McCanns in Honduras

Let the nations be glad & sing for joy!

Spanish Word – Tranquilo

Above: A tranquilo Lucy on our porch.

From time to time, as we learn some Spanish, we’ll try to help you learn some as well.

Tranquilo is a word we’ve heard often here, and has become one of our favorites, both because of what it means and how it sounds. It basically means to relax, calm down, chill out. We’ve heard it in class when a student gets too frustrated and the teacher tries to calm them down, we’ve heard it on the basketball court when a player takes a bad shot and his teammates try to get him to slow down, and we’ve said it a lot in our home to try and help Lucy relax when she is upset.

We also like the word because it reflects to some degree the attitude of the culture. LIfe in Costa Rica is not lived at the crazy pace that it is in the states. People love to stop and chat, have some cafe, never rush (unless they are driving), and absolutely never look at their watch to start (or end) anything.

Though tough to apply at times, we are trying to embrace our new life, tranquilo-style.

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March 31, 2008 Posted by | Lucy, Spanish Language | 1 Comment

Downtown San Jose

 Above: Downtown San Jose from the National Museum.

Last week we went to the National Museum to see the butterfly exhibit, and from the courtyard we had this view of San Jose.  The black netting in the bottom of the picture is the roof of the butterfly house.  You can see the Costa Rica flag flying in the foreground, and the buildings downtown on the right.  The mountains in the background are the same ones we see from our house.

Downtown San Jose is an interesting place, there are always people everywhere walking on pedestrian roads and shopping.  There are lots of tourist filling the numerous squares and parks and shopping in the markets.   The are multiple bus stops, so there are always lines waiting for buses.  The idea of urban renewal hasn’t quite caught on here, so there are lots of run down areas and old building throughout downtown. 

All in all it is a cool place, a cheap bus ride to go hang out, but not a place we would want to live.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | San Jose | Leave a comment

Sunset Photographs

The other night there was a beautiful sunset in San Jose. As the sun was just setting behind the mountain, the sky filled with clouds and became very overcast. The result was like shining a very dark sky, but a very bright light because the sunlight was all reflecting off the clouds. Here are some photos.

This picture is looking west from our front porch.

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These two pictures are the same view, but with different camera settings. It was amazing how dark the shadows were, at yet how bright and colorful the light was.
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This is looking north at the light on some of the clouds.
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Looking directly west at the sun. I love the perfectly straight line of sunlight coming off the mountain on the left side of the picture.
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March 25, 2008 Posted by | Nature, Our Costa Rica Life, Photography | Leave a comment

Semana Santa – Easter Sunday

Today is the last day in our series of looking at Semana Santa (Holy Week) through the eyes of Costa Rica and through the eyes of Scripture.

Above: The empty garden tomb.

Today is the final day of Semana Santa, and though it is the culmination of the week both in Christianity and in our American traditions, it is almost a forgotten day here. As mentioned in the post on the procession, it seems that the culture/catholic church has an unbalanced focus on the death of Christ, to the exclusion of his resurrection.

There were parades, procession, and services throughout the week, but from what we’ve heard, Easter Sunday is pretty quite. There are some celebrations after church of singing and partying, but not much. We spoke with a Protestant pastor yesterday and he explained that because the Catholics make such a big deal of Semana Santa, the Protestants practically ignore it. The gap between the two divisions is so wide that Easter is hardly acknowledged as a holiday. Somewhere between exalting (and participating) in the suffering and death of Christ, and practically ignoring it, is a right understanding of the resurrection.

Paul explains so simply in his first letter to the Corinthians that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”(1 Cor 15: 17) Said differently, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, which is so central to our faith, means absolutely nothing if he is not resurrected from the dead. Why is the resurrection so important? Because in doing so, Jesus defeated death. Paul says later in the same chapter, “Oh death, where is your victory?”(1 Cor 15:55) He is mocking death because it has been defeated, death is no longer binding.

