be in immediate conscious thought?"

Well, whether you are fluent in Arabic or not, you know exactly what the adhan is calling one to do. The clarity and demand of the call to prayer is a great guide to contemplating my reason for being awake, alive, and living. Today, I seek gratitude and thankfulness for being.

Monday, April 26, 2010

65 days 4/26/10

I'm not one for countdowns. I never have been. The reason why is that times and dates aren't at the top of my priority list. My doubt of the existence of time is innate.

After dabbling in the profession of education, being a teacher has brought an extreme shift in this belief. I now own a watch that I wear. This timepiece tells me the date too! I am constantly nudged to belief of time.

At the beginning of the term our bell system was working accordingly.  Ingeniously, I set my second hand to exactly when the bells were scheduled to ring. This enabled me to know know exactly when the bells would sound. Needless to say, the kids were AMAZED, or mildly amused. Now, novelty has shifted to annoyance. This annoyance has bred from my ability to commence ordering them to line up when they are supposed to. The annoyance is much more evident when the bell is declaring the termination of recess.

Apart from this school anecdote, life in Doha has defined its normalcy.  My adjustment to a different culture takes time, I suppose for most people it does and even varies. It was definitely difficult adjusting to life here. Although I have grown to thoroughly enjoy my life here. The enjoyment is mostly found outside of the walls of the school. Save the kids and some staff, I find it hard to get motivated for the school day.

Physical Education is not the meaning of life, but I have had to learn how to make it educational while maintaining the fun aspect for the kids. This is much more challenging than I had previously believed. The allotted time they have outside the classroom is very precious to them. They are a tough crowd to keep entertained inside my class periods. It has been much harder with the older groups, the 5th and 6th graders.

This life in Doha (I am now almost in my 9th month here) has become very enjoyable mainly due to a church and new spiritual adventures. Doha Fellowship, the church, has provided me the opportunity to dust off a few areas of my life that were collecting dust in the attic for quite sometime. Being involved in a local church has been so important no matter how dysfunctional or problematic it may seem at times. I suppose it is a reflection of me anyhow. Fortunately, this church has been a great haven for so many here in Doha. I thank God daily for the space it creates for the ex-pat community here; for some of them at least.

I have been playing in the worship band (including drums!). Going to Tuesday night prayer meetings, my favorite days of the week now, and helping with the youth. This week I will be sharing "my story" with the youth and speaking to them. I look forward to see how God  kindles my soul to share with the unique group of youngsters.

I am not counting down. I am counting up. The simple act of counting numbers. Time. Days.  I get to head down under to see my sister, to Argentina to visit mi Buenos Aires querido, and then back to the states to see Family and friends. God is faithful. Time does not exist.






Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Universe, Hobos, Aliens, and the Universe: 4/17/10

"Now I see that the only question is, 'Is the universe friendly?'... I have begun to discover its physical meanings but the question that haunts me is, 'Is it friendly?'"
Albert Einstein nearing the end of his physical life.


My childhood memories are beautiful. Some carry hints of fright while most could be categorized as travel-adventure. Nostalgia flares up when I think of all the moving, different states, schools, houses, duplexes, apartments, secret forts, clubs, and neighborhood novelties and hangouts for those neighborhood denizens fifteen years and younger. But like most kids I had a lot of insecurities and fears in the world I was living in. Young me was DEATHLY afraid of the forest, its big trees, hobos on trains, and above all, extraterrestrials. Naturally, the fears were nocturnal, except for the hobos. My fears of the forest, trees, and hobos formed while living in Thermopolis,Wyoming and Missoula, Montana.

At our house on S. Easy St. my room had a huge sliding glass door. This particular door overlooked our backyard, the Clark Fork river. To my disdain the rivers view was heavily guarded by forestation. Across the river Mt. Jumbo towered out of the ground covered in more ominous forest. From the frontside of house, if you were standing there looking to the other side of the neighborhood, there were train tracks. The trains frequently passed, maybe a few times each day. The legend goes, every time an empty boxcar has an open door, there is a hobo on the move and close by. Every time I saw an open empty boxcar, my heart would either race or drop into my stomach. If the hobos were present, I just knew that they had jumped off to capture all of us kids from the neighborhood. If that wasn't enough to keep my imagination on edge, I had a vast wilderness for my mind to ponder during the night. For a good year I spent my days exploring the neighborhood. I always made sure to keep a low profile in order to avoid the hobos. It was imperative to not be seen, unless I wanted  to be captured. From time to time my mini explorations ended in sprints home, through the memorized secret routes of the area; trails, streets, and passes between the yards without fences. It seems I was always faster and more clever than the hobos.

