Sunday, October 18, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

And so this marks my inauspicious return to the world of writing on my blog.

(holds for applause, hides dismay to find none)

The circumstances of my life are rather different from the last time I wrote. A lot has changed, within and without. For example, I now live in Grand Junction, CO and am employed. I am making salads with my college diploma part-time, and pretending not to be embarrassed by that full-time. Also keeping me busy: working with my dear youth group and other plans for the church. Oh, yes. I have plans.

But for now, something bigger: this past weekend I went home to Kentucky for the first time since I moved in late May. My big sister Callie got married and I wanted to see this, so I took a whirlwind trip to be a part of it.

It is beautiful to be a part of things. To witness and to affirm, to join in and share. If only you could have seen how many people were there, all experiencing the same thing and passing around the same joy. Even before the reception I enjoyed stringing Christmas lights and a few other decorations, excited for people to arrive and celebrate my sister and new brother-in-law.

Well, my first return to blogging has left me tired and frustrated at how hackneyed I sound. So until next time!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

One Last Thing Before I Go

And now the final installment of ruminations on the subject of "remembering."

In the Church we speak optimistically of putting our former ways behind us and "pressing on" to a new life. We love Philippians 3, when Paul says that he forgets "what is behind." We love it! We eat it up and pledge to forget, too. It is a believer's duty!

Once long ago I spoke with a believing friend who had sinned and hurt someone, in spite of being a New Creation. He acknowledged the mistake but was largely unrepentant. Rather than make things right or even apologize to the hurt friend, he told me a very ugly thing: "God has forgiven me, and that is enough."

But. . .it is enough for what?

The answer, of course, was "enough" to ease his guilty conscience. It was not "enough," though, to comfort our wounded friend. Or "enough" to repair a breach between believers. So can we really say God is not "enough" to do those things as well? Can we limit the purpose of Grace to relieving regret, and to let us forget?

When Zacchaeus was welcomed by the man Jesus despite being shunned by his fellow villagers, did he ignore this shameful past and embrace a self-justifying theology? By all means no! He immediately swore to right the many wrongs in his life, despite this being "what is behind." And we usually fail to mention that immediately before Paul mentions "pressing on," he talked of his Christian-persecuting past. Apparently Paul had a different definition of "forgetting" than we do.

All to say this: we are not to dwell on our past, but neither can we ignore it. To pretend it never happened does a disservice to the grace that cleansed it. We are freed from our guilt-debt, but what of others that were hurt? Is there some way we can make right what was ruined? At the very least, we are freed from self-righteousness and free to share our past like Paul did, saying, "THIS is what my God is capable of saving. THIS is what my God can do."

(This was a dense post. It may become a sermon one day. But not today, because I am leaving for St. Louis in seven hours.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Moments of Beauty

The days pass quickly as of late, but here are a few joys that left a trace as they flew by.

This past Saturday my parents, grandmother, and I went to Ohio for my aunt and uncle's joint 50th-birthday party. There I saw family that I have missed for too long, as well as friends from my annual visits to Ohio when I was in Elementary School. It had been a decade since I last saw my cousin's friend Amy, but I instantly remembered her as well as the crush I had on her when I was eleven. My relatives asked me cautiously about Spain, and I saw in their eyes that they already knew but asked to show they care.

Sunday morning a husband and wife both decided to be baptized, and I was surprised that more did not weep at the sight. Neither of them knew what to do with their glasses, and the woman began holding her nose even before our preacher asked her confession. Their nervous anxiety and awkward joy were touching.

That afternoon I talked to my friend Meghan for a good while on the telephone. We once dated seriously (but I don't want to call her "my ex," because she is more than that) and I feared after it had ended that we would never be friends again. Now we joke and ramble easily, and freely talk of When We Were Together. We talk with an understanding and care that speaks well of what we once were, and I am honored that she would share with me what we are today.

And yesterday I dug through way too much Kentucky clay so that my father would not hurt his back. My entire body aches as a result but finishing projects gives my father peace of mind. So it is worth it.

These are good for the soul.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Therefore, in summation. . .nevermind.

Returning to the provisional thesis of my last post, I wonder if it would be better said "to remember is to love." But it is true as it is. To remember is an essential element of love. So what does doing so entail, or even look like?

Deuteronomy 6 shows God instructing the Israelites not merely to know the covenant, but rather to have it "upon your hearts." He goes on to say (paraphrasing): "tell your children! Talk about these commandments wherever you are, whatever you're doing! Let the city, your house, your very body be painted with this Law."

And so to remember is to take your love with you, wherever you go. Within or without a temple, with or without a Bible in your hand, it is to remember. In doing so you take not just your love with you, but also WHAT you love with you.

With the Old Testament prophets, God used memories of past blessing to woo and lure the Israelites back into covenant. "Remember how I showed my love to you?" he would insist. "Remember Egypt and how I freed you, then personally led you for forty years in spite of your unfaithfulness? Will you refuse to remember?

We are a culture that relies on being reminded rather than remembering (like cell phone alerts, palm-piloted schedules, and etc. not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that). How often, at Sunday lunch, do people mention they have already forgotten the day's sermon? And how poorly most of us know the stories of the kingdom we are heirs to. So let us look back as we press on. Let us remember, and let us love.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Love Is

I have taken two trips to Searcy since returning to the country and there still wasn't enough time to see everyone I wanted. Surely there are worse problems to have, but what I want to share on here is the latest life lesson learned after seeing many, many dear friends.

Much of what love is, is simply to remember.

