Monthly Archives: October 2012

My French Quest

My Parisian Journey Begins : Week 1, Rouen and Chartres

I am returning to one of my favorite cities in the world to become immersed in its culture.  This first day here was very surreal as I used a skeleton key to open my “appartement” which will be my new home for the next four months in contrast to staying in a hotel for one week as a tourist.  The building is over 200 years old and my room of 10×10 has a definite “Parisian” feel to it: terraced view, wooden floors, a tiny bathroom with bad plumbing, and the sounds of motorcycles and sirens outside!

As I was preparing for bed the first night, I glanced out of my window, over the rooftops of the Latin Quarter, and saw a double rainbow, God’s promise to me that I was in His hands! It was a duplicate of the double rainbow…

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My Parisian Journey: Week 5

My French Quest

An American in Paris

Last Friday I felt more American than I have for the past month:  I voted by absentee ballot for President of the United States.  In fact, my heart swelled with pride as I exercised this Constitutional right as an American Citizen.  Most of the headlines here and conversation has been around our election.  The world is watching our Nation and looking to us for leadership.

This past month I have reflected on the main differences between living  in Paris and in the United States and have found four main differences.

The first difference is the weather.  In El Paso, we see about 10 inches a year of precipitation.  In Paris, I have already seen 10 inches (or centimeters) of rain in one month.  In fact, I always have my umbrella with me and wear my rainboots just in case! It is generally overcast here, or soupy, but on those…

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My Parisian Journey: Week 4

My French Quest

A Respite in the Pyrenees

Part of any immersion experience when learning a second language is to visit other regions where the language is spoken.  I had the chance to do this last weekend as the students in our program took a trip to Roussillon, southwestern France, in the Pyrenees Mountains.  This part of France at one time belonged to Spain  in the 1400’s during the Aragon-Comte and therefore has a lot of Spanish influence. In fact Catalan (combination of French and Spanish) is still spoken here and many signs around the cities are in both languages.  This area reminds me of the border region of El Paso; even though there are two distinct bordering countries, the cultures have still each retained their autonomy and primary language.

Roussillon is right along the coast of the Mediterranean and has many old fortresses and vineyards dating back to the 5th century. The…

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Impressionism: Monet

My French Quest

A Weekend with Monet!

During my Study Abroad semester in Paris, I am trying to take advantage of travel and culture on the weekends  as part of my immersion experience. This past Saturday morning, I decided to take one of my “Impressionist Walks” around the Gare St. Lazare, the area where Monet, Manet, Renoir and Caillebotte lived and painted.  The railway had opened up the world to Parisians and became the symbol of “modernity”during the late 1800’s.  This is one reason you see so many Impressionists painting trains, train stations and bridges. During my walk, I visited 1) Pont de L’Europe the vantage point of Caillebotte, Manet and Monet while painting the Gare St. Lazare 2) the Place de L’Europe a few blocks away which was the inspiration for Caillebotte’s Paris Street: Rainy Day 3)  Manet’s studio at rue de Rome where he painted Gare St-Lazare, 4) and one…

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His Vision, Our Prayer: “Light of the World”

Tuesday, October 9

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt 5:14 NIV)

 Lord Jesus let Your light shine through us to drive back the darkness in the world around us.

Often people think of the United States of America as the “city on a hill” that Jesus spoke of in his historic Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount for Jesus was like the Gettysburg address for Abraham Lincoln. In His vision of the Kingdom of God, Jesus laid out for His followers their calling and mandate.

As He gazed over the faces of hundreds of common ordinary people who sat at his feet taking in every word from His lips, Jesus declared: “You are the light of the world.” As Bonheoffer noted in his classic “The Cost of Discipleship.” Jesus did not say “You WILL BE the light of the world.” He declared to one and all “You ARE the light of the world.”

If our nation wanders deeper into the darkness it is not the darkness fault. Darkness cannot drive out the light. no light drives out the darkness. Increasing darkness only reveals the absence of light. We must do as our LORD commanded:

“Let your light so shine before me, that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Oh may this be said of us.

Lord Jesus shine in our hearts that we may reflect your glory to the world around us–especially in the dark places.

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27 Days and Counting: America Goes to the Polls

In just twenty-seven days the voters of the United States will select the next president of the United States and a host of other leaders on a national, state, and local level. We must all remember that the effectiveness and power of a great democracy rests in the hands of the people. Political action committees, campaign strategists, and millions upon millions of dollars are spent to determine the outcome of an election but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is what the voter does behind the curtain.

 I can still remember vividly most first time to vote. I was a peach-fuzz faced junior at Baylor University in 1980. As a proud born again Baptist I had set my mind to vote for the re-election of President Jimmy Carter who was running against an actor from California name Ronald Reagan, who had starred in a box office hit co-starring with a monkey named Bonzo!

 When I proudly announced to one of my friends I was going to vote for Carter, I was shocked and a bit saddened by the rebuttal by one of my closest friends, who questioned my judgment and my Christianity if I voted for Carter. He added, “I am going to pray that you don’t make it to the polls.” For the first time in my life I came face to face with the sharp divisions created even within the family of faith over politics.

 Just for the record, I voted for Carter. History will reveal that the actor who befriended the monkey became one of the great presidents in American history. I grew to love and appreciate Reagan.

 Ronald Reagan made the following observation about democracy when he declared in no uncertain terms:

 “Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.”

 Reagan understood that without the influence of God on the hearts and minds of people, a nation would soon vote itself out of existence through bad choices and weak leaders driven by self-interest.

 Of course, Winston Churchill, who toiled under the watchful eye of a king, questioned the sanity of democracy when he quipped:

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

If you too are beginning to wonder about the future of a nation resting in the hands of the masses, let me remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul who lived out his life under the boot of the Roman Empire. He wrote: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. “(Romans 13:1 NIV)

In a matter of days, the voters of our land will enter the ballot booth, but when the election results stream across the screen or the page look closely for the finger prints of God.  I don’t know for sure how it all works, but I know God works for good in all things, even elections!

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His Vision, Our Prayer: The Salt of the Earth

Monday, October 8

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matt 5:13 NIV)

 Lord Jesus, scatter us like salt into our society to stave off decay and to flavor our world with the taste of Your grace and Your Kingdom.

In the days of Jesus salt was used much more as a preservative than a flavor enhancer. Long before “ice boxes” and refrigerators if meat was to be kept edible away from decay salt was rubbed deep into its pores. For salt to do its work it had to be forced into the very host it was meant to preserve.

As followers of Jesus if we have any hope of making a difference in our world it will not be behind stained glass windows. Only as we permeate the world around us do we have any hopes of making a positive difference in our world. As we pray moving up to the election, I believe God is calling us to be the “change we can believe in.” President Obama’s slogan has a wonderful kick to it, but slogans will not win the day. We must move beyond intentions to actions.

Pray that the LORD will compel His people to get outside the walls of their sanctuaries and get their hands dirty and their hearts broken. We need to laugh with those who laugh. Cry with those who cry. Share life with all. We need to preach the gospel–the “good news”. We need to be “the gospel.”

Historian Stephen Ambrose noted that during WWII that if someone saw a dozen young American soldiers entering their village they knew deep in their hearts that this meant good news. Unlike soldiers from other countries who were known for exploitation and violence, the American citizen soldier was known for his strength of character and his open backpack as they distributed candy to children and c-rations to the hungry. It is my prayer we will be like those brave young men who changed the face of the world. May we stand firm against evil and may our actions bring hope to others.

Be the salt of the earth today.

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