Every day as I would watch the sun set down behind the mountain, my mind would ponder the bears, wolves, mountain lions, and curious deer that would be creeping up to my sliding glass door. Throughout the night, they were usually looking for dinner, or even worse, take a stare or glance at me, the mysterious human.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a tiny and secret cubby hole under the stairs that descended down right by my room. It was furnished with a bean bag. For hours, or so it seemed, I would sit in there and hide. Usually, I would stay until the creatures of the night satisfied their hunger. If the secret bunker could not ease my mind my sister's room was down the hall. To my dismay, Kate also had a huge sliding glass door.

Then came the day when I discovered that the world was much bigger than this great Western territory. From the train tracks to the river bank, there was a vast sky with stars, planets, and galaxies. Some others of the neighborhood called this place simply, Space. Others called it the Universe. Supposedly this place had no end. The worst news of all was that other beings existed and they did not come to earth to be friends. They were not human either. They were Aliens! This fear began with E.T. the supposedly friendly little extraterrestrial that just wanted to phone home . . . I had my doubts. This long necked, wrinkly, weird voiced, glowing heart, sickly, candy eating alien was out to get me.

Luckily most of these fears subsided around my mid-teens even though E.T. still tops the list on most evil and feared things in my life. But one that has not passed is the thought of the universe.

This fear is not rooted in what is out there, rather in what is not out there and the emptiness this instills in me. The sense of being nothing; nothingness itself. There are no boundaries. It goes on forever; its eternal. 
During certain moments I try to imagine the universe. I put myself in the picture and I am unable to see myself in the mental image. The ominous belief of death and the thereafter. I imagine my soul rising up, or down, and floating out into the vastness of an unending eternity.

But then comes God. There must be a creator.
The God who created Mt. Jumbo, the Hobo, the Alien, all things; the Universe. The God who formed the Clark Fork river. The God who carved the Bitteroot Valley. The God who created every hobo, every animal, every imagination in every young child and human. The God who created me. The God of the universe. The God that gives a place in this universe to all creation. 

Everywhere I go, everything thing I see, touch, smell and hear. God is there. God is here.
Now I ask, is this inclusivity good?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday Be Gracious: 3/22/2010

"This too shall pass."
-unknown

One of those days where my mind can't focus,
clouded by the little things of "feeling" at home. 
Comfort and meals cooked by mother.
A day with a tee time and talks with Dad.
Drive down to Empire Cafe with Kate.
Sleep in my own sheets and bed.
Soothe my bare feet on both the carpet and grass.
I am living out of a suitcase, among other things
of course.
The Eucharist at Ecclesia.
A shower.
Tuesday be gracious,
to me and any other.
You are the toughest day.
Tonight, we gather and pray.
God your grace is sufficient.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life and a vision of a friend: 3/08/2010



"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12



     Doha has been home for 6 months. 

"Really?" I ask.
 "Yes," I assure myself.

     The feeling is like I have lived multiple lives during these 6 months. Maybe that is what days and moments are, life spans. Moments dying between mental breaks and disconnections.  Days are constantly deceasing during each sleep.

Did I break my ankle and gimp on crutches for 2 months? Did I spend Christmas in India? Am I a Phys Ed teacher?  Do I use arabic words to maintain order in class to show my students I mean business and when I am frustrated with them? 
Can I personally distinguish 10 different children named Mohammed?  Why do 5+ kids look at me if I use the names Ahmed or Abdulla? How do you really pronounce the name Khalid, Ghanem, or Khayareen?

     Difficulties thus far have been present. Also, there have been extremely good moments. The most important to ones equilibrium is the proverbial mundane days and moments. In all of this I can truly say that I am blessed and loved. God is giving me opportunities of life here in Doha. The people I have met, the Church here, my students and of course the travel. It is overwhelming to think of the different regions of the world I have seen.
In regards to people I have met and seeing.