This a truth most know instinctively, but one that I came to understand fully when sitting with friends I hadn't seen in years (they graduated before I did) who still laugh at old inside jokes and tell me they missed receiving "Lucas-hugs." I understand more when former say-hi-while-passing friends asked me about Spain and remembered my plan of moving to Colorado. And I understand even more at the fact that so many people smiled and addressed me by name (it would have secretly wounded me if they had asked, "It's Lucas, right?") in spite of time.

Every inch of Searcy is covered in memories for me, and sometimes I fear that thinking back to them is at best embarrassing romanticism or at worst dressed-up denial. But I am comforted when Shelby shows me pictures of us from three years past, of when Jen talks of "the orange barrel incident," or when one of my dearest friends puts my arm around her for me and speaks soothingly of better times.

On my way home I stopped by my grandmother's house and we revisited many of the same stories and memories as always, but then she inquired of my visit, "Dare I ask if you saw Mary?" This took me aback, as it had been a long time since I told Mawmaw all about her. But she remembered.

To love is to remember.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pictures from Spain, Vol. 1

I needed to do something with these or I will never do anything with them, so here are some unedited pictures I took in Spain. First an archetypal windmill, found in the town of Mora:
And this is one side of the cathedral in Toledo. It is older than the United States. I was going to meet my friends Greg and Marie in front of it just before leaving for England over Christmas break, but they missed a train and it didn't work out. Another time I went with another professor who had some friends in town. They had never been to Toledo and were taking pictures of the cathedral on their cell phones and I enjoyed seeing Spaniards act more touristy than I did.Finally here is a picture that kind of makes me laugh? It is me, in front of my city (Toledo) for my very first trip there. It was a good day, and sunny, and I remember the feeling of being somewhere I had read about for years. It is an odd thing, to fulfill a Life's Dream, and I would occasionally laugh for no reason at the feeling in my stomach at being a part of something beautiful. I also remember being impatient to share this feeling, this joy, and to somehow send it to the States.

Judging from my face, this was three or four days into my ill-fated decision to grow a beard.

But I suppose there is no other type of decision to grow a beard.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Moments of Beauty

Lately things have been improving, albeit slowly. I visited Harding this past weekend and it did me a lot of good despite being so stressful. There are still very many people there that I love, and spending time with them was a blessing. While there, my dear friend Bethany told me that she believed that I would be getting better soon, and that slowly but surely beauty would be easier and easier to find in the world. So here are a few that I have felt.

One. Today was a beautiful sunny day that ended with me coated in sawdust. My father and I cut an entire felled tree into manageable pieces, and worked very hard. We talked about my grandfather and his father-in-law, and we talked about our old dog, Rascal. Sometimes my father feels overwhelmed by all of the "projects" around the house, and so days like today help him feel better.

Two. While at Harding, my friend Hannah asked me to play guitar for her. It was touching when I sang some songs I wrote and she knew the words better than I did.

Three. I was very nervous to be at Harding. It has been nearly a year since I graduated, and I am always afraid of being easily forgotten. In fact I did not have enough time to see everyone I love (which speaks volumes of the people there that would still care about me), and so I am returning for Spring Sing.

Four. I applied for a job in town and was delighted by a question in the accompanying personality test which asked: "Have you noticed any sudden changes in your body lately?" I wanted to explain in painful detail the wonderful process of becoming a man, but it was only a Yes/No prompt. If I get called for an interview, perhaps I will ask why hair is growing on my chest. It's a mystery!

Feel free to share some beauty you have noticed, eh?

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I think it has been long enough since I last wrote on this thing.

I would apologize but you all weren't missing out on anything (see my last hundred-or-so entries for proof, haha). In truth, I just like writing and I can tell myself that updating about my life on here slightly makes up for getting behind on writing friends via Facebook. Also, I am going to post pictures on here from my travels that I always meant to share.

It is a few weeks now that I've been home, and I've been trying to keep busy. That has been accomplished through cleaning my room, playing my guitars and other instruments, seeing friends, and learning to play the drums. Storms in Kentucky left plenty of downed trees and so I cut and carry lumber on our property, which sounds manly. I may begin working soon, or I may move out to Colorado sooner than expected and work out there.

I am doing a bit better, little by little.

More to come.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Last Day in Sonseca

This is the last entry I will write on here from Spain. In two days (God and RyanAir willing) I will be home in the United States.

This is hard to wrap my mind around, in truth.

Today was my last day of work and my students surprised me. I entered the first classroom to see the blackboard covered in goodbye scribbles and inside jokes. My students presented me with cards and presents, and I was very touched. They gave me a watch and a bracelet, as well as a package of warm socks. We spent the rest of the time just talking, and they told me to come back to Spain and work as an actor, because I would always pretend to cry or get angry when they teased me.

I went to 2nd A's class, which has always been my favorite. They gave me a silver bracelet with my name on one side, and the other side engraved with "Your students in 2nd A." Next was a picture of the whole class in a very nice and heavy frame. They asked me to read aloud the accompanying letter, and I got choked up (which secretly they had all been hoping for). They were pleased with the proof that I would miss them, and we said goodbye.

Now it is all memories. Or something like a memory.

This has been a very hard five months, as you know. It hit me yesterday that I really feel like myself for the first time in a long time. For so long, my identity couldn't really progress past "wounded," and that was all I felt. It hit me that it must have been incredibly hard to be my friend the past few months, as I was not just far away but also far from who I am. But you all have been here for me.

I received letters. And packages. There was never one day where I hadn't received new messages on Facebook. You listened to me ask questions that no one could answer. You prayed for me over Skype. You wept with me and for me. You wrote to tell me that you liked my songs. You wrote to say that you thought of me when you heard "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at church. You wrote to say that you thought you saw me on Harding campus. You wrote to say that you thought you saw me at church. You wrote to ask when I was coming home, so that we can hang out. You wrote to say (in different words) that you haven't forgotten me. You wrote to say that you love me.

Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you. I was hurting over not being shown love, but you all were doing just that all this time. My life is full of beautiful people. My heart is full of gratitude. And it is healing, slowly but surely.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Things About Spain, or "Peter Paul and Mary Jesus"

6) Names are very important to Spaniards. They take them very seriously, in spite of the fact that I have friends named "Mary Jesus" and "Conception."

There are beautiful names here. Some examples from my students include Rocio, Alba, Helena, and Julia. The boys' names are short and punchy, like Sergio, Oscar, Javier, and Manuel.

Others, however, lack such charm and only leave you with questions. Why would any parent name their child "Macarena?" Especially when she was born AFTER the dance craze?

Some names are smooshed together, like "Luis Miguel" becoming "LuisMi." I learned a new name when a man flipped his bike in the middle of the street. We ran into each other a week later at the grocery, and he thanked me for helping him and introduced himself as "JuanJo," which I'm pretty sure is "Juan Jose."

Many names are conjoined religious references, like the two mentioned in the title of this post. Pedro Pablo ("Peter Paul") is a teacher here at the school, but he is not well liked by all. To explain, one day he sat down next to me as I was writing an email. Replace the words "next to" with "practically on top of" in that last sentence to imagine the proximity of our faces as he leaned in to talk. He asked how I was and I managed not to recoil while I answered, "Fine. And you?" As I counted the pores on his nose he replied, "Eh, I'm sick."

I laughed for at least five minutes when the students told me their nickname for this same teacher: Pedo Pavo. This rhymes, and translates literally to "Fart Turkey."

See what we are missing? There is no name in English that can so effortlessly be turned into such a wonderful taunt.

I will end this post with a plea that we not think about the words my name rhymes with. Let's just make fun of Spaniards, okay?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Things You Might Not Know About Spain, Volume 1

This is my last week here. There are many, many things that I have wanted to write on here but I tend to get distracted by metaphysics and navel-gazing, so this is a catch-all list to inform you on things that you couldn't know without spending a few months here.

1) The art of hairstyles has been perfected here in Spain. The boys wear mullets, and girls have curly bangs. No one thinks anything is wrong with this.

2) Dryers do not exist. Clotheslines do. Draping wet underwear over radiators throughout the house is also an option.

3) Carpet does not exist. This is the one that gets me the most. Every house floor is tile, and thus cold, and thus incredibly depressing when it is the first thing you feel in the morning. If I were Spider-Man I would totally walk on the ceiling and this would not be a problem.

4) In the United States, Chinese restaurants cook cat and dog meat since chickens are so dang hard to come by, right? Well, here they serve the remains of their dead family members. When asked about this, one clever Spaniard responded, "Have you ever seen a Chinese graveyard? Didn't think so."

5) Swear words are not uncommon, nor anything to take note of. In one class of professors, I said a difficult word to pronounce ("this," for crying out loud) and one man was discouraged and said the f-word equivalent. He was sitting next to the town's priest, who did not bat an eyelash.

I hope this has been enlightening for you. More to come, if you like them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sun Rise, Sun Rex, Sun Set, Sun Spent

It takes a while to travel to Portugal, as I decided to do last weekend with my friend Caroline. I was to meet her in Badajoz first, so I had plenty of time to think throughout the day.

I woke early to catch buses and was rewarded with seeing the sun rise, illuminating fog that had crept over and peacefully lay like a blanket on the low mountains of Castilla-La Mancha.

The afternoon I spent waiting on a train in Madrid. I walked through the expansive parks while the sky was overcast, covered only by a thin mask of cloud through which the sun dimly shone. It was a bright white perfect circle without detail, like a hole punched out of heaven. I looked directly into it, as if confidently meeting another's gaze.

As the sun fell that evening I watched, from the train, herds of deer running between the rocky hills of Extremadura. Storks preened in their nests high atop old smokestacks and sheep mated, apparently feeling no shame in the numbers painted blue on their backsides. Some interesting animals later got on the train as well, as wild Spaniards flock to Badajoz for Carnaval. All talked loudly and none was disheartened by the fading light.

In fact, evenings in winter are the sun failing and succumbing to the night, with a deep chill taking over in victory. But lately the evenings are the sun melting into a languid dark, in no hurry to leave behind dying embers of day and content that tomorrow will prove to be even more time to share warmth. The earth is ready for this change.

The sun dipped below the horizon causing the landscape in the window to give way to reflections of the inside of the cabin. My own face came into view, looking foreign. I saw blue blinking back at me and noted that it was the first time in a while that I looked directly in my own eyes, that I had confidence to do so. I saw myself clearly as the dark increased.

I'm ready for change.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I have seen many things change in the time I've been here. Trees have grown, vines have flowered and faded, construction has ended, buildings have been razed, stores have gone out of business and been replaced, Alberto and Cristina have a new baby, and the United States have a new president.

At the same time, many things have stayed the same. I am reading Genesis once more. My prayers have changed only slightly in wording, although slightly more in strength and in hope. I am still a foreigner. I am still alone. I am still wondering if God will ever get around to making me a good person. I am still hurting for being easy to forget.

It is simple and beautiful to stop hating, for me. An apology ends much bitterness and anger so fast that you do not even remember them, blushed with hope and eagerly expecting new, lovely memories to replace the wounds. What a lovely change.

But to stop loving? How can I? Even when I am the only one in the world who wanted that? (and what a lonely thought that is) Even when I see now that it was never as good as I imagined it?

