at the edge of the world, coming back from paul’s far away land, i had the terrible and strange feeling of being close to the ocean. i knew this was impossible as i took the metro inland and then a bus even farther away. but as we walked i wanted to jump up above the hedges and fences, the houses a block away, and try and catch a glimpse of the elusive ocean. but that was not to be. riding the bus back, at the crest of a gently sloping swell of the earth, the mist in the lowlands obscured the vision of lands beyond, again creating the sense that there, just down there, on the other side of those buildings, a safe distance away, of course, was the steady press of the sea, grasping at the sand beaches. but i knew this could not be. the cruel trick my senses and the environment played upon me was almost oppressive. a subtle bewilderment followed me.
on thursday john dipped into the friday lunch supply making sure that everyone who came to get a lunch got a lunch, but leaving us quite possibly short for the future. but i feel john did what was right, especially since he went out and got the means to make twenty five extra lunches for friday. and then we passed out the tickets, passed out the lunches, and had about twenty, twenty five left over. funny how that stuff works out.
tim is back from canada, having lived through meetings abundant, and having experienced snow, for which most of us (i at least, if nobody else!) are quite jealous. i am hoping that when we take our little excursion into the hills a ways, the surrounding hills will have the white cap blessing of soft and frozen wonder. and then i will climb to them and we shall be friends. but no guarantees, i suppose.
tim and i had out weekly chill time wandering around town and waiting for 2:30 to roll around so we could pick up the free bread from the nice little bakery. actually, despite the fact of obvious Christmas cheer adorning their heads in the way of fancy santa hats, one of the ladies working there seems to have a forever grimace to go with her crusty bitterness attitude. when she asks ‘prego?’ indicating that the next person in line should probably order about now, it feels like she is actually asking you to leave in very short and curt terms. but we got our bread, eventually, and made our way off, talking about the wonderful contrary-to-the-world call of Christ, and those who try at living such a life and those who fail miserably. not to be too judgmental, but some groups just miss the point entirely. you start to wonder if a bunch of people out there have actually read the Gospels in the last fifty years or so. start to forget things after a while, may want to catch up on some real Truth from time to time. if it isn’t too much of a bother.
that eve we had a grand festival of eating and talking. all the agape peoples were gathered and crammed into the girls’ apartment for a Christmas time extravaganza. i ate far too much food, but when people make such good foods and pastries, i feel obligated to partake in at least one or several helpings of everything. we talked about the sorts of awesome things that Jesus is doing in our ministry and in our lives. i got to share, mainly stories you have already heard if you have been keeping up on this silly thing about the odd and beautiful friendships that have been placed before me. i thank the good Lord for such amazing gifts. we exchanged gifts of our own, speaking of which. phil got a giant piece of pizza. i mean, a man sized piece of plastic display pizza. we could collectively think of no other person better suited to receive such a gift. it now lives happily in our apartment.
i offered my services as a player of various stringed instruments to lead some Jesical songs for the evening. this was a nice time, people told me afterwards. but as the a cappella wonder and beauty of what just happened faded out, a child from the other room shouted a well timed ‘yay!’ and everyone laughed. fair enough. but then, to break the mood into something a bit lighter, that got certain individuals started on singing rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. and of course i wonder at the choices of some people in certain circumstances. but i just play the guitar, and they can do with that time of worship and reflection as they will.
this morning elisabeth wasn’t going to be around until later again, so tim and justin were in charge of the meal. a group of agape peoples came a bit later and helped pack things away and such and were there for the distribution of the foods. i talked to a couple of the new soccer boys and they, with what hand motions and foreign (to me, at least) words were most applicable, conveyed to me the information that caleb’s ball had exploded. so, much to our chagrin, no soccer was played today. speaking primarily through an Iraqi friend, we set a time tomorrow to play by the colosseum; phil and i would bring a ball if they bring the players.
phil and i hung out with our friend ali most of the rest of the afternoon. he is from yemen and we see him around often. he is a funny guy who knows enough english to be able to make jokes with us. he also teaches us some arabic from time to time. travelling with ali is fun because he as no metro ticket, which is needed to get past the little doors, so we get creative in getting him through. today i let him slide my pass through the machine, but instead of grabbing it as it popped up, scanned and ready, he swiped his hand over it, leaving it in place, as he had an old used ticket in hand to make it look like he had grabbed it to any one watching. and as phil purposefully made his year-pass freak out all the machines as if it wasn’t working, distracting the attention of the guard, i took back my pass and tried it in the machines, all of them rejecting it as it had just been used. but the guard got fed up with our fumblings, checked our tickets, valid in every way, and allowed us through. can mildly breaking the law be ministry? maybe i shouldn’t tell you guys these things…
we went to see the ‘manifestation.’ that being a big demonstration of the italian democratic party outside of the church of san giovanni. this included a GIANT stage with an extremely mediocre, politically-minded ska band hurting everyone’s ears. i was surprised at how many people were middle aged or older. we pushed our way through thousands of people, all jammed together with incredible closeness. they certainly spared no expense on this thing, with lights galore, and sound systems from outer space, and enough free hats and flags to clothe a small country. these guys really want some change. they got obama fever over here, too. we walked away eventually, the sounds of the gathering dying slowly behind, following us down long streets like reaching hands desperate for our continued attention, until the noise of a busy street finally swallowed our ears. ali followed closely behind me as i walked through the gate and no one stopped us. we said farewell. we will most likely see him tomorrow.
we hung out with the girls tonight and helped them finish some wonderful soups from friday’s shenanigans. i left early to talk to my family and, through the miracle of skype, be ‘present’ for the setting up and decorating of the Christmas tree. it was nice, but kind of sad at the same time that i just was there. but it was ok. we talked some good stuff, too. it’s always good to see them, anyway.