I want to share a vision a lady claimed to have had and felt the space was adequate to tell me of this vision. It helped me have a moment and a few days of vivid understanding.

     There are people all around and present. They came to find a place of new beginnings. While trusting God and believing the Great Mystery that He is and creates.  The mystery of the plan for each individuals' life. 
     Each person had expectations of a land where excitement and adventure would not end. Upon arrival each person found themselves. Their disappointment and let down, nourished tremendously by their expectations and preconceptions of life in their place of arrival. 
     Naturally, this dismal disappointment and let-down brought them to a physical fault, exposed and massive. The dark crevasse was now present and a possible danger. 
    After some passing time,  these people found that they had fallen into the crevasse. They were not able to see due to the darkness. They had fallen into the deepest and darkest place of the crevasse. Inside this crevasse, while bumping into walls, other individuals and hearing the cries, screams, and chilling silences thereafter; they began to learn how to avoid it and divert their own path around it. They conditioned themselves naturally to become deaf to the cries and screams, numb to the repeated collisions between rock and physical touch. Each person in the darkness learned how to break the eerie silence; coughing without need, speaking without understanding their words, laughing at common thoughts, crying coupled with deep-throated sobs.
    In this hand-crafted chaos, each individual and their own ways to absorb, accept, and survive in the dark crevasse. However, at an undefined moment, one individual was enlightened. The individual did not find the exit, nor did the individual find light, the individual accepted his reality and released the grasp on his preconceived excitements and adventures. He chose to exist even in the darkness. It was no longer an issue. All was still as it had been but the individual had accepted it, with all its fears, confusion, darkness, and chaos.
     The only way to get away from the crevasse and darkness was to not get away from it at all. It was in the individuals acceptance of it and his decision to be in it fully himself. To be in the darkness fully, in the silence completely, trusting in God, the Mystery, and the guide in it all is God.  This darkness is indescribable, just like the Mystery. 
     The disappointment cannot be expressed. There is a physical bareness of the desert land, Spiritual dryness. Interestingly enough, in the bareness and scarcity, we live in the presence of a continuous cycle of construction, consumerism and  materialism that simultaneously resonates with our individual-self, our false self, that feels real, but does not quite convince the individual.
   The crevasse is born and germinated through doubt, frustration, panic, laziness, greed, complacency, lack of motivation, change of heart, change of belief, and many other elements. Trusting that there is an exit to the crevasse bring only more difficulties, obstacles, chaos, and darkness to the crevasse. Even apart from the immense darkness the darkness does not cease to exist. Then there is a pinpoint of light in the far distance. It is the exit. It is the only exit. This bright light is exactly what these people need to focus on.  The exit is in the individual. The pin point is the acceptance of ones' presence and existence in the crevasse. The pinpoint in the individual is God and a rediscovery of life, of a True reality.

I typed this out not only to share but also for me to be able to remember it. I thank my dear friend Cathy for her vision. I believe in the crevasse and and I believe in the pin point of life. I cannot determine if each separate moment is a life within itself, or if a day the same. Fortunately, life is not chronological. 



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Been thinking a lot today: 2/10/2010

The globes and maps of my childhood and adolescence taught me a bit. But wow, the world is huge! 
I could see myself. I stepped out of my body and turned back to see my outsides.  I saw myself in perpetual movement, eternal. I could not focus only on me. I saw myself as a component to the inclusiveness of the huge Earth. I saw myself only stopping to listen to others' stories, shooting-the-shit with family and friends. I was traveling alone. I was taking many different things that were not my own. God's world, The Mystery.
     Sometimes, though, I really think about having a permanence on Earth. A grasp for assurance that      will exist in 2 days, 5 months, or 10 years from now. 
A Home. Home is many places. Where I was born is not one of those, yet it is.  Home can be a place of memory, experience, conversation, or all three in haphazard flux and fluidity. 
Home is inclusive.  Its darkness overcome by Light, Christ, Goodness, Beauty or full-blown Emotion and Feeling. Home is a place where friends and family live. Places of short-term occupation and those places' fellow occupants. Home is today.


Monday, February 1, 2010

My. I. Me. (An ego-bath): 2/1/2010

"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation."


