In “Vanishing Grace”, Phillip Yancey describes a survey in which a bunch of United States citizens were asked what would be the phrase they would most like to hear. The most popular result? I love you. Second most popular? I forgive you. Third? Supper’s ready. I think that’s brilliant – “I love you, I forgive you, supper’s ready”; the gospel in a nutshell. This makes me wonder, if so many people are yearning for the gospel, why do so few respond to it? But, the Christmas story is still fresh from last week, when an entire nation was longing for a saviour, but when it came down to it, the only people who actually recognised his birth were a bunch of itinerant animal herders and a couple of pagan astrologists. Israel didn’t recognise the gospel as the good news that they thought they were looking for.
In casual conversation last week, one of my Scout leader colleagues mentioned “you really made an impression on (visiting Scout leader). She asked me who you were and what you’re doing here (never manage to lose that pesky foreign accent), and when I told her how ridiculous it is that you have degrees from famous international universities but you still can’t work in Argentina she was amazed that you’re even still here, and she loved watching you work with the Scouts and she was impacted by your commitment and your humility”. So I discover that people around me can be impacted by the very reality that I am not using my skills. And I also discover that I don’t want to be known for my humility, thank you very much. Sulk.
Danny meanwhile is making his own discoveries on a more existential level. “Mummy, I’m not a cake, I’m Danny”. I have no idea from whom or how he could have got the idea that anyone thought he was a cake, but I was happy to endorse his conclusions.
26th of December in the Frost household. The main Christmas celebration happens on the night of the 24th. Argentineans do their presents at about five past midnight. We as a hybridised family join in the food, frolicking and fireworks as good Argentineans on the 24th, and then as good Brits we put out our stockings before we go to bed, and do presents on the morning of the 25th. So the 25th for us is a bit like any other bank holiday, but with new toys.
Danny recovering from a hard day’s play.
Joni in pyjamas got straight back to where he left off running his new train set (second hand from ebay and carted on and off planes trains and automobiles in order to get it across from England).
The Christmas tree in the middle of the track is after we fell in love with this cool video…
That was first thing this morning. Ten hours later, Joni has managed to put his clothes on and is still playing trains, while Danny managed to get out of his pyjamas and is now stark naked watching television on the computer. The teen flits in and out with her friends, she is very happy with her new mobile phone (second hand from a local Facebook buying and selling group), although I am conscious that we have an outstanding tough conversation awaiting the right moment. Meanwhile, I am reading “Vanishing Grace”, the latest offering by Philip Yancy, following up “What’s so amazing about Grace?” and wondering what it might mean to conduct such a conversation in a way that embodies both grace and truth. “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image…”
After a couple of weeks of running around like a headless thing, I think we’re now in some sort of rhythm that will see us through the summer.
I started work on Monday accompanying small disabled kid to mainstream play scheme for three hours a day. It’s going well so far. We still haven’t managed to finish the paperwork, so there is still a chance that I might not get paid, but I’m hoping that the odds or the gods might turn out to be on my side. I have been to the tax office three times, the employee who wanted to try and fight me for the Falkland Islands on my first visit, turned out to be adorable in an Asperger’s sort of way on my second visit, so he took me quite a long way through the process. Apparently the rest of it is supposed to be done on line, but we haven’t yet managed to persuade the system to let us in!
The Christmas sermon alluded to in previous blog and preached on Sunday, is now up on the website (you can find it under the sermon tab). I didn’t preach it exactly as the script, but it’s near enough. It delivered rather well in the end (if I say so myself) despite me biting my nails over it till the final second.
Meanwhile, tis the season and all that. The tree is up and decorated. The teenager is installed here now for the summer holidays. I started and finished my Christmas shopping yesterday afternoon. It would have been quicker if I had done it last week when the entire city wasn’t all trying to do the same thing in the same half a kilometre of shopping space. This afternoon I need to make some desserts, and then this evening we will be off to share food in the back garden of some friends across town. In the interim, I have an urgent appointment with some kids and a paddling pool.
However you’re celebrating, have a good one.
