Wednesday, November 7, 2012

United We Stand.




Not long ago I went away for the day and met a friend in Springfield for a tour of the Lincoln Museum.  One of the movies perfectly captured the polarization of America during that time and the tense and fractured political landscape of the country at the time of Lincoln’s election.  My friend looked at me as the movie ended and exclaimed, “...it’s like history has repeated itself! That’s like when Obama was elected!”

A few weeks later I sit on the other side of yet another election.  This election has left the country polarized in a way that is only rivaled by 1860, I fear.  Just as then, it isn’t about any one issue.  It isn’t just slavery or gay rights.  It isn’t just liberal versus conservative.  It isn’t just about state’s rights or the debt ceiling.


The polarized political climate reaches beyond national advertisements, party platforms, and speeches.  Polarization happens over the “water cooler” in the workplace, across the dinner table, in the comments on youtube, and in timelines on facebook.  The polarized political landscape is as personal as it is national.

Yesterday after I voted, I sat at the Bone Student Center (Illinois State University) doing church work.  At the table behind me I overheard a student asking another student who he had voted for.  The second student replied that he voted for Obama.  Before storming off, the first student exclaimed, “What?! Are you an f-ing idiot? You know you’re either an American or a democrat!’”

Wow. I feel as though we have come to a time in American politics that we must be very, very careful.  It isn’t that the issues before us aren’t personal, they are.  Yet, this country and, therefore, politics is, in the end, about people.  We disagree.  We have different perspectives.  We may even stand completely opposed to one another.  We cannot, however, forget that we are brothers and sisters.  We cannot forget that we have a mandate from history (and our constitution) to stand united and we have a Biblical and moral mandate to love those who are our neighbors, even our opponents.

I don’t have a political answer for this divided country.  I know not how to bring all of this nation together through some program, initiative, or (God forbid) war, but I think that much of the solution starts in learning, again, a thing called civil discourse.  I think that we must learn to recognize the goodwill of the person across the aisle (or table) and remember that any mess (political or otherwise): we are in it together.

Today is not about gloating or finger-pointing.  Today is not about who won or who lost. And, most importantly, today is not about right or wrong, righteous or unrighteous.  Today is about healing and moving forward.  Let us pledge to look for injustice in the world and, hand-in-hand with the people around us (Dem, GOP, Green, or other), let us find ways to work to make this world better than when we found it.

blessings,
















cover image from: http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/blog/morning-edition/2012/10/ways-to-avoid-political-divisiveness.html

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reboot



What does it mean to start over?  When it comes to a cake, you have to trash the whole burnt mess and start with all new ingredients.  Luckily starting fresh in life doesn't have to be so violent (or messy), but it can be.  Sometimes we have to lose our lives in order to start over.  Jesus said something about that in the Bible, in fact....

For me, starting over wasn't an obvious thing.  I didn't even realize it was happening nor did I have that intent.  Yet, over the last few weeks I've come to realize that I look at certain things differently.  My worldview has shifted ever-so slightly.


I notice it in things as simple as my sleep schedule.  Over the last few months I've been going to bed earlier and getting my day started sooner.  Is it because I look forward to what tomorrow holds?

I notice it in my attentiveness to my wife.  I don't know if she notices, but I'm a little more aware of what is happening for her, although a new church appointment has kept me from investing more time in my marriage.

I notice it in my outlook on issues and, even, moments of "crisis" around me.  I think the experiences of a brain tumor, two neuro-surgeries, and a near-death experience in my hospital bed have changed my world in ways I didn't even realize...  somehow for the better.

I don't think you will notice the changes I have experienced.  I don't think it is in overt ways, necessarily, but it happened all the same.  As a pastor, I look around at the world and wonder...is that what faith does?  When we begin to see that there is hope and love in this world, does it change us?  I think so.  We don't always notice the change right away, but when we see the world through the lens of possibility instead of impossibility...when we see that this world is more filled with love than hate...when we recognize that God can give us hope for a brighter tomorrow...I think it changes our world and us a little at a time.

