Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Five: The Janus Post

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.From Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals

1. Blessing Five: To have retired. Not expected or planned, but the realization that I just didn't have the skills or patience to deal or cope in the way I wanted to with the situation. It has freed me.

2. Blessing Four: The wherewithal to travel to amazing places. Each place I've been this year has changed me in some way--some small, some large. Time alone in Yosemite and reading/thinking about meditation and meditation and the loping brown bear as frightened of me as I was startled by him/her. Bhutan and thinking about death in a Buddhist context. Ethiopia and so much I never learned about in school and the amazing rock churches and what does their vision of Trinity mean (three identical old men).

3. Blessing Three: Running again. I still don't really like running. But it's the only thing that I do with any sort of intensity. I can dog all other exercises, but there is no way for me to dog running. Even at a slow jog, it's still more intense than anything else I can do. I want to be strong and fit enough to climb those hills at Addis and Yosemite.

4. Blessing Two. Life. Two years and nine months ago today was my surgery for ovarian cancer. It is good to be alive and healthy. I am grateful I failed Southern Belle 101 and became an assertive (OK, aggressive obnoxious) person because otherwise I might not be alive. (Yes, I'm still angry at the doctors who dismissed my complaints with you can't possibly be whatever.)

5. Blessing One. My son, my family, my friends everywhere, in real life and on line. I have been blessed in knowing some wonderful people who have listened to me kvetch (so much nicer a word than bitch) about everything, who have encouraged me, who haven't said (but I'm sure thought) "quit complaining and DO something."

Hopes for 2011
1. To be healthy and strong.
2. To continue to travel to amazing places (plans include a dive trip to Yap and Palau in Jan/Feb, the RevGalBlogPal cruise where I can meet some of the folks I know on line, a road trip to the Canadian Maritimes, visits to family, particularly a road trip to see Bubba Jim (yes, I do have a Bubba Jim) in Florida, trip to India to tiger reserves. And to sell my house so that I can travel around the world.
3. That an idea that has been percolating for a while will develop further. That the hungry, cold and homeless may be fed, warmed and sheltered.
4. That my family and friends continue to flourish: that God will heal the losses in their lives and grant them joy.
5. Oh, and world peace and thin thighs.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ethiopia--things that amazed me

1. The thing that amazed me most was the interior of the churches in Lalibela. The churches in Lalibela are carved into the volcanic rock. Imagine, you are on a mountain made of volcanic rock. Then there is a rectangular trench dug out. Then in the center of the trench, there is a large rectangular building, carved completely out of the rock. Then, in the building, there is the interior of a Romanesque bascilica. With arches and columns, with lintels and posts around the doors, with a barrel vault over the center aisle. How does anyone design and build such a thing? In the 12th century? I am still amazed. It boggles the mind to consider. One guide book said that if these churches were anywhere else but Ethiopia, they would rank up there with the pyramids as one of the wonders of the world. Quite frankly, I can't imagine any thing I have ever seen as being more awesome.

2. There are several legends about Christianity coming to Ethiopia. The one I like is that a Christian Syrian merchant was traveling back from India and stopped for water in Ethiopia and converted the people in the time of the apostles. Now, let's think about that. In the first century, people were traveling from the eastern shores of the Med down to the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean and to India (which was further east then than now, but still...).

3. There was a large Jewish population in Ethiopia and there are still Jews there now. Since there was a huge Jewish diaspora from I believe the Babylonian captivity, why should this surprise me, but it does.

4. Italian artists traveled to Ethiopia in the 1600s painting church icons.

5. The Axumite Empire until the 5th or 6th C AD covered vast territory including parts of the Arabian peninsula.

My education in world history focused on Greece, Rome and Europe. But the vast area from the eastern Med eastward to China and Japan was filled with traders. Christianity traveled to India and China and Ethiopia. During the European dark ages, this area was filled with scientific progress and learning. Algebra was invented (in central Asia.) The writings of the Greek philosophers survived in the Islamic world, not in Europe. I am amazed at how Eurocentric we remain today.

Musings about Ethiopia and travel.

Two blogs this morning resonated with me this morning. The first talked about finding a guide who would show the blogger around sample as much food in Mumbai as possible, The second by a PCUSA educator in Ethiopia talked of Christmas in Kenya as the slum children don't have food and the wealthy travel to the shore to stay in expensive resorts.

Travel to the developing world is fraught with hypocrisy. The difference between what I have and what most of the people who live there have is enormous. I give money to the beggars until my wad of bills and coins is exhausted. (I do not give to children, though. Most guidebooks caution it teaches them to beg and not go to school--but many don't go to school anyway.) I could choose to stay home and then be confronted only by the poor and homeless here. Mary's song resonates in my head. The hungry shall be filled and the rich turned away. I could give away all that I have, but like the rich young man, I don't want to. I like my nice home (much larger than I really need). I like to eat good food. (The irony of my joy at losing three pounds eating Ethiopian fasting food while so many don't have enough is not lost on me.) I love to travel to far away places many people only dream of going.

I always come back grateful to have been born in the US, having had the parents I had who valued education, being able to work and save and spend. I am always convinced that if I had been born in other circumstances I would not have been able to work myself out of poverty. Travel sharpens my understanding of my privilege, the gifts I have been given that I have not worked for, have done nothing to deserve.

And I am left with what is my response?