Why can't I change this? When will this change?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For the Love of God

One sad thing here that is in no way unique to Spain is beggars. Few things create such a continuous re-evaluation of my faith and how to practically show it as do beggars.

In a huge city like Madrid there are so many. It is a wonder they aren't trampled, as some sit in the middle of huge sidewalks with just a sign and a cup in front of them. Once I saw important people in expensive suits taking large steps over the prosthetic legs of a dour man in dirty clothes, seated in the Puerta del Sol. And others hold in front of them a picture of family to whom they wish to be rejoined but cannot afford to. Others sit in the entryways of cathedrals with their whole body wrapped up in blankets yet shivering furiously nonetheless.

You see no flesh. You only see a cup.

In the bus station I am asked for money by teens covered in piercings or by Romanian men, their nationality recognizable by their characteristic grammatical errors and sadly by the alcohol on their breath. Regardless of if I give them money or not, they ask the next person, too.

I hate the feeling I fet then. The same feeling as when I see the same beggar with the prosthetic legs talking uproariously on his cell phone the next time I pass. The same feeling as when I see one beggar dump her cup of coins into a larger, hidden on almost full of money.

It is insulting to be taken advantage of, but did that ever stop Jesus? He healed and loved people that never confessed him as Lord and God. When did he pass the needy by?

When did he look at a man and see no flesh? When did he see only a cup?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Great is Thy Faithfulness," and Someone Please Let Me Out of Here

Here is a song I recorded the other day. I didn't write it.

I have been missing church a lot lately. So I'm singing hymns. This song is very hard to sing some days, but other days it gives me great hope. I sincerely hope this doesn't offend anyone.

Also, two quickies:
1) I shaved my beard last night.

2) I am currently locked inside of my school. I was talking to a friend on Skype and thinking about the test she had to get to instead of the fact that my school was about to close for the night. There are two doors and they are locked. The gate is locked outside, too.

I don't have money on my cell phone to call my roommate, so I am going to climb out of a window. But I might as well post this song before I go.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unyielding as the Grave

Two years ago today, my grandfather was dying.

There at the house I sat on the love seat and stared at the hospital bed that had replaced Grandaddy's recliner. Grandaddy would fall asleep and wake back up, over and over to no particular rhythm, and I would try to do my homework for Advanced Intro to the New Testament. Mom and Mamaw talked on the couch, and we took turns getting things that he needed when he woke up. But there wasn't much for us to do. He hardly ate. I played my guitar for him and he fell asleep. When he was awake, he asked me to comb his hair for him.

There wasn't much for us to do.

One day Mamaw brought him a Valentine's Day dinner: a small steak and a baked potato from Tumbleweed, their favorite restaurant in town. He was pleased, ate all of it, and the family was encouraged. Our hopes had fallen with his weight, but this was different. My prayers changed in tone and I was grateful, even allowing myself a few guilty daydreams of a full recovery and a triumph over cancer.

But we knew.

Through it all I watched my grandmother take care of her husband and marveled at her strength. I didn't understand how she wasn't a complete emotional wreck, angry at God and lamenting the ruin that her once-vibrant love had become. She asked no questions about the existence of cancer, or how it could be visited on and take host in a man so beautiful. Rather she humbly, quietly, and lovingly served. Rather she stayed by his side and waited until he left.

I have never seen true "until death do us part" before, and I am only beginning to understand it. This was a love stronger than death. This was true love.

I can't believe it's been two years already

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Subject Matter Not Objective Matter

I am not going to write about her anymore on here.

I woke up this morning from a simple dream, recounting the time she came to see me in Colorado. We watched shooting stars, and she stepped on a cactus. I was stuck and slightly hurt by the needles I pulled from her razor-thin flip-flop, but I was very glad to be there.

Returning to the present: In fairness, the goal in describing my feelings on this blog was never libel. I hoped that she could read my thoughts here when convenient instead of me having to wait for it to be convenient to be listened to. And then she would see how very, very deeply she hurt me. And then she would do something about it. And then it would be healed. And then it all would be over.

But either she doesn't care, or she cares but doesn't want to do anything about it because it would be difficult. In my mind (and in that dream) it is worth being stuck and slightly hurt to fix the injury of another, and how much more so when responsible for it.

This wasn't just a normal break-up. I loved her more strongly than I have ever before, and she was more hurtful than anyone before. But we had made promises and pledges that went beyond words. Union and communions, made and shared. But now there is only sin and guilt to regret, and insults and contempt to forget. And it seems like it means nothing to her. And so it seems like I meant nothing to her. I wish she wanted to correct that assumption, if it is false.

But I suppose I wish a great many things.

I will keep praying for her. Most likely I will keep writing songs about this. But I won't write about her on here anymore.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Te Amas?

Last night I had another class with the second-year students (14-ish in age) and despite my plans we just talked. They asked later to hear one of the songs I wrote and to see some photos I've taken, so I showed them a bit of what Colorado looks like. We marveled together at Hanging Lake and Mt. Redcloud and jokingly made plans for a class trip there.

A picture of my ex-girlfriend came on the screen and I immediately closed the program. I became quiet and let the students talk for a while before Amaya asked me an incredibly insightful question: "Te amas?"

"Do you love yourself?"

I paused for a second because I had never heard the verb "amar" with agreeing subject and object. It is always "I love her" or "she loves him," never "you love you." I realized what she meant, and then took pause at the question itself. I changed the subject, then thought about it the rest of the night and into the morning.

Yes, is the answer. But it is hard to feel like much of anything these days after being treated like I'm nothing for quite some time. There are echoes of Things She Said that follow me, but these are not true besides being wrong. And there is guilt that she and I share that could have dealt with, but it only went ignored and denied. And there is the simple fact that now it is only too easy to pretend that the entire relationship never existed, just like all those mistakes.

