Friday, January 28, 2011

One Thing I'll Miss

In Croatia, you rarely see someone enjoying coffee over a book, magazine or computer like you often see in the States. One of the classic scenes in a relational culture is a coffee shop filled with people on both sides of the table. 

And it's not like everyone in America just goes out for a latte by themselves.  In fact, I would guess that most Starbucks coffee shops are frequented by pairs rather than singles.  But it's certainly not as universal as Eastern Europe. 

For the last month, I've been taking a class and I'll tell you, for my money, there's no better place to study than a coffee shop.  Some may say there's too much noise, but headphones and music will take care of that.  Features like free refills, wi-fi and a close outlet for my laptop are easy to find.  Still other comforts like a fireplace and an assortment of different coffees and signs indicating when they were brewed are also common - especially at my favorite venue - Panera Bread.   

Sound strange?  I'll tell you more over coffee when I get back.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Meteorology leads to Theology

It must have been the summer of '95 when baseball cards were overproduced and my best friend and I waited breathlessly for the Beckett price guide to arrive in the mail the first week of every month.  It must have been, because I can't remember another time we would've risked getting soaked and having our bike-rides severely affected by slippery streets in order to buy a pack of the new Topps Stadium Club at a department store more than a mile away. 

I remember it well because I had never been afraid of lightning before.  But as we anticipated the last corner of the ride and slowed down just enough to make the turn without skidding out, I felt a sizzling sensation as the hair on my neck stood up. 


It wasn't a boom or a bang.  It was a sharp crackle that quickly exploded right next to me.  A flagpole - within an arms length as I passed by - had just been struck by lightning.

Even though I hadn't been hit, the feeling paralyzed me for the next few years every time I was outside in a storm.

Fast-forward to the summer of '98. I was working towards becoming "one of the Few" at Parris Island South Carolina.  Marine Corps boot camp thrives on disorientation and intimidation - especially during the first few weeks.  We were marching from the chow-hall to the barracks when the sky quickly thickened, then opened up, drenching us within seconds of the first drop falling.  Despite orders to get our platoon to the barracks as soon as possible, the toughest of our drill-instructors marched us as if the sun were shining.  He was Force-Recon, a sniper, and refused to allow weather to interfere with training. 

"A left, A left, A left, right!"  He called as if he were singing a question.  "A left, A left, A lefty right!" He finished his melody. 


You know the lightning's close when you hear it the same time you see it.  Our D.I. departed from his script with a two word curse towards the sky and quickly commanded us to run back to the barracks.  Lowering my rifle to below the plane of most of the other rifles, I got back under cover as soon as possible. 

Why does this memory come up every time there's a thunderstorm? 

I remember being struck by the one time our Drill Instructor acknowledged a greater authority. Sure, we had learned the chain of command.  We knew there were officers in charge.  But the D.I.'s were our gods during boot camp.  They disciplined.  They trained.  They gave and they took away. 

Though very brief, during that one split second, another Being came in, made Himself known, and it was all I needed.  Look at what the Psalms say on this matter:
I know that the LORD is great, that our LORD is greater than all gods...He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
How often do we take the creation around us for granted?  How easy is it for us to allow all the other things in our life to distract us from the Author of salvation.  Praise God for the lightning, sunsets and nor'easter's that remind us of who's in control. 

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Three Little Pigs

During our time in the States, we've had the privilege of hosting one of our friends from Croatia.  It's her first time in the U.S. so I was fascinated to find out what she would notice about the Land that "was made for you and me".  Would it be how big everything is?  Would she notice the cars, the billboards, the differences in the milk?  Well, yes, yes, yes and yes. 

But her very first observation was of how Americans build their houses.  "They're so thin!"  She exclaimed after knocking on the wall at a Friendly's restaurant.  The comment reminded me of the Three Little Pigs.  Isn't it interesting that one of the most popular stories we tell our children exhorts us to build with brick?  Yet, I would guess that most houses in America are made of wood.

Croatians - and I would guess most Europeans - have heeded the advice offered by the conclusion of the story.  The vast majority of houses in Croatia are made of brick and concrete and therefore have fewer fires to worry about.  On the other hand, houses take years, sometimes decades to complete because of the cost of brick versus wood. 

A case can be made for both.  What do you think?