     The past 3 days I have been reading a certain set of devotionals on what I am currently believing what the general calling is in life for each individual. This is a question that is always on my mind due to a life saturated in religious experiences, specifically in an Evangelical Christian milieu. It is important to note that I had schooling within this same context and religious services from up to at least 3 times a week for awhile. My formation was, and has been, constructively religious.
With that down in text, I can move on to realize that I am continually finding myself in efforts to figure out the call to life, the purpose, by pondering on my interests, my expectations, my desires, my enjoyments, my opportunities, my, my, my, my.... my devotionals too.


     So far, in my life, I realize how much I use "I" and "my." This is language and the way to communicate, I know no other way. Conversations tend to always be about me. If not, I am beginning to recognize an attempt to detour to manipulate the focus on me. It is not a conscious redirection, it is a tendency that renders itself involuntary. 

     After, re-reading a journal entry the other day, I began to wince every time the words i, me, and my appeared on the pages. Granted, it could be the lack of writing skills and scarcity of words, but that self-centered thinking and living was beginning to prick at my soft and tender side I name self-doubt.


     Referring back to my religious and spiritual formation, I claim to understand that my life is on in the same as God's life, solely because of Jesus Christ. The Redemption he promised humanity. My reality must be redemption. Many times in the Hebrew text's and Greek Texts of the Bible, God's word reminds us that Life is in Christ, directly and indirectly. He gave me new life, I am a new creation, I am forgiven, this relationship is restored through God, through Jesus because of his humanity, death, and to conclude the restoration, his resurrection. All of this is the Love. My only purpose on earth is to bring glory to God and spread the good news of Love and Life that is.


"God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character . . . the Apostle Paul was not conscious of himself. He was recklessly abandoned, totally surrendered, and separated by God for one purpose -- to proclaim the gospel of God."


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"


"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."





Saturday, January 23, 2010

Christmas 1/23/10

  Upon reflection it is accurate to say that my first term teaching in Doha passed by quickly. 
Christmas has passed with the same quickness and and I find myself  in the new year and beginning my 4th week of term two. 
  The moment when the days and moments become repetitive and mundane due to lack of diversion and numbness to the routine, my desire is to make the best of it.  I do this in creating small tasks and routine within these moments and days. The transition from college life has also been quick and quite interesting. It has also spurred a tendency within myself to continually plan travels and seek other jobs for the future. A perpetual seeking. I wonder at times where this will take me.
  In this wonder I find myself missing the current and present moments. I genuinely try to focus on my teaching and not get caught up in plans for the future and my upcoming travels. I want to give my all in my work and make PE a great 1 hour and 45 minutes for all 8 classes i have a week. Again, I wonder where this continuous tension will lead me, because I feel it is leading me.

  One of this previous planned travels was realized recently. It was spent in Hyderabad, India, Pune, India, and Ahmednagar, India. What a blessing, to go and see one of my dearest friends in such a uniquely and beautifully particular part of the world. Nothing like anything in the West, despite a few Occidental companies and English influences. It was nice to spend some time with other fellow Americans during Christmas. It was hard to avoid spiritual growth and refreshment in my personal journey in such a spiritually rich country. Furthermore, the group of people I spent most of my time with put their whole beings into their spiritual life. It was a much needed break from my current desert disposition in Doha. 

Here are some photographs from my trip.

Some of Nathan's team members in India. Ray, Christina, Meghan, and Lauren.





Nathan and I


Christmas Celebration





  The photographs above depict my time in India and Christmas, great moments and great individuals. Such a beautiful time of fellowship and reflection on life, its purpose, what that means and the diversity of our earth in the midst of a culture so different. It was difficult to come back to Doha. However, I know my place must be the here & now. The Mystery has me here, with every breath and moment. As I enter into the 4th week of term 2, I keep my focus on the Mystery and its Salvation.

Psalm 139:9-10

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast."



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1/13/10


Interesting points in a life
Have a job.
Have a place to sleep, or lay and rest
at night.
           A place to cook my foods.
           A place to clean myselves.
           A place to collect my things.

I am able to buy material things.
I am able to save money.
I do not feel content.
Patiently waiting for the Mystery to let me know what is next.
I worry that I may be missing the Mystery at hand,
the Mystery is strong in Doha.