Is this what it takes for some people to say "me amo"?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

May One Day

The other day was a warm one unlike any I have seen since I first arrived years ago in October. Naturally I rode my bike out of the city before my traditional trip to Toledo and soon found myself on the side of the road, watching a construction crew work on a skeleton of a building.

As a child I was never much taken by Tonka Trucks or other facsimiles of heavy machinery, but now I rubberneck at cement mixers like normal people do flipped semis.

A dear friend once told me that she saw in me the gift of dreaming, to see things not as they are but rather as they could be. We were speaking of my youth group in Colorado at the time, and of all the wonderful things I expect of them and how I can't wait to see it.

And so I marvel at pylons and concrete that may one day be apartments full of families and furnishings and will be home to many.

And so many prayers rise that my father's good heart may one day know God's.

And so even a (seemingly) God forsaken relationship was worth waiting on, as it might one day have been a thing of beauty.

And so beauty may one day be in my heart.

And so my heart may one day be as warm as Friday.

Right now it is hard to hope, to dream of what could be. But maybe one day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big News

I am exhausted. (that is not the big news)

My last class was six 14-year-old girls that talk over each other and take pictures of me on their cell phones. One of them comes to class with a surprising amount of makeup that she doesn't wear to school in the mornings. Tonight's lesson began with one girl bringing me socks as a present (the Spaniards are dumbfounded that I have worn sandals throughout this winter) which amused me greatly, continued with them singing Ace of Base which amused me greatly, but ended with the girls telling me what type of whiskey they like to drink. (that is not big news, but it is depressing)

I don't understand why we choose the things we do for our lives. I don't understand the things we allow. I don't understand why we let things get so dark and evil. I don't understand why we choose hate over love. I don't understand why we turn a blind eye to sin. I don't understand how we turn grace into enabling. I don't understand why we treat each other the way we do, and a great many other things. (that is not big news)

This is the news: I am coming home a bit early. I bought the tickets a bit ago, but I fly into Louisville on March 7. There are many reasons for this, but this is the right decision (I am almost sure). The decision was made out of optimism and not out of despair, and for this I am glad.

For what it's worth.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Playing the Victim," or Another Song Posted in Fashionable Mp3 Format

Here is a song I've been sitting on for a while and finally recorded. I wrote the lyrics sitting just outside of the walled portion of Toledo a month or so ago.

It's about wanting to believe someone despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary. Keep in mind, I wrote it a while ago, so there is no grudge behind this song. Not all of the feelings are still true.

Just saying.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Prove My Critics Wrong, or "Lucas Has Class(es)"

Things have been busy in Sonseca, and that surely is not a sentence often heard.

When I first got here I put up fliers around town hoping to fill the extra hours of the day and perhaps to fill my wallet as well. Now I have to turn people away, as my days are in fact full (although the other has not behaved accordingly).

One new student is Natalia, who studies psychopedagogy at Toledo University. She plays viola in a Sephardic folk band and is trying to make up for a few years of taking no English classes. She always wears a hat of some sort, and we spend a good deal of the class time laughing over her mistakes.

Four hours of my week are now additional classes with my students from the institute, except I am the only instructor and I plan all of the lessons. The students are even wilder than normal, and are eager to turn the time into Sex Ed vocabulary sessions. I somehow managed to change the subject enough that one class ended with us huddled around my Bible, and I was glad.

One of my favorite new classes is with four professors from the Institute who knew absolutely nothing of English before we started. We began with simple things like numbers and salutations, and I have to giggle when I stop to think that I taught the town's priest to say "What's up?" This is how he now greets me in the hall, as well as all of his catechism classes. So far, though, he has yet to begin a sermon this way in Mass.

But I'm keeping my fingers crossed

(no pun intended)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toledo Again

Last weekend I went to Toledo three times in two days, each time with or to meet different people. It was a lot of fun and was worth getting no sleep. But this weekend I wanted to take a "different" kind of trip. So I did.

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day and I left the house with no jacket, taking only my camera and my Bible with me. I took the same bus as always but got off before entering the city, deciding instead to walk some trails through the pseudo-mountains. I walked slowly and deliberately trying to avoid being thrown off any rocky ledges by the strong wind.

I found footpaths and bridges that I had never taken before, so I followed them into the city. Beyond them were old ruins I had never seen before, so I explored them. Later there were turrets and bastions in the city's wall that I had never entered, so I climbed them and looked out over everything.

There were little villages that the local homeless had taken over and built up, old houses left to decompose artistically alongside the river, and playgrounds that no self-respecting four-year-old would use.

Lately things overall have been different, and for the most part this is a good thing. I am feeling different, and certainly not hurting like I once was. But for all this change and for all these different things I am experiencing, seeing, and feeling, there is just one thing that is no different at all: there is still only one person in the world that I wish I were sharing this with.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Rocio was Doing Poop." Yikes.

This is what you get when you play a game with thirteen-year-olds, haha.

Today I had class with a small group of students to focus on using the past continuous tense but they were not in the mood to do work in their books. I suggested we play the game where each person adds one word until you have a semi-coherent story that satisfies all. Towards the end the students began suggesting each others' names for added hilarity. Here are the results:

"I was playing tennis on bed and I was dancing in my house. The dog was running by my bedroom crazy. The dog was crashing to the grandmother. The cat was crashing in the wall with happiness. The object was broken.

"The trees were crazy but I was silly. He is handsome, and I am pretty. We are studying for the competition. Elena is playing with her Barbies and Marta was thinking about the Barbies but she is crazy and silly. Elena was singing and she was sleeping. The rabbit has a tail and it was beautiful.