Well, enough rambling for now!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Santa Cruz de La Palma

The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.


Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm.  It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes.  Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée.  After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.





Today was an unplanned day.  We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans.  It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma.  Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands.  Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center:  It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!

The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma
Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today.  Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way.  When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café.  Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store.  We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering.  When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them.  By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.






Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together.  Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.



And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.




The difference between a foodie and a food snob can be a very fine line.  But I’m going to suggest that “foodies” enjoy gourmet food yet also, hopefully, the experience of eating and the relationships that can grow around that experience.  A food snob allows their experience of food to overshadow relationships.

A foodie will likely send back something that they don’t like...in fact, if asked “Could we improve,” or “What did you not like,” by a server:  A foodie may even offer their opinion, but tastefully, I would hope.

A food snob is more likely to ruin the dining experience for all those around them with comments, sneers and rudeness.

I observed this recently in one of the restaurants on our cruise.  A person found their meal to be less-than-satisfactory and began berating the server and making obvious comments and rudeness.  It doesn’t take an etiquette coach to see that others at the table were not enjoying their meal: not because of the food, but because of the experience.

It wasn’t that this woman returned her food or that she offered her opinion it was the way in which she did it.  It wasn’t a question of what but how.

I think an experience, like this, at a restaurant has implications for other facets of our lives.


  • It is not a question of whether we sit in church and ‘hear’ a sermon.  It is a question of experiencing God and others in worship and in fellowship.
  • It is not a question of whether or not I carry my wife’s purse or help her down a step, it is whether my action is an expression of my love for her and done joyfully.
  • It is not just that my in-laws would invite me above deck to the hot tub as an obligation, but that they are truly extending an invitation that I be a part of the family.
And for all of us:
  • It is not a matter of whether we take time to sit around a common table as a family and eat, but it is a question of whether we allow our time spent together to be a family-enriching experience or not.


I hope that as we spend time with others in our lives, whether ‘family or friend,’ ‘friend or foe,’ we would think not just about what we are doing, but about how we do it!  I pray that we would all strive for life-enriching, relationship-growing, community-renewing attitudes and experiences!


The Island of Madeira: Funchal, Portugal


A photo of the pool area last night as we headed to our rooms.

It sounds bourgeois to say, I suppose, but at the end of these day-long excursions we feel completely exhausted.  Each afternoon or evening I find Carrie passed out on the bed and unmovable. So our day at sea, yesterday, was much needed.  I don’t have much in the way of photos, because I would have felt a bit like a voyeur walking around the pool area taking photos of people relaxing.  I think we can all agree that I made the right choice to just relax with family in the hot tub and leaving the photo-taking for today :-)


 




I did get some photos during the cooking class we took in the late morning.  We enjoyed spending time with Jonathan and Camille Justus and the Sea Bass dish was Dee-lish.

Although this pic was taken in the afternoon, but you
can see what we woke up to!

Today we woke to our morning room service at 7:15 am and, like each morning had breakfast on our deck.  This morning, though, as we drew back the curtains, we were greeted by the beautiful sight of Madeira.  Madeira is a beautiful island which a very interesting colonial history, but I will let wikipedia educate any who are interested in that.  For me, the sight from our deck was worth the trip.  We came into the port of Funchal (pronounced: foon chow, and it means “lots of fennel” because that is what the Portuguese found here when they came to the island in the 15th century) and experienced great food; a powerful rum, lemon juice, honey drink; and beautiful sights.  I highly recommend the island of Madeira for anyone who is traveling this part of the world.


the market at Funchal.



