Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lovers of the Light

A few days after I arrived back in Colombia, Diana, the administrative assistant at the vineyard, asked if I would like to join her for an afternoon in Tibasosa, a well-preserved colonial town just across the valley from Puntalarga. I was happy to have the opportunity to explore more of Boyacá, a place that continues to impress me with its beauty as well as the warmness of its people, los Boyacenses!  When we arrived, we were immediately invited to taste the local specialty, sabajon.  The traditional flavor is feijoa (guava-like) but my favorite variety was café.  It was basically the equivalent of Bailey’s.  Yes, please!  We watched as Boyacenses gathered around the town square for the festivities leading up to the lighting of the square.  The highlight was a dance competition between 4 sweet couples, most of whom appeared to be in their 70’s.

The dance was regional and the crowd loved it!  Then we hiked up the hill to an awesome restaurant called Salvaje Amistoso that had great views of the town.  

We arrived just as the rain did and so we had time to share stories.  Diana’s is one of hard work and determination.  She has a spirited 6-year old daughter named Mariana but goes by Luna.  She lives with Luna and her equally-spirited mother Miriam, in the house 50 meters down the hill from the house I’m living in.  But she spends most of her time in the office in the main house, keeping up with the business of the vineyard.  I was thankful for this time to get to know her better.

Just as the rain lifted, the lights of Tibasosa were illuminated.  It was quite a scene!  Rows of lights draped the entire town square.  The bright white cathedral was now brilliantly white with lights.  

And the “winterscape” on one side of the square made me miss my snow blanketed Vail Valley.  

That would be Santa, chilling in a hammock in a tree

As we were leaving the town to make our way for another city of lights, Nobsa, we exited through a block long tunnel of lights.  And it got me thinking. 

What is it about lights that we love?

Think about it.  There is an amazing fascination with lights, especially this time of year.  Many cities and towns across the world celebrate the lighting of a tree in the center of town and everyone “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs.”  We decorate our own trees and then wait for the moment of truth when someone has the honor of plugging in the lights to illuminate the painstaking work that has been done to cut down the tree and bring it home… or dig it out of storage and carefully attach the right branch to the right hole.  We attend parades of lights and visit festivals of lights. 

And it’s not just in the United States.

Colombia has fully embraced Christmas lights.  Tibasosa is an example.  And then we made our way through Sogamoso and on to Nobsa for their, more tasteful light display.  All of this was during “La Noche de las Velitas” or “The Night of Little Candles” when everyone lights candles outside their home to express their belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.  I’m amazed I only saw one paper bag burning from the candle inside during the evening.  And then I saw the highway that runs through Puntalarga transform into a tropical winter scene as I understood the purpose for the palm trees made from plastic bottles.  It doesn’t look so great during the day.  But at night, it’s really pretty cool.  (Sorry...no pic of this.)

And our love of lights isn't just a Christmas phenomena. 

Consider Paris – the City of Lights – where I began the journey in September 2013.  The lights in the city create a glow like no place on earth.  And of course there is the Eiffel Tower that now sparkles with lights for a few minutes at the top of every hour – drawing the attention of millions of tourists and locals each year. 

Speaking of Paris – we love candlelit dinners, when that someone special sitting across from you is illuminated by a candle and everything else seems to fade away.  Or cozy campfires where the light also gives warmth to those huddled around it.  Or fireworks displays that dazzle us with the light that seems to rain down on us. 

What is it about light that we love?  

As I’ve pondered this question, I have found, for me, the answer is I love the light because it is symbolizes that which I am seeking after in my life – Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

As I was thinking about the love of light, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a woman in Pokhara, Nepal last November.  She had spoken to a group of Nepali women about how “light” appears in the Bible.  I don’t remember much of what she said so I decided to do my own little study of “light” in the Bible. 

Here are some of the things that were brought to light. (Sorry… I had to.)   

“Light” is in the very first and the very last chapters of the Bible:
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3-5)

God has used “Light” to save people from death and destruction:
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” (Exodus 13:21) – referring to the Israelites as they were fleeing the captivity of the Egyptians.