"Rocio was lying down in the bathroom. She was doing poop. Lourdes was doing poop and she was smoking."

I laughed so hard at the phrase "doing poop" that I decided not to correct them, so as not to spoil the future enjoyment of whatever English speaker they come across many days from now.

Later in the afternoon I used an episode of "The Office" in a lesson, which feels like a moral victory. I pretended not to hear when my student asked the meaning of the phrase "that's what she said."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another Good Day at La Sisla

Sometimes I absolutely love my job.

The students at the Sisla are astonishingly excited when we have class together, sometimes cheering as I enter the room if they didn't know I would be with them that day, or asking if I will return next year and making a pouty face when I answer. Today one class asked me to bring my parents back with me and move to Sonseca.

As I walk through swarming and swirling adolescent currents pouring down the hallways they call my name and ask how I am even though they don't understand the answer past my smile. If I leave one building to walk to another they poke their heads out of windows and yell to me in spite of the inevitable reprimand that follows from their teachers. I am slightly embarrassed when I am talking to another professor and the students interrupt us to greet me excitedly. . .and say nothing to the other teacher (who I happen to assist in teaching these exact students).

One day I was taking over a class for a sick teacher and needed to begin by going over a full page of homework. I was going to have each student answer one question to give them all a chance to practice, and this would have taken up much of the period. Instead a girl stood up and read the entire sheet as the rest of the class hurriedly checked answers and scribbled over incorrect ones. She finished in record time, sat down, and said, "Let's talk." They asked me questions for the rest of the period, and we all laughed very much.

The victory of the day came when Maria made a joke and referred to the act of urination as going "whiz whiz."

Yes, things are looking up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Exile, or "How Vast Beyond All Measure"

Few things fail to fascinate me like the prophets in the Old Testament. These men who were called to preach to a hostile people who had become as deaf, dumb, and worthless as the idols they worshiped. A people who were anxious for political allies in ongoing wars but cared nothing for the help of the God of their youth. A people who were called and loved, that God never gave up on.

It looked like God gave up on them, though. First the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom. Judah decided not to learn from this, or from her own past, and so Babylonia came. How could they feel like they were any god's chosen people?

The prophets preach a rage burning with a ferocity so frightening that some wonder how the same God could come as the loving Jesus. The prophets preach the words of a lover spurned, of a God incensed. Amos transfers this message: "I hate, I despise your religious feasts. I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them."

Hosea passes on: "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears."

Jeremiah: "I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger and it will burn forever."

And yet through Hosea he also says, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? . . .My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." In chapter 13 God announces, "I will redeem them from death!"

What a telling picture of the personality of God that no one wanted Israel to prosper and thrive more than God did. That no one wanted Israel to be shown love and care than God did! That no one wanted less for Assyria and Babylonia to triumph than God did! That no one wanted less for Israel to suffer, and to go into exile than God did! God wanted peace for Israel more than Israel wanted it.

How deep the Father's love for us!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What a Day!

Last night Sagrario had a birthday party. The night before she had come to my house to personally invite me, so I felt a little obligated to go. I sent her a text message and she called to tell me that she is sick. I guess I showed too much concern, because she changed her tone and invited me to go with her to Toledo the following morning (today). She had some work things to do for a few hours, so I would have some time to myself like last time.

In the car on the way there, she informed me that she had prepared a picnic lunch for the day and that we could enjoy it from a certain valley that overlooks the walled city.

"Oh good," I responded.

Then she gasped as she realized that she forgot to ask me to bring my guitar, so I could play for her.

"Oh," I responded, thinking: Whatever. This isn't too unbearably awkward. I just want a free ride to the book store.

We met back up later when she had finished her work and she wanted to introduce me to her friend Belen (it means "Bethlehem") who had eye surgery the day before. We entered Belen's dark and seafood-smelling apartment and were immediately served crawfish and cashews, assuaging the fears I had of the picnic but also sadly creating new ones. The shades were all drawn, to protect Belen's eyes.

Belen was incredibly chatty and engaging, and we talked about music and travel. She chided Sagrario for not seeing more of the world, and also for the second-rate potato chips that she had brought with us. Then she ran back to her room and brought out. . .a guitar! For me to play!

I acquiesced, reasoning that there were worse fears for a new acquaintance to play upon. I took the guitar and played an instrumental, hoping that would be enough. They told me to sing. So I did. When I was done, Belen was wiping tears from her face and thanking me. She explained that after the operation she has had to pump "fake tears" into her eye, so that she was actually weeping meant I could trust that she liked it. She kept asking for more songs until we had to leave for an appointment of mine.

We left and Sagrario dropped me off in her usual awkward way. Then my water didn't work, so I talked to my landlord. In the process, his son of twenty-four asked me to hang out with him and his friends tonight. Technically tomorrow, because they begin at midnight. So I am going, in hopes of having one more story to share.

What a day!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"In Those Eyes," Now in Low-Fat Mp3 Format

This is a new song I wrote and am sharing, and I already see some things I want to change (haha). Mostly I want to change a few words, but in the meantime you can listen to it and tell me if anything else could be improved. I tried to make this a simpler song than "Looking Forward to Loving You," rather than shoving the whole story in there.

This song is about looking back after a failed love (we'll say this is theoretical) and admitting that although the singer's love was offered in truth and completely, it was not pure and he still made mistakes. And in the end what he thinks about from that relationship is not all the horrible things from either side, but rather when things were good.

But this is all theoretical, of course. . .right? Hmm.

Hope you like it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back in the Swing of Things

This week was a return to the semi-daily grind of work. As it is I am working the same schedule I had last semester, but (at least) four extra hours of classes each evening.