After our breakfast we went down to the lounge, since were were signed up for a cruise-line planned excursion.  We rode a bus in to a market. After a short explanation from a local guide about the purpose, history and future of the market, we went off in smaller groups and couples for shopping and sightseeing.  I was glad for this after feeling ‘herded,’ but with the loud noise and crowds, I was easily overwhelmed and worn-out.  Noise and crowds still take a lot out of me.  So after some time in the market I went off on my own to relax with a snack at a café.  Carrie joined me for a while and then we had to join back up with the group to head off to lunch.  Lunch was way up on a mountain overlooking the city at an estate / vineyard.  It was a wonderful lunch.
The view from the estate where we had lunch.

I didn’t mention that this excursion was part of “cruising with the chefs” so we had three chefs with us explaining food in the Mediterranean region.  The lunch was participatory and had demonstrations by local restauranteurs.  The only thing I wish I had done, if I had more time in Madeira, would be to take time and space for photography because I feel that I missed so many great photos along the way.

We got back to the boat for a class and tasting experience for Medeiran cuisine, but I had ‘hit my wall’ and needed to rest, but the others enjoyed the time, I think.

The ship just departed, so I am sitting on the deck with Carrie enjoying a diet coke and watching Madeira fall away behind the ship.

blessings & peace,


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Port of Motril, Spain




5:30 pm:



video
Leaving port yesterday we were able to witness a tug pulling the cruise ship, although I don’t think we had a tug any of the other times we left port.  I suspect it was because we were so tight in at the port.

video

I also learned something that I didn’t know:  The captain of a cruiseship, apparently, does not take the ship in or out of port.  A boat from the port authority comes out and meets the ship and then a captain comes aboard who specializes in “parking” cruiseships.  Huh.  Who would have thought.  We saw a small boat come up the other night and someone came aboard.  I didn’t think they were Somali pirates, but I guess I was curious who was jumping aboard before we got to port.  Now I guess I know.  Here is a video of...we’ll call him a valet...the guy leaving our ship after he got us out of port last night.


Last night was a bit choppier at sea.  We were late leaving port, but I think we left by 5:30pm or so and were at sea until sometime this morning.  For the most part, it is so smooth you hardly know the difference, but last night we could feel a bit more movement.  It was actually funny, because the first time I felt it, it felt like the disorientation I’d been feeling with my medicines since surgery (that just went away before the cruise) so I had to ask my wife if it was in my head or if the boat was moving.

Lunch in Granada (the arab quarter)
I had a restful night, but still had great difficulty getting up this morning.  My wife, I suspect, was quite irritated that we were leaving the ship later than intended, but she didn’t say a word.  Katie and Andrew joined with Carrie and I and we took a taxi from the port at Motril to Granada.  We really made the right choice in going on our own.  Katie and Carrie had both been there before and both feel that it is in their top 3 cities worldwide.  We only had a few hours so without the hustle and bustle of a tour group, we were able to relax and enjoy a long lunch off the beaten path (well, not really as far off the path as we would have liked).

After lunch Katie and Andrew and Carrie and I split up and went our own ways.  Andrew was on the hunt for some good local wines and Carrie and I really wanted to just enjoy the streets and get some interesting photos.  Since we didn’t have the time to go see Alhambra, we tried to find a scenic overlook from some tourist information, but to no avail.  We gave up and enjoyed our limited view.

We ran into Katie and Andrew just in front of a little café/bar.  How convenient.  We had drinks and relaxed in the shade before heading back down to the taxi.

The taxi to Granada was the only real way to go for us, but it was pricy.  We thought it would be about 80€ (somewhere around $100 or so) each way and would have had to started back a bit sooner (in order to find a new cab), but in the end we were able to hire a driver to wait for us and it was a bit cheaper.

When we got back to the ship we were exhausted.  It had been a good day, but we had tried to cover a lot of ground in a very limited amount of time.  Carrie and I couldn’t think of doing another thing.  I ordered room service treats (i’m working on a diet coke and fruit plate, right now) and I am working on this blog out on the balcony and Carrie has passed out into our bed.  We should be getting underway, soon.  Tomorrow, I think, is a day at sea, so no stops.  That means time by the pool and cooking classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center.