I love the fact that we don’t do Christmas presents in a big way in Argentina; parents and grandparents give to their relevant children, and that’s about where it starts and ends. But if anyone’s asking, top of my very short list would be a gift-wrapped sermon for Sunday. The challenge for every preacher in the week before Christmas; think of a Christmas sermon that isn’t boring, gimmicky, tacky or cheesy. At the moment I have about fifteen unrelated ideas that I am chewing over, but so far none of them aren’t developed enough to deliver.
There was a Christian music event in the street last Saturday. There is a different Christian music event in a different street this Saturday. And another one in a different street next Friday evening.
Scouts are busy preparing our Christmas nativity for the 20th, so there was a rehearsal last Saturday, followed by a parents’ meeting to give out details for summer camp. Tonight we have bingo at Scouts in order to raise money for same, and on Sunday we have a leaders’ trip to visit the site which we have temporarily reserved.
A couple of educational psychologists have come together with a project proposal for our church’s community outreach for next year, could be interesting. And a couple of us are about to sign up for a distance module in “early stimulation” for pre-school kids with disabilities.
The teen was with us last weekend, came on Friday stayed till Monday as it was a bank holiday weekend. There was something else happening at the same time on Monday as well but I can’t remember what it was. Then I had to go and have a meeting with her psychologist at the hostel on Tuesday.
I was offered a job for a couple of hours a day over the summer which I’m disproportionally pleased about, working with an autistic kid who I already know quite well. Hope it comes off. But in order to sign up to be paid, I had to locate the tiny slip of paper that I was given back in 2010 to say that I am registered in the government ministry of silly walks (or whatever it was) in Cordoba. I was convinced I had thrown it away. Luckily in a flash of genius (divine intervention) I found it tucked into my 2012 diary which I also fortunately hadn’t thrown away. Next I have to sign up as a “monotributista” (self employed) with the tax office. This morning I found someone who has agreed to help me with that.
Danny has managed to dress himself unaided two days running. The neighbours probably think I’m beyond the pale, but really who am I to devalue his efforts by turning everything inside out and back to front after he’s put it on? Meanwhile I am apparently supposed to be making or otherwise procuring a set of ears (of some sort?) for Joni for his end of school assembly on Friday.
This afternoon I have an English class to teach, then Joni has a play date with the kid round the corner, then I need to go and shift some chairs and tables around for that bingo at Scouts.
On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me…
Conundrums of normal life.
We spent most of Sunday in a situation of cold-war with the Teen. And now she knows that we aren’t going to give up on her that easily, but we also aren’t going to let her get away with murder. This is probably the first real breakthrough in the year that we have known her, and ironically, after that helluva day, now we are starting to feel like we might have some basis on which to work with her.
Three years ago, the fuel efficiency of our car dropped like a rock from a reasonably economical 500 km a tank, to a tank-like 300. We trawled it around a selection of workshops and garages, who charged us varying amounts of money in order to tell us that they couldn’t find anything the matter with it, so we lived with the problem and tried not to use the car for anything other than essential journeys. The other week we took it for its annual service. The guy did the usual stuff, and pronounced that he hadn’t found anything the matter with it. And now it does 500 to the tank again. The galling thing is that he has no idea what he has done to fix it, since he didn’t think it was broken in the first place.
Security, or rather lack of it continues to be a growing issue both locally and nationally. Yet another of our friends had his mobile phone stolen at gun point last week. The police appear to be taking little interest, just write it up as another in the heap of cases unlikely to be resolved. The general advice appears to be “be grateful you only had your stuff nicked”. That said, actual use of violence remains a rarity in San Francisco, but of course no-one is going to play heroics for the sake of a mobile phone in the face of a bunch of scared, armed youths.
And this week’s existential question…. Why is it that the call of “dinner’s ready!” is enough to scatter all occupants of the house to the furthest – out of earshot – corners, including those occupants who were hovering around the kitchen and getting under my feet while I was trying to prepare the food? Is my cooking that bad? Could I take up using “dinner’s ready” for the times when I want to guarantee an uninterrupted 10 minutes to myself?