Tonight was my first class with two children of a teacher from my school, Claudia and Mario. She is 7, he is 5. They arrived and did not answer when I said "hello."

Sandra toted her children inside and apologized, saying that they are very shy and that she would need to sit in on the class with us. When I sat down the children silently argued over who got to sit next to their mother and at the end both slumped down in defeat.

I spent a lot of the evening laughing, because they are two of the most beautiful little angels you will ever see. Claudia turns red and barely talks until her mother prods her, and Mario hops from seat to seat and goes "huh huh huh huh huh huh huh" when I re-ask him the question that got his attention in the first place. (but he doesn't sound like Beavis or Butthead, and it gives me pause to consider that these might not be pop-cultural references anymore)

So by the end of the evenings I am pretty tired, and I guess that it is for the best to keep myself (and my mind) as occupied as I can.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On This Day in History

One year ago today was the first day of my last semester at Harding.

There was little worth remembering about the morning except my linguistics class, for which I was very excited until I met the professor. I felt a mixture of horror and pity as he spoke and immediately began plans to drop the class for being lame.

That evening in my room, I received a call from my friends Amanda and Courtney. They asked me to audition for their play, the Mousetrap, and I agreed although I had severe doubts about my acting ability and I was unhappy that I would have to put clothes back on to meet them. There I met a girl who I thought didn't care for me at all but in a few months she would tell me that she loved me, and I would believe her.

That night I went back to my room and listened to Scott Orr and Laura Veirs, wondering what would come.

(This may not mean a thing to anyone else in the world. In truth I suppose a blog is simply a charade of significance, so it is well written here. I have made a lot of decisions since January 14, 2008 and I am wondering if I made the right ones.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It is continually confounding and yet amazing, the mind's ability to choose what it will believe and what it will ignore.

When Israel fell far from God and broke the covenant made with him, God was understandably furious. He tried in every way to get their attention and to bring them back. He sent Assyria and Babylonia in the end, but along the way he sent message after message. In locusts (literal and figurative ones, it seems), in droughts, in sieges, in military defeat. But despite all of his anger he also appealed to the Israelites' hearts, and he spoke tenderly of alluring them, leading his people back into the desert.

The desert, where they walked and complained after being rescued from Egypt. The desert, where an entire generation died without seeing the Promised Land. But this was the desert! The desert where the people were led by God himself! The desert where they saw him as fire and cloud, and saw his presence day and night!

So God speaks to them of "when things were good," hoping that it will matter. But this only matters to an honest heart. A hardened and calloused heart refused to remember this loving guidance, and put it out of his/her mind to avoid past beauty, and past obligations. It's a simple matter to remain positive when you ignore, or just "don't think" about what has been, and what should be.

God confronted Israel with her sin, and the proper response to his offer of love. But they didn't want to think about it, because that would require change. And change hurts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is it True?

The Bible shows that there is always a chance for redemption. There is always a chance for salvation. There is nothing beyond hope.

Is it true?

That is the whole point of the Beatitudes, after all. As if to say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is extended even to those that seem most scorned, cursed, or forgotten by God." The poor, the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (but just can't seem to make it there), the persecuted: no one would say that these are the ones experiencing divine favor. But the Kingdom is open even to these. And they don't deserve it for being miserable, either, but God's love rests even on these, the unredeemables.

Israel was brought back from exile! The Temple rebuilt! They even had John the Baptist, after such a long time with no prophetic voice! And then God walked among them in flesh, showing that even the "fallen" human being can be redeemed and holy! God works miracles from the unredeemable.

I have been waiting for months to see something renewed that has been ruined and dismantled. I have even been counseled to give up completely, by just about everyone. I want to see the beauty of redemption. Like Israel! Like Naomi and Ruth! Like Hosea taking Gomer back.

Can this be redeemed? Is it true?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Lesson Learned

Next time when I do laundry, I will check the weather forecast for the night's low temperature.

Spaniards don't believe in "dryers" and so we hang up our laundry on clotheslines. This can prove to be an issue in January.

Below is a picture of my frozen jeans, leaned against the wall to display all of the glory:
You should have heard me giggle. I ran back outside to grab a t-shirt to balance on top, but I returned just in time to see my pants crumple on the floor. What a pity!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Trip to Toledo

I think I inadvertently went on my first Spanish date last night?

Some lady here in town invited me to go with her to Toledo and hang out after she did some things at an academy there. I agreed, having planned on going there anyway. While she was busy I got to take a walk and watch the sun set behind the huge, historic walls. I went to a record store and bought a CD that I already own, "Recovering the Satellites" by Counting Crows. (My other copy is back in the States, and this has been one of my favorite albums since fourth grade. AND it was only the price of a meal from McDonald's, in contrast to the $22-ish other albums)

I sat in the Plaza and read Hosea until she was done, and even ran into a friend who used to be a substitute at my school. We talked and renewed plans to make plans to hang out one day, and he went on his way.

Sagrario finished her stuff and we ate dinner. Throughout the conversation I was pleased that she actually laughed at my jokes, even though she wasn't drinking. We talked for a while and then walked to a bar where a local blues band was playing. I was pleased to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, topped off with the strained vocals of a guy not much older than I. But who am I to complain about poor vocals, eh?

The drummer was incredible and even took an extended solo through the audience, banging on tables and the bar and working the drunk guys into a frenzy. One guy was VERY into it, dancing with reckless abandon like a two-year-old listening to Raffi. Another (and large) man wiggled his rump while losing not a drop from his snifter (yes, a snifter) of brandy to the delight of the young ladies. We left the club late with our ears ringing and smelling of smoke, and I was glad.