David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the power of the “Light” that was the Lord:
“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’” (Psalm 4:6)
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
“He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:6)
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

“Light” is sweet:
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:7)  Amen!  As I trudged up a mountain in the middle of the night a year ago, I kept telling myself, “Just wait for the sky to get light… you know you can do this.”  I’ve never seen a sunrise sweeter than the one from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The “Light” transforms people:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

The “Light” comforts:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)

 The “Light” shines brightest in the darkness:
No one knew this better than Job.  Did you know that the word “light” appears the most in the entire Bible in the book of Job, 29 times?  “Job” is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible.  It is the epic story of the faithfulness of a man to God in the midst of being tested by Satan – as in losing EVERYTHING – and ultimately trusting in God as his creator.  Job knew and lived in light.  And then he knew and lived in darkness.  To him the difference was real and great.  At the beginning of his trial he asked: “Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:16)  But then Job defends his God to his friends, “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.” (Job 12:22)  Job later explains to his friends “How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness.” (Job 29:3)  Then Job’s friend Elihu reminds Job, “God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.” (Job 33:28)  And then the Lord speaks up.  He reminds Job of the true nature of the creator God.  “What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?” (Job 38:24)

(The most interesting description of light might be when the Lord describes his creation of the Leviathan: “His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.” (Job 41:18) His sneezes flash forth light?  I’m sorry, but that’s just funny to imagine.) 

And as I consider the darkness in the world that I read about in the news, or that I know others are experiencing in their own reality, I know I am looking for some light in the darkness, for the “good news” instead of being pummeled by bad news and sad news. 

The “Light” is the Good News:
The Good News is that “Light” came into the world when God became man in the form of a baby named Jesus.  “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:4-5,9-13) 

The “Light” taught us of the power of “Light”:
The following are words spoken by Jesus about light…
“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)  I know I have failed at this many times.  My light has gone out many times.  Lord, thank you for reigniting my lamp.  May I be faithful to keep it shining. 
 “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27)    
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.  Therefore consider carefully how you listen.  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” (Luke 8:16-18) 
“Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eye is healthy, your whole body if full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  Amen?  Amen!

The “Light” convicts:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes in to the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”  (John 3: 19-21)

The “Light” gives hope for a New Day:
“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24)

As you see the lights throughout this Christmas season, my prayer is that everyone would know the loving power of the “Light of the World” who wants to bring all of us from darkness into light. 

I’ll leave you with Linus and his words… after he said “Lights, please!”

Monday, December 8, 2014

Family and the Familiar in Florida

Last March when I was in the process of deciding to extend my sabbatical into a second year, I knew that I wanted to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family.  I sent a message to my sister-in-law, Carolyn, and asked her what their plans were for Thanksgiving.  During the past 10 years, we’ve been blessed to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Longboat Key, Florida at Grandma and Grandpa Weaver's condo.  So I asked Carolyn if they were planning on going to Florida for Thanksgiving.  She said that they were planning on going if I was planning on going.  I told her I was planning on going if they were planning on going.  So I guess we were all going to Florida for Thanksgiving, as long as my parents were on board as well.  That was basically a given. 

I also planned my destination this fall keeping in mind a location with easy access to Florida.  Thankfully, Spirit Airlines flies into all the major cities in Colombia… for super cheap!  My flight from Chicago to Cartagena was $170 and I was able to fly from Bogota to Tampa for $220!  And fun fact: Cartagena is closer to Miami than Chicago is. 

And so, I was Florida bound for the Thanksgiving holiday with the fam.  I’m still doing my best to practice the philosophy of “wherever you are, be all there”, but I was really looking forward to time at the beach.  This is in part because it is a place with few surprises.  After constantly learning new things about different cultures, once in a while, the familiar can be a place of great rest.    
Made sure to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico every day.  Love it!

Longboat Key has been this place of rest for our family over the years.  And because Weavers have been making regular pilgrimages here since the 1970’s the memories are numerous.  Most of these memories have taken place on the beach and at our favorite restaurants. 
Last time we took this photo, Zack and Carolyn were just engaged!
Walking the beach, often a couple times of day, is obligatory.  If we turn to the left, our destination is the Longboat Key Club where Pops always says we have to touch the rock. 