This passage does not mean that we will not die, but rather that those who are in Christ will not remain dead. The resurrection that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is the promise that we too will be resurrected. Therefore we no longer have to fear death, but rather cling to the promise we have this Easter Sunday, that death has lost it’s victory, death has lost it’s sting.

March 23, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Semana Santa | 1 Comment

Irazu Volcano

Today we left San Jose for the first time since we’ve been in Costa Rica. Our landlord, Pablo, invited us to take a day trip with his family to the top of one of the active volcanoes in Costa Rica, the Irazu Volcano. We had a blast seeing some of the beautiful country side as we drove up the side of the volcano. Irazu is over 11,000 ft and as we drove, we could see vegetation and climate changed by the minute.

Here we are looking down on a cow pasture, above the clouds.

This photo is of the city of Cartago, which is about 20 miles west of San Jose.

More clouds.

Cartago again.

This picture is taken from the visitors center looking out over a plain on the top of the volcano. The hill with the antenna to the left is the highest point, while to the right over the edge of the plain is the crater. A combination of the altitude, the ash, and the volcano activity causes a very sparse environment.

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Here the the crater itself. 300 feet down is a crater lake that has changed colors over the years from turquoise to red and now to the green you see in the picture.
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Here we are at the top. Lucy was a trooper, leaving at 10 am and not getting home until 4 pm. We loved seeing new sites in Costa Rica and really enjoyed experiencing a unique place in our new home.
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March 23, 2008 Posted by | Nature | Leave a comment

Semana Santa – Parade

Yesterday we headed into downtown San Jose in hopes of finding a Catholic procession. After waiting, walking, and following the crowd, we ended up at a Catholic church by the central square just in time.

The procession started with lots of mourning women, all dressed in black. They were followed by the Roman guards, about 20 of them. The guy in the red cape was holding a whip, presumable to beat Jesus with later in the show.

After the soldiers came an angel. We’re not sure quite how he fit in, but he looked good.

Next was the Virgin Mary in all her finery. You can see some band members in the foreground, they played as the procession marched by.

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And lastly came Jesus in a coffin. We have heard that in most Good Friday procession there is a man dressed as Jesus carrying a cross, so we’re not sure why Jesus was already dead and in a coffin.
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Here is Jesus heading off at the rear of the procession. To the left of the coffin you can see three crosses with a sunset in the background. This was a stage set up across the street from the Catholic church. The procession marched away from the stage, but was making a circle to return soon. It was getting late and we had seen enough Catholic/Costa Rican culture for one day, so we didn’t stay to see the end of the show.
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All in all it was a weird experience. The smells (incense), the sounds (drums and marching band), and the sights (a dead Jesus) were a little unnerving, but it gave us a better understanding of the culture in which we have been called to minister.

 

March 22, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Semana Santa | Leave a comment

Semana Santa – Good Friday

 Today we continue our series at looking at Semana Santa (Holy Week) through the eyes of Costa Rica and through the eyes of Scripture.

Above: A cross in rural Costa Rica.

Today is Good Friday, the biggest day of Semana Santa here in Costa Rica. Good Friday commemorates the day Jesus died and thus is one of the most important days in the Christian faith. Everything has closed, the streets are empty, and people are preparing to join their families in remembering the death of Christ.

One of religious traditions of the Catholic is the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa). This is a religious representation of the journey of Jesus towards his death. Many parades will go on throughout the city today in which many people will dress in full costumes representing everyone involved in the trial and crucifixion. These parades are not for the faint of heart; a man playing Jesus will seek to go through everything that Jesus did, including dragging the cross, being beaten, and in some places even being crucified. This seemingly vulgar and horrible act is done to sympathize with Jesus, to show appreciation for him, and/or in a way to atone for one’s own sins.

Ironically, as horrible as this sounds, it cannot even begin to compare to the actually physical, mental, and spiritual pain Jesus felt on the cross. As Jesus was about to die on the cross, he cried out his famous last words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:47) The pain of these words does not come from the torment of the nails in his hands and his feet, but rather from the knowledge that the God of the universe, who can do anything he wills, will let his perfect son die.