It was nice to be freed of making plans at the mercy of the bus schedule since she has a car, and it was good to have company even if it was slightly awkward at times. I'm going to go listen to my CD now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Posted Song, in Colourful Mp3 Format

Here is a cover of a Beatles song, which shows my first attempt at multi-tracking in order to do the intro. Also one of my harmonicas makes a cameo. I tried to mix the vocals in a different way this time, so let me know if it sounds okay/better/pleaseturnitoffohgosh.

School starts back up tomorrow, so perhaps I will get back into writing on here more regularly. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 in Review

This past year was one of extremes, of opportunity and change. One year ago I was looking forward to my final semester at college and wondering how it would end. I did not expect what was, though. It was a blur of food from Sonic, CLEP tests, formals, and hope. My favorite times were either sitting in a tree the day I came back from Hawaii or listening to Gnarls Barkley in my car. The worst was when my best friend's engagement ended. Then I graduated and wondered what it meant.

The summer was warm and lovely, days spent hiking and climbing mountains and eating ice cream with my youth group, preparing lessons and praying they would be worth something, sharing sermons and repainting rooms and wondering why I planned yet another lock-in. My heart was full of worry those days and I spent my free time on my bike, only to find that even riding thirty miles did not exhaust enough to slow my mind.

The summer ended with a sudden shift in something I had been counting on to see me through the coming changes, as a promised love became a mixture of confusion and derision. The lightning-fast flux left me with questions: was the love I once saw the truth or the lie? Then what of the subsequent lack thereof? Which was Jekyll, and which Hyde? . . .and will “her” friends still talk to me?

Soon I found myself in another country. After stepping off the plane it hit me that I was completely on my own. I spent the first two days trying to arrange a means of travel to two different podunk cities and did not eat more than half an apple. All the while my eyes scanned each street for an internet cafe.

Now I am no less a foreigner than when I arrived, and I have never been more tired. My hopes for the near future include preparing a working portfolio of photographs, sharing some original songs, and finishing my current read-through of the Bible that I began in late October. For the far future, I look forward to getting a job that pays in dollars, starting a band, and falling in love.

At the risk of sounding Dickensian, 2008 yielded some of the very best and the very worst that I have known. Some day I will look back on it fondly, but for now I am ready to move on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Would We Be Without Wishful Thinking?

Tonight is my last night in London. I get to leave the hostel at 4:45 tomorrow morning to take the Underground to a bus to the airport to Madrid to Toledo to a house that I rent. But there await me my guitar, my harmonicas, and my toothbrush. I have missed all of these terribly.

Kidding on the toothbrush. I don't even own one!

Being in England has been odd, to be sure. It was a good trip, but I confess that I am tired in body and spirit and am looking forward to resting back in Sonseca. But there are little moments here that felt weighty, that felt significant. Little glimpses of beauty like seeing people spray champagne as fireworks marked the transition to 2009 or drunk people yelling and congratulation strangers, or walking past a young man that had too much to drink and lay on the street in a pose utterly unfaithful to his expensive suit and expensive haircut. Or a girl whose friends were trying to convince of her inebriety and offered to call a cab as the poor rich girl stared off into space with the most depressingly lost gaze I have ever seen.

Or sitting in a bus coming back from Stonehenge and reading Old Testament prophets, and wondering how to show to same love and fidelity that the Israelites refused to accept. Or looking out the window in the same bus and seeing no landscape, only fog. A deep fog like the night I left Searcy for the last time, praying earnestly for engine failure before I left the state.

Or this very night, going to see a show. (God once again blurred the lines between his sense of humor, irony, and cruelty in that one of the only shows not sold out [and in the end the one we saw] was: The Mousetrap.) It brought back a lot of memories of when days and thoughts and feelings were brand new.

Or watching Trafalgar Square erupt with cheers over nothing more than a page turned on cheap wall calendars and being glad in my heart. Just an hour before these people were shoving each other aside, shooting untrusting glances at others standing too near, and booing the police. Now they were united in an optimism that many people need desperately. The foolish ones drank away their chance at sharing this joy.

Those of us who remained sober and smooch-less were caught up in something magical. This was far from home, but this was a time of hope. And I leave with memories of seeing Abbey Road, of winding my way down Baker Street (thinking of Gerry Rafferty makes me long for Colorado mountains, though), of exploring and getting lost and wondering and loving. Yes, this was a good trip.

A (New) Year

How curious!

Indeed, how very curious. It is a new year, and yesterday was the end of another. Of course there is nothing more "new" about today than there was to yesterday, andour notions of time are relative and arbitrary, but last night I felt the full weight of this relativity replace the load already on my shoulders as I walked alone through the streets of London.

I listened to the Shins, Aimee Mann, and Sufjan Stevens and remembered walking through so many other cities by the same songs. Suddenly before me were little memories, little moments that are long gone but somehow strikingly vivid. Before me were faces of girls I had loved, one beside me as I drove, another guiding me as we walked, another sitting along in the backseat as my father drove us from the airport.

And there were worries in my heart in each of those times, too. And somehow the memories, those time-places or temporal stations, those seasons are beautiful still. I look at them fondly and treasure them. My current worries lost their cumbersome immediacy and with it their power, their weight.

As Sufjan Stevens's "Transfiguration Motif" played in "Chicago," I felt changed myself. I imagined that my problems now will see little resolution regardless of the New Year, and will be with me for some time. But they are no end, in and of themselves! They are no crushing sum total of life and my time here. They are peripheral. Soon I will look back on these days fondly, and they will be beautiful still. I will take the good with the bad.

For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful of the days to come.