Water in a Wine Glass

22 06 2009

I’ve been in Beirut for five days now, and they have been both wonderful and difficult.  We arrived Tuesday night and in the middle of a Middle East Conference on “Muslim Women at the Intersection of Faith and Culture.”  It was wonderful to learn about this important topic, and to meet people from all over the world who came to the conference.  At the same time, the Lebanese must have more ability to stay still and pay attention for longer periods of time than Americans (this is not surprising), as the conference lasted from 9am until 10:30pm every day with only breaks for lunch and dinner and coffee.  This would have been challenging anyway, but the jetlag combined with only being at the ABTS campus, and in one room at that, all day long made the transition a bit strange for me.  Still, the people are wonderful, the food is great, and the view is amazing.  And I did manage to run the (very steep) neighborhood hills a few nights, which helped me burn off all the cheese and cream and bread that seem to be all they eat here. 🙂

The conference ended Friday, and Saturday we finally got out a little!  With the help of a local guy, we traveled north to Byblos, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (check out the biblical references to it in 1 Kings 5:18 and Ezekiel 27:9).  It is such a beautiful place (despite it being a VERY hot and humid day), and if you’re friends with me on Facebook you can see the pics there.  On the way to Byblos, we stopped at Jeita Grotto, a breathtaking underground cavern of stalagmites and stalactites older than anything at Byblos.  They wouldn’t let us take pictures, but you can see some pics here.  It truly is the art of God.  We capped the day off with a drive up the mountain to watch the sun set over the beautiful Jounieh Bay.  It was a full and exhausting day in every good way.

Today we made it to church, despite the fact that our cab driver spoke no English, we spoke no Arabic, and had no idea where the church really was.  It is an international English speaking congregation, so, while not the most “local” of flavor, it did minister to our souls.  We spent the afternoon in meetings and attended the ABTS graduation ceremony (mine wasn’t enough, so I wanted to sit through another one). 🙂

Tomorrow I begin my practicum placement with the Armenian community in a neighborhood called Bourj Hammoud, and I am anticipating being able to be in the city every day and having more of a routine.  I’ll be there each morning, in various capacities, which I hope to write more about later, and then we’ll have Arabic language class every afternoon until 5pm.  Next weekend, we’re off to Tripoli!

water in a wine glassThe night we stayed in Dubai (en route to Beirut), we stayed in a very fancy apartment, courtesy of a friend of our teammates.  When we went to pour a glass of water, we discovered that this classy place only stocked wine glasses in the cabinets.  So, there I was in Dubai, drinking water in a wine glass.  As I looked out at the amazing view of that city from the 16th floor of our building, I couldn’t help but find the water in a wine glass as a fitting metaphor for how I’m feeling.  You don’t often find water in a wine glass.  Because, in fact, it doesn’t seem fitting at all.  Wine belongs in a wine glass.  There is something very odd about putting water in that kind of glass.  It’s out of context when it’s there.  I feel a bit like water in a wine glass right now.  I don’t quite feel like I fit.  Still reeling from the whirlwind of the last few weeks – finals, graduation, and getting ready to leave for Lebanon – I feel transplanted into this place not having processed what’s behind me and not fully prepared for what’s ahead.  I’m not exactly confident of what I have to offer this place and its people, and I’m not even positive of what I’m looking to learn.  To say this region has “much history” is an understatement; I am quickly discovering that it has many histories, each layered with the complex religious and political stories of the various people groups here: Maronite Christian, Evangelical Christian, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Palestinian, Russian, Armenian, Indian and Pakistani, to name but a few.  The different viewpoints are charged and the experiences of each are painful.  The potential to offend any given person is great, and it leaves me wanting to be silent and invisible.  I know water is good and purposeful, but in this glass I want to be wine.  I want to be potent and refreshing in this world, and I want to fit my context.

I have been reading and re-reading John 2 with this image in mind.  I’m so glad I have come here knowing the Christ who is able to turn water into wine.  And not only wine, but the best wine at that.  Pray with me that He will make me the right kind of wine for this time and place.


Safe in Beirut.