For any parent, this plea for help from a child to a father is almost too much to bear. Our love is imperfect and sinful, and yet we all would do absolutely anything for our children, so how can a perfect God forsake his son at such a desperate and terrifying time? The answer is at the very heart of the gospel, Jesus is deserted and left to cry these words in order that we never have to.

Apart from God, we are left facing life, death, and eternity alone. There is a punishment that awaits us all for disobeying God. That punishment, that cup of torment and wrath, is poured out on Jesus as he suffers on the cross. His perfect life is the perfect sacrifice in order that our imperfect lives may be redeemed. God forsakes his son, for a time, in order that we are never forsaken again.

The beatings and crucifixions that will go on throughout the world today, though I am sure powerful to experience, do nothing to change our standing before God. One man, one perfect, sacrificial lamb, died a horrible death in our place. By his grace, we never have to utter those terrifying words, because God will never forsake us.

March 21, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Semana Santa | Leave a comment

Semana Santa – Maundy Thursday

Today we continue our series at looking at Semana Santa (Holy Week) through the eyes of Costa Rica and through the eyes of Scripture.
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Maundy Thursday commemorates the last supper of Jesus when he instituted the Lord’s Supper and was betrayed by Judas. During the last supper, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment, “As I have loved you, you must love one another.” (‘Maundy’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘commandment.’)

Today is really the first celebrated day in Semana Santa, but things have been going on all week. A few nights ago we heard singing out on our street, so we peeked out our window and saw a procession of about 80 people following a priest who was holding up a life-size likeness of Jesus. They were stopping at houses, singing, and praying as they went. Yesterday we saw lots of people leaving work early and packing up for a weekend away as most business are closed today and the streets have been eerily quiet. Many churches will have foot washing services and offer communion tonight as they prepare for Good Friday.

Jesus prepared for his death by eating a last meal with his disciples (John 13). In this story, John tells how Jesus washed the disciples feet, taking on the role of the servant to show how we are to love others through humility. Ironically, after this great demonstration of love, Judas is exposed at the betrayer of Jesus. Jesus ends the story by giving the disciples the command to love one another, as he has loved them.

This story shows, among other things, two reactions people have to the love of Christ. As he did throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus again alters our view of what God on earth should look like. We would never imagine that God would stoop down to wash the filthy feet of mere men, and yet that is exactly what Jesus does here. He shows us the very nature of his life and work, that though he is perfect and holy, his ministry is to become a servant to those who are imperfect and sinful. This humble and sacrificial love finds its ultimate fulfillment at Calvary, where the modesty of washing feet pales in comparison to the humility of death on a cross.

In the face of this humility from a holy God we see two responses. First there is Judas, who despite his close knowledge of Jesus betrayed him for a mere 30 silver coins. For many, the humble love of Christ simply cannot be understood: why would God send his perfect son to die such a horrible death? The answer is simply a love so great that we cannot comprehend it. We feel, and rightly so, unworthy of such a love, such a sacrifice. And yet our unworthy feelings do not change the reality of God’s unchanging love, that while we were still sinners, he died for us.

In contrast to the reaction of Judas, fleeing into the night and turning his back on Jesus, there is the response of the disciples. After Judas leaves, Jesus commands the disciples to love in a new way, after the example of Christ, to love humbly and sacrificially. By the death of Christ, sinners are given new life, and that new life is one of love, humility, and sacrifice.

On the anniversary of Jesus’ teaching at the last supper, we are reminded to meditate on our own lives; are they characteristic of the greedy, worldly-minded Judas, or do we seek to live our days according to the example of Christ, in love, humility, and sacrifice?

Our lives are but a response to the love of Christ. That response can be to flee into the night, or can it be to follow him in love. By his grace, may we be filled with his love, and walk in his steps all of our days.

