Month: February 2008
I guess I have grown up. Nearly 20 years ago I was told when I grew up I would drink coffee. I grew up around coffee so it was not a lack of exposure. I took a sip here and there but the bitterness did not work for me. Caffeine was not the problem. I preferred mine cold and sweet. Sometimes I wondered if it were the residual grounds present at the bottom of the cup using older model coffee “percolators.” The advent of automatic drip with the finer filters did not entice me so I gave up on that idea.
Whatever the case, I guess I have grown up. That’s right, this past week I followed the maxim, “When in Spain do as the Spaniards.” Yes that was an adaptation for those who learned it, “When in Rome … .” Every day I found an occasion to enjoy a “cafe con leche.” Mix in a little sugar and I could have had several cups a day – and did.
What drove the decision? Spending a few days with people given to giving up their own cultural connections to incarnate Jesus in another culture spurred my imagination. We often think of hospitality in terms of how we welcome others. Sometimes hospitality turns on the way in which we respond to those who invite us in.
I recall a trip to Burma a number of years ago. We sat down for an evening meal. Our hosts were wonderful people. They set a meal before us that included “chicken.” I love fried chicken. Not one piece looked vaguely familiar to the “pieces” I had grown up enjoying. We took in a very good meal but could have easily offended our hosts by suggesting we would not even try what lie on the plate.
We entered a cafe in Barcelona. It would have been easy ordering a “coke light” and continuing to shun coffee. However, it seemed right to do what the vast majority do when sharing time together in this great city. With a cafe on nearly every corner – I think it was my brother to referred to Barcelona as one large shopping center – it seemed most everyone connected with others over a cup of coffee. Were we to share time with people from Barcelona it seemed coffee should not be a barrier. Whether or not this new habit will continue remains to be seen. But, when in Spain it just seemed right to enjoy the coffee as the locals did.
Hospitality works both directions. Hoping to expose people to an hospitable God may well be communicated in how well we respond to the hospitality of others.
Perspective is everything. Once upon a time I hoped for a career in architecture. Coming to Barcelona and seeing some of the world’s finest architectural features and hearing of strategic city planning for growth brought back memories. In high school we prepared a “perspective” drawing of our dream house. Each horizontal line found a relationship to a particular point or series of points on a vertical line. The reference point served as an “anchor” point from which the structure would be viewed.
I have taken quite a few pictures and would love to take hundreds more. I have shot taken from a cafe atop a massive department store where one may see the structures built to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. In another I am standing on the ground trying to take in the massive cathedral begun by Gaudi. Interesting side note – it is easy to see where we get “gaudy.”
For the last few days I noted pictures taken from the window of our hotel room as well as from the ground. The small photo in this post is from the street – one of the most trafficked streets in Barcelona. Each of the photos I have taken while from my camera are all taken from different perspectives; that is, different locations shooting the same thing.
It is easy to think that because of what I may read on the internet or in travel books I “get” Barcelona. However, there is something missing. I cannot get the feel without being on the “street.” I am grateful for a group of new friends who call this city home. They get the vibe. They understand the city from the street. No amount of reading can possibly replace such a view. For a couple of days they took us to the streets. Cafes, restaurants, alleys and streets became the means by which we would get a glimpse and hopeful grasp of just what kind of place is this historic city.
One thought keeps returning to me. What kind of presumptive people are we who pretend to know the plight of another from any other perspective other than the street. It is where life happens. For my life as a pastor is often laden with occasions to be on the street. If I should think I could grasp another from a travelogue or photoblog I make a tragic mistake. The view from the street is a “with” view.
When I think of the life of Jesus, I cannot help but think of life on the “street.” He gave us the “with” view. We who follow Jesus need the with view. Herein is the lesson we learn from those who give their lives to learn the “streets” of others to bring grace and hope.
Thanks friends. I have learned much.
I found myself today reduced to tears. For a moment or two I wondered, “Why?” After reflection and regaining my composure I realized some of it has to be the sheer beauty of learning with others in ways and about matters which one may only understand from a view on “their” turf. Too often we presume to “know.” My cynical friends already determined it pointless. My skeptical friends consider it unhelpful. Today I am inspired by the grasp of those who realize there are things too big for them and yet persist in ways that certainly honor the way of Jesus among people we too readily discharge, and have already written off.
And thenÂ there was the expression of sheer loneliness salved by friends …