If we turn to the right, we pass by a handful of beach “bungalows” (read: ginormous mansions) and then turn around at the Privateer (the second oldest condo building on the island after ours) or if we are feeling “adventurous” we walk another 20 minutes to the pier, then turn around.  Walks have been filled with laughs, with tears, with dreams and with fears.  (I promise I didn’t intend for that to rhyme)  Sometimes we walk alone or in pairs.  Some walk in tennis shoes, other in bare feet.  Some admire the birds, others tolerate the birds (me) and one little one (Hudson) likes to chase the birds.  

I used to look for sea shells to take home but after so many years of collecting shells, it doesn’t seem to be necessary any more. 

And then we are able to spend hours on the beach… mostly reading.  My favorite spot is in a low beach chair with my toes in the water. The only reason to move is when the tide gets higher.  This is the epitome of peacefulness.  

But there is a little more activity now that the 3rd generation has arrived.  Huddy loves the water!  And he also likes putting stuff in containers.  So you can imagine all the work he had to do in filling his sand buckets with water.  I’m quite certain we spent a couple hours on this activity.

On cloudy days or days when we find ourselves a little more motivated, we make our way to St. Armand’s Circle or “The Circle” as it’s known.  On this trip, we learned that the Circle was the vision of John Ringling (of Circus fame) back in the day.  His desire was to make a center for world class dining and shopping.  And it is this, but the best part is the people watching, especially from Crab and Fin – our family’s favorite spot on the circle.  They have a wonderful menu highlighted by fresh baked bread but the best part is the piano player.  Grandpa Bob would always remind us to “tip the piano player.” 

In addition to Crab and Fin, Pops always does an incredible job of treating us to wonderful food.  This trip was no different, and maybe even better as my parents felt it appropriate to make sure I was well fed.  I didn’t bother reminding them that I’ve been treated to amazing cuisine, courtesy of Dr. Marco Quijano Rico, my host and boss at the vineyard in Colombia.  But, I’m definitely not one to turn down good food.  If you happen to find yourself in the Sarasota area, may I make a few suggestions?  Try Antoine's, Cafe Gabbiano, Columbia and Cafe L'Europe.  You won't be disappointed!   

Which brings me to a momentous event in Weaver Family history.  My brother made the Thanksgiving turkey.  By this I mean a male member of the Weaver family made the Thanksgiving turkey.  And it was wonderful.  It was dry-brined and spatchcocked and delicious.  Zack also made the sweeter-than-dessert, sweet potato casserole, a family favorite.  Carolyn contributed her family’s classic broccoli casserole and Pops promised to make the pies.  I was puzzled as to how that would happen as all that Pops makes is coffee and toast.  Moms reminded me that Publix sells pies.  Of course.  What was I thinking? 

My proposed Thanksgiving Dinner, “apps on the beach” was postponed a few days as a result of the "Thanksgiving Day Revolt" (that resulted in Zack making the turkey).  We enjoyed lots of cheese in various forms as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico.  I think we should do this more often.   

But alas, one thing was missing.  Well, two actually.  Luke and Rachel.  I kept hoping for a surprise to show up at the door, but no luck.  Instead they are making the most of their Middle East adventure and we couldn’t be happier for them.  But still, we missed them! 
There's some competition going on between these two couples.
It's all fun and games until someone throws out their back. 

I will say, as much as I loved being with my family in a beautiful place, I almost think reverse culture shock is more difficult that culture shock.  It’s the feeling of being in a familiar place where I expect familiar feelings, but those feelings have now been layered with experiences from cultures where life is more simple.  There are no thoughts of keeping up with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals or updating my old iPhone to the latest iOS, or being concerned with driving a rental car without my name being on the agreement.  The feelings are more complex and deeper than these examples, but at this point, I can’t quite put it into words. 

Instead, I find myself back at the vineyard in Colombia, a place that felt like home when I arrived again last Thursday.  I was welcomed back by the Doctor, his family and the rest of the girls at the vineyard to celebrate the month long wine festival that began on Saturday… which will be highlighted in future posts. 
View from my "office" at the vineyard

In the meantime, you are all welcome to attend Vid y Vino Internacional (Vine and Wine International), celebrated each Saturday afternoon until January 10th at the Viñedo de Puntalarga.  Let me know if you can make it!  I’d love to see a familiar face!  

Before I go... a few more from the Huddy Collection

Fun at the Mote Marine Aquarium 

Looking for his wingman

Boy loves his cheese

The End