Hope this note finds you all doing very well!


7:00 pm:

Update:  Well, internet was down earlier, so I have more to say, now :-)  Our cruise director came on earlier to let us know to expect a bit more motion today / tonight as we leave port and head to the Atlantic.  It is nothing to worry about, but the wind has, apparently, picked up and we’re in for rougher waters.  He wasn’t kidding!  It’s not enough to feel sick, but enough to know you’re on a ship.

Well, That really is enough, I think.  I’m going to get back to the fun of vacation!



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Valéncia, Spain



Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias

9:00 am:

Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.

Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though...  :-)

Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.

I hope that all is well for you...wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:

We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing... i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.


A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega

Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)




The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would...it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.

We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.


We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 



We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!

Blessings,


Monday, September 3, 2012

A day in Palma Mallorca & Valldemos




8:30 am:  

There was briefly an alarm going off on-shore...I hope they didn’t mistake us for pirates ;-)  Actually, it was a perfect and uneventful morning, but now we are bustling around a bit to get ready and be in the lounge where we are expected for our first excursion of the cruise.  It is called “Panaramic Valldemosa”

If you would like to learn a little bit more about: Mallorca, Valldemosa.

2:15 pm:

We couldn’t remember exactly what it was we signed up for (a month ago), but it turned out to be a relaxing trip up into the mountains just seeing the sights.  This is different than past Bob & June Berry vacations.  They usually have a car and more freedom to get away from the crowds, so Carrie and I were a little worried about this trip.  Even though we rushed past several sites (and leisurely walks) we would have liked to take in, our destination was a great, old, monastery that sat in a picturesque village.




On the way out of Palma we passed a seemingly amazing cathedral, which would make a great stop in Palmas on another trip and saw a very enjoyable path along the ocean, should we ever get back here.



Anyway- Once we toured the monastery, Carrie and I got away and walked around the village on our own and ended up back near the monastery at a little Café.  The highlight of my trip so far was being able to order for Carrie and I (Carrie was en los banos) in decent-enough Spanish.  Alright, the waitress knew English perfectly well, I’m sure, but I still accomplished something.  Go Me!




I was wearing out.  Carrie, June, Andrew & Katie all went on into Palmas de Mallorca to have lunch at a renowned Michelin-Star Tapas restaurant, but I was too tired.  I knew I was going to hit my wall and ever-since my surgeries...when I hit it, I’m done.  I wanted to be sure to be in the comfort of the ship when I got to that point, so here I am writing this blog and then heading up for lunch with Bob, Ken & Tricia.



Well, for now, Buenos Tardes, Amigos!!!



Sunday, September 2, 2012

In Barcelona

my beautiful wife at breakfast with me.
Well, we made it across 'the pond' and let me tell you something...it was my most pleasant trans-atlantic flight, yet!  You see, the upside of having had two brain surgeries this spring?  Pain relievers.  There is no reason to fly uncomfortably if you can help it and, this time, I could.  A couple of Somas was probably the most helpful part of my trip :-)

Heathrow Airport in London


The only snag we had, was right away in St. Louis at the airport.  Carrie and I were in the last group of passengers to board and they ran out of room for over-head carry-ons...so one of our bags had to be checked plane-side.  Except, it never showed back up.  Luckily there wasn't much in it, but the biggest loss are my tennis shoes.  so sad.  The good news is that they have found the bag and it's on-route to Barcelona...but we're leaving Barcelona, so we hope it 'catches up' soon!

La Boqueria, a market in Barcelona
The plaza near La Boqueria


Our first day of the trip, once we made it to Barcelona, was very nice.  We went to La Boqueria which is a famous market and we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in a lovely plaza nearby.  The crowds were too much for me (ever-since my surgeries I can't handle that sort of noise and crowds).



our hotel lobby

After a restful night our bags are in the hall with their tags and we are down in the restaurant.  We're on our way!