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Semana Santa | Leave a comment

Semana Santa – Palm Sunday

We just finished our last day of our intensive Spanish language course and now we have a week off for Semana Santa (Holy Week) before our tutoring starts. Samana Santa is a very important week in Costa Rica as most of the country shuts down to remember, mourn, and celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In honor of this important week in Costa Rica and in the history of Christianity, we are going to post brief snapshots of the days of Semana Santa through the eyes of San Jose and through the eyes of Scripture.


 

Above: The palm tree outside our house.

Palm Sunday is the first Sunday in Semana Santa and marks the day Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. As Jesus rode into town on a colt, his disciples laid down their coats and palm branches before him, thus garnering the name Palm Sunday. Although this day kicks off Semana Santa, it does not seem to be much of big a deal here in San Jose. The catholic churches will pass out blessed palm branches (representing the triumph and victory of Christ), have a procession or two, and that is about it.

The biblical account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the other hand, is quite a big deal. As Jesus heads for Jerusalem, he tells his disciples to go ahead of him and bring back a colt. As he triumphantly rides towards Jerusalem on the colt, his disciples run before him, singing praises and preparing the path. But before Jesus reaches Jerusalem, he pauses as he overlooks the city and begins to weep, for though Jerusalem is the great and holy city, it is a city that ignored the coming of God.

In this brief travel narrative (Luke 19:28-44), we see again some of the basic truths of Christianity and of the character of our Lord and Savior.

First we see that Jesus is a great prophet (Luke 19:28-34). As Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him, he tells them they will find a colt on which no one has ever ridden, and that when someone asks them why, they are to tell them that the Lord needs it. And when the disciples went into Jerusalem, the bible says the events happened “just as he had told them.” Now this is not one of the great prophecies of the Bible or of Jesus’ ministry, but it is a glimpse into the character of the great Prophet and how when he speaks, his words come to pass.

Secondly, Jesus is shown as a great king (Luke 19:35-40). The disciples cannot contain their excitement as their king rides into Jerusalem to usher in his new kingdom, so they burst out into song, singing Psalm 118: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus is the great king who has come in the name of the Lord to save his people and to rule over them in a kingdom of joy and peace for all eternity.

Lastly, Luke records a different side of Jesus, and that is of him as the great priest (Luke 19:41-44). The narrative pulls a 180 in a matter of verses as Jesus goes from the great king who is being worshipped to a man weeping over a people he loves. Jerusalem was filled with people looking for God, and yet Luke writes that they “did not even recognize the time of God’s coming.” The great high priest cares deeply for his people, weeps over them, and gives himself as the ultimate priestly sacrifice to save his own.

This Palm Sunday, as we continue to adjust to our new lives in such a different and strange place, we remember the character of our God who has sent us to this place, at this time. Why are we missionaries? Because our God the priest weeps over those who do not yet know him; because our God the prophet will send out his word to those who do not know him, and it will not return to him void; and because our God the king will be praised forever by all the nations of the world, for he will bring “peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

March 16, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture, Semana Santa | Leave a comment

Money

Above: This a picture of all the different bills and coins in Costa Rica.

One of the things I have always loved about other countries is the different currency. Compared to the beautiful colors of the Costa Rican colon, our dollars are so plain and boring.

One US dollar is worth about 500 colones. There are only 4 bills in Costa Rica, all pictured above. The 10,000 colones with the cougar is like $20, the 5,000 colones has a multicolored rainforest and is like the $10 bill. My favorite bill is the 2,000 colones which has a hammerhead shark and is close to the $5. And lastly is the 1,000 colones which just has a boring president on it. There are also lots of coins, 500 c ($1), 100 c (20 cents), 50, 25, 20, 10, 5, 1.

It has taken some time to get used to the money, but now we understand it pretty well, though it is still disconcerting to go to the ATM for $300 and withdraw 150,000 colones!

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Costa Rica Culture | Leave a comment