17 06 2009

Just a quick note to say I’m safe in Beirut!  I’ll write more soon!

Done with Dubai. Beirut or Bust.

16 06 2009

Greetings from Dubai!  We made it safe and sound (and groggy after our 17 hour flight) to Dubai last night, and arrived to the most wonderful surprise – the Hantla’s friend Jen (who we were supposed to stay with) rented us our own apartment on the 16th floor of a swanky tower by the beach, with accommodations comparable to any 4 star hotel.  So, I got a shower and a wonderful night’s sleep, with amazing views to boot (pics to follow soon!).  Today we spent the day wandering from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned mall (it’s currently 100 degrees with 33% humidity), and are now at the airport waiting for our flight to Beirut.  This brief stop in Dubai has been such a gift – a needed time of rest and re-grouping from all the finals/graduation/get-out-the-door madness of the last few weeks.  It’s a developer’s Disneyland – everything is new or unfinished, mile after mile of construction and towers.  It’s quite a sight!

I’ll write more as soon as I can from Beirut.  To those who traveled to Pasadena last weekend to celebrate my graduation with me – that you so very much.  I’m still processing post-event, since the whole thing was such a whirlwind, but all of the support and love has touched me deeply.  I am so grateful for each one of you and wish I could have spent more time with you!

Please pray for me – specifically for my adjustment to this new place and culture and task.  As I was lying awake early this morning, I was so grateful that my God is constant, because not much else is right now.  I’m longing for a sense of connectedness to my surroundings and even to myself, if that makes sense.  Please pray that God would ground me in ways that bring me comfort, confidence and assurance even amidst all this change.



A Poem of Procrastination

12 06 2009

I’ve got a million things on my “To-Do” List.  This is not one of them.  But, it gets my mind off of the 5 book reviews and the 600 pages I still have to read by tomorrow, along with the graduation, party, and leaving-the-country planning.  So, here it is, my little poem of procrastination:

In light’s warm glow my lungs
Lost their flow of breath
From all that I didst see

Yet when the dark of night crept in
I lost my sight and, lo!
I learned to breathe

Part 2…

5 06 2009

Where I’m Headed…

5 06 2009

An interesting video on Beirut from Al Jazeera…

Gloria Dei Vivens Homo

5 06 2009

It’s that time of year (for those in the academic cycle anyway), where things wind down and things begin to change.  We had Baccalaureate yesterday, and I put on my silly black robe.  For something that’s supposed to help us celebrate being smarter I’m not sure why they make us wear something that makes us look so dumb.  I feel like a little girl playing dress up in clothes that are way too big for me.  And they have strange long flaps on the sleeves.  My friend told me that historically people would put food in those flaps, and I’m considering doing that for the 3-hour long graduation ceremony. 🙂Baccalaureate

At any rate, I’ve got a busy week ahead, with finals, graduation festivities, and Lebanon!  That’s right, in case you hadn’t heard, I leave for a 6-week practicum in Beirut in just over a week.  I’ll be working with Armenian women and at-risk youth in a neighborhood called Bourj Hammoud, developing a business start-up funding proposal and helping with job-training skills.  I’m very excited!  I’ll do my best to update my blog while I’m there, so please check back for updates and pictures of my experience!  I leave on June 14 – please pray for safe travel and health, and that God will really teach me while I am there.

I arrive back in the States on July 28, and will take the next month and a half to finish summer coursework (commencement is just a tease, apparently), before I move on to the next season.  More on that to come in a future post.

Dr. Linda Wagoner spoke to us yesterday on the topic of: “Gloria Dei Vivens Homo,” that the glory of God is in a human being fully alive.  It was a fitting message for me, as I would say much of my growth here at Fuller has circled close to that theme.  I have grown more alive than ever before in this season, and pray that as the pace remains quick in the coming weeks that I will live more fully still.  Our humanity – our aliveneness – does not just involve awakening new parts of us, but also in allowing some parts to die.  I will have many of these goodbyes and letting goes in the weeks and months ahead – goodbyes I do not want and tried my best to avoid.  Lord, help me to find new life even as some things come to an end.  Let me live fully alive, that your glory may be found in me.