Posts Tagged ‘receive

12
May
21

Sharing Sea Bass

Forgive me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.

They make it look so EASY!

Today’s confession: I am not good at sharing. 

Especially when it comes to food.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Joan.

Allow me to set the scene: Joan and I are sitting across from one another having a meal at a nice, but not-too-expensive Fort Collins restaurant. We have ordered two different entrees and are both enjoying our selections. At exactly one bite past the halfway point of consuming the Featured Item on my plate, I notice a floating fork in the corner of my field of vision… it is slowly advancing in my direction.

Attached to that floating fork is the right hand of my beloved. 

I look up, warily. There is a smile on her lips and pure charm in her eyes as she bats those lovely eyelashes and demurely asks, “Can I have a bite?”

Whereas most loving spouses would return that smile, lean back in their chair, and say, “Certainly, honey. Go right ahead!” I, instead, balk. In my mind I have calculated the precise number of bites left on my plate and have devised plans for the enjoyment of every one of them. The prospect of losing even one sets my pulse racing.

At war with these basic protective instincts is an aspiration to be seen by my spouse as a “good guy;” read, “One who shares freely of all his possessions.”

So, I end up smiling feebly and muttering a barely audible, “Uh, sure… go ahead… I guess.”

Pretty pathetic, no?

In the first place, it is ridiculous to imagine that giving away ONE SMALL BITE of my food will make the slightest difference in my satiation, my nourishment, or my joy. 

Secondly, what kind of MONSTER chooses to hoard all their gustatorial enjoyment… especially from the one you have covenanted to become “one flesh” with? (Genesis 2:24, and Matthew 19:5, NRSV). 

And thirdly, (but probably not lastly), what does that sort of miserly response on such a MINOR matter say about that person’s general generosity quotient? 

I can sit here and talk all day about the fact that I grew up in a family of five kids where food was scarce and to be guarded with one’s life. But frankly that was a long, long time ago. Those tapes should really not be playing in my 69-year-old head any longer. 

It’s not as if the faith I profess to profess is exactly silent on this topic. Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, NRSV). The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, listed GENEROSITY as one of his famous “fruits of the spirit”: “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…” (Galatians 5:22, NRSV). And in making this list, I am sure Paul was probably taking for granted that OF COURSE spouses would demonstrate these “fruits” to one another.

So, what’s my problem, anyway?

It may be that I suffer from the disease of ENTITLEMENT… the sense that the world and those around me OWE ME something.

It may be that I somehow see life as a “zero sum” equation… that is, you gaining something necessarily means me losing something. 

Or it may just mean that I really, REALLY love steamed sea bass. 

Whatever the final verdict, I pray that my character flaw might be instructive to you in your journey.

As it turns out, Jesus was right after all… it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

Abundant blessings;

04
Oct
19

The Guatemalan Giggle of Grace

Guatemala 2016 (9)In my life, moments of grace have come in many different forms.

The compassionate word. The gentle glance. The understanding touch. The sweet smile.

My heart will always reserve a special place for that day when grace came in the form of a giggle.

It happened in 2003, on my first trip to Guatemala. This was a trip with two professors and 11 other students from Saint Paul School of Theology.

It was not a mission trip in the traditional sense that phrase has come to be understood. The seminary called it an “immersion trip.” The purpose of this trip was to immerse the participants in the history and culture of a place heretofore unfamiliar to us.

We were not going there to do anything in particular. Rather we were going to Guatemala to learn. In fact, the professor who served as the primary trip organizer encouraged us to think of this as a “reverse mission trip.”

What he meant by this, he explained, was that we were not traveling to Guatemala to bring something TO the people we would meet there. Instead, we were going there to receive something FROM them. That something was their stories, their perspective, and a glimpse through their eyes of the place they call home. It was an outlook he hoped would counteract the usual paternalistic attitude most Norte Americanos take when traveling to this part of the developing world.

After two days of lectures in Guatemala City, our group hit the road. Our first stop was in the town of Chimaltenango to meet with three of the principal leaders of the “Heart of Women’s Cooperative.”

In our semester of reading in preparation for the trip, we learned a lot about the inhuman horrors of the 36-year Guatemalan civil war. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book, I, Rigoberta Menchu provided graphic detail of the arrests, mass executions, torture, rape, and destruction of the indigenous Guatemalan people at the hands of government soldiers.

But we all agreed afterward that until we sat in the same room with two women who actually LIVED that experience, we had no clue what it was really like. These women told us, through tears, of how they watched husbands, fathers, and sons hunted down and slaughtered… About how the women of the village all had to band together to figure out how to survive in the war’s aftermath… and about how they had been propelled to begin their cooperative by a vision of peace for their children.

When they finished speaking, I wanted to speak to these brave women directly and thank them for taking the time to share their story with us. I wanted to look directly into their eyes, take their hands and express my gratitude.

The only obstacle was my limited high school Spanish vocabulary. I knew “Thank you” (gracias) because, duh… who doesn’t? But since I didn’t know the word for “story,” I hurried over to find one of our translators. Fernando, our primary translator was talking to someone else at that moment, so I found Jamie, the high school son of one of the professors. Jamie had been taking Spanish in school for eight years and so was very fluent. I said, “Jamie… quick: how do I say ‘story’ in Spanish?”

Without hesitation, he turned to me and said, “Cuento.”

I thanked him and went back to the women. Taking their hands one by one and looking into their eyes I said, “Gracias para su cuento. Gracias para su cuento.”

To my great surprise and dismay, my heartfelt thanks did not produce the response I expected. The women nodded to me, turned shyly to one another and began giggling.

I turned around, puzzled, and sheepishly made my way back to the bus.

Once on the bus, I found Fernando, the other translator, and explained to him what had just happened. When I finished my story, Fernando threw back his head and added the impact of his laughter to my already fragile ego.

“Oh, Russell,” he said between guffaws. “The word cuento means something like ‘fable’ or ‘fairy tale.’ So, in essence, you just told those women, ‘Thank you for your fairy tale.’”

Which started Fernando laughing all over again… at my expense I might add.

At first, I was just sick. I thought, “How could I say such a stupid thing? These women just finished pouring out their hearts to us, telling us about the most horrific period of their entire lives, only to hear the dumbass gringo come up and thank them for their FAIRY TALE! Jeez! If someone said something that stupid to me, I think I’d want to punch them right in the face!”

“They should send me home right now before I do any more damage.”

As I sat there wallowing in my pool of shame, I suddenly paused and remembered the giggle that passed between those women. Yes, I realized, they knew I had used the wrong word for “story.” They knew I should have said, “Gracias para su historia,” instead of cuento.

But they weren’t mad at me.

They were amused. They knew I was trying to express gratitude even as I failed miserably to do so.

Their giggle said, “Poor Yanqui and his botched SpanishBut he’s trying, isn’t he?”

It was then I realized that in that giggle, I had received grace.

Gracias, mujeres. Via con dios.

 




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