Forgive me for the long wait-times between blogs. All three of you that read this deserve better.
Alright, so let's get to some specifics. Right now I'm sitting on the balcony of my apartment updating this blog because it's an incredibly beautiful day in Madrid and I got out of work extremely early due to the fact that the 2nd graders took a trip to the mountains. Since they didn't invite me, I figured I'd ask if I could go home rather than sit and do nothing. Days like this are rare for me during the week so I'm really trying to enjoy it and make the most of it.
On Sunday I got home from an Easter retreat with people from Oasis. It was the perfect conclusion to one of the best weeks of my life. I'm not exaggerating, this past week ranks up there among the best. In case you're wondering, also on the list would be: 1) a VBS week I had many years ago with the Carson family and their youth from their church in KY 2) a week with my family down in Myrtle Beach 3) Another VBS week where every night I was up until about 3AM memorizing lines for the next morning's skits with Aaron, Dan and Zach 4) Any one of the weeks I spent in St. Augustine in the winter of 2008-2009 5) A week I spent with Mom Mom and Dorothy down in North Carolina after I graduated college. All of those weeks were pretty epic.
Why was the week so good, you ask? Well, it started out with a trip down to Andalucía (Andalusia in English) which is the southern part of Spain and the culture that you find there is what we typically associate with Spain. You can find random Flamenco shows in the local pubs, there are Orange trees on all the streets and the people are very laid back. If you've been keeping up with my blog you'll remember I went to Sevilla back before Christmas which is in Andalucía and it's one of the cities I went to again this time. I went with 3 guys, 2 of them are from Maryland and 1 of them is from Kansas. Not only was it a fun trip because of the places we were able to see, but God has really blessed me with some guys over here that I feel like I can mesh with and be encouraged/challenged by.
There we are... aren't we adorable? We rented some bikes and went all around Sevilla which was really great. Jordan and Andy (the two on my left and right) were riding their bikes down some of the steps around town and I wanted to be cool so I tried it too and while I managed to stay on the bike, there was a lot of flailing and screaming. Drew, the guy all the way on the right in the picture is Jordan's friend from home (MD) and is here visiting for about a month. It'll be sad to see that guy go, he managed to fit right in with us and good times were had.
There were some mishaps with our transportation on this trip that included, but were not limited to: missing a flight, having to buy last minute bus tickets, paying 25 euros for a cab ride because we missed the last bus to the airport, paying another 25 euros to go back from the airport because the airport was closed when we arrived and spending the night at a bar in a bus station surrounded by homeless people and prostitutes. The bus station experience looked a bit like this:
By that point we probably felt a bit like we look in this picture. However, some amazing talks came out of that experience and God placed it on our hearts to stand and pray over the entire bus station. It was a surprisingly emotional thing and it seemed like the Holy Spirit really wanted to teach us something although I'm still not sure exactly what it was.
So the guy trip was the first part of the week and the day after we got back we took off with the rest of the church on the retreat. For that trip we all hopped on a bus and went to the countryside about an hour and a half outside of Madrid. It looked like this:
It was a beautiful place and a great rest from the city for all of us. The main reason I'm writing this blog is because of the things I wanted to share about the retreat. I've explained in the past the way God is using Oasis to provide for me the community that I specifically prayed for before coming to Spain, but thanks to the retreat, I am starting to see more clearly just what it is that He is doing with me. Oasis seems to be a bit of a unique community in the fact that the majority of people are in Spain on a year-to-year basis and many of us don't know exactly why we're here or what the next step is. We had a guest speaker for the retreat named Dr. Hap Struthers:
Hap was a Navy Chaplain for 21 years and has all sorts of Ph.D.'s and degrees in Hebrew and Old Testament languages. He spent the 4 days walking us through the different names for God in the bible and what the original words in Hebrew meant. He showed us how when someone refers to God in the bible, they will choose one of the names to emphasize some of the characteristics of God. He taught us about the names Lord (Adonai: Ownership/Master), God (Elohim: Power/Control), God Almighty (El Shaddai: Life/Strength) and LORD (Yahweh: Relationship/Intimacy/Father/Mother/Husband). It really resonated with many of us. So many people in this community have to rely on God almost daily to give them guidance and to provide for them in some difficult circumstances that arise when living abroad. So, we often call on the Lord (our master) to take care of His servant as we submit to God (and His power and control) so that He can be our Almighty (and give us life and strength). Then, when things get scary we know we can run to the LORD who will take us into His arms as a father does. Pretty cool, right? As far as what God is doing specifically with me, well another thing people say often here is that Madrid feels like a "training ground" of sorts. I think that is exactly what is happening with me. I'm definitely being shown a lot of the things God can do with me and I think He is preparing me to take advantage of that when I go back to the States. I don't know what that will look like, but it feels like God has stolen me away to Spain so that He can renovate my heart and send me back to the US with a new passion for Him.
Aside from all the learning and worshipping that we did, we also had a lot of fun hanging out and having fellowship with each other. Saturday night we had a skit night which led to this kind of madness:
There are tons more pictures and some videos on facebook so if you're not yet my friend, friend me.
I hope this long A post isn't annoying. More to come.