Let me begin by giving praise and thanksgiving to God for the faithfulness and generous spirit of all of you. I have returned from my extended time away, renewed and refreshed for our ministry life and witness. My travels have been far and wide, and in that time away I have been able to find the center of my being. That center is the place that renews and refreshes, it is the place where I hear the voice of God most clearly in my life. True enough, prayer time is a time I listen for the voice of God, but in the midst of the busy-ness we create for ourselves, that voice gets overshadowed and dimmed a lot. In intentional time away, I could give my full attention to what’s being said, how its being said, and where its leading me. So again, I want to give thanks to all of you for your faithfulness and generosity of spirit to allow me the time away.

I traveled to Spain, more specifically to Andalusia which is in the South of Spain near the Mediterranean Sea. The whole of Spain has such a rich and varied
history. The Moors ruled Spain from the early 8th to the late 15th centuries. The Moors were adherents of Islam, and you can see the influences all around you as you travel. The Alhambra was the palace the Moors built and ruled from. In 1492 the Moors reign came to an end, and Ferdinand and Isabella moved into the palace of Alhambra. That date might sound familiar to you, as 1492 was when Columbus sailed to the New World. He received his commission from Ferdinand and Isabella at the Alhambra. The Alhambra is in a beautiful area in Granada. You see the mountains and hills all around, and its approximately an hour to the Mediterranean Sea. You cannot help but be in awe of the artistry and architecture of the Moors in building the palace. The contributions of the Moors and Arabic culture to the civilized world is indisputable. Astronomy, mathematics, medicine, architecture, horti-culture, navigation, geography and even language all were influenced by these people. We are indebted to the Arabic culture for much of what we have today.

I’ve given you this little mini historical glance to say, there’s something about getting away from your familiar culture and environment that opens your eyes and mind. Stepping away from what I know and am familiar with, to experience a different culture, a different way of seeing and being truly broadens my perspective and world view.

I found the people of Spain to be hospitable and so accommodating. They were eager to help me understand their ways, their life, and all that makes up their culture. The language barrier was not a hindrance, and they spoke much better English than I did Spanish. In the few times when no one spoke English, I could use Google Translate and it worked wonders. I had developed a sore throat while I was there and had to go to a clinic to seek treatment. No one spoke English, but they took the best care of me. Strangely, I didn’t feel alone, or fearful of not being in my familiar surroundings. The people I met didn’t regard me as a burden because I was from a different culture and spoke a different language. They welcomed me as if I was one of them.

I think the lesson I came away with is essentially people have a great a capacity for kindness that can bridge even the widest of gaps, and leap over the tallest of barriers. Why some of us seem to more naturally gravitate to intolerance, or meanness, or even fear, resentment, hatred and violence in our interactions with one another is truly a head shaking conundrum. Time and again, I have found kindness can and does, bring differences to a point of acceptance and tolerance. Pulling away from the incessant news cycle here in the U.S., cleared my mind to see even more clearly how the divisions we make between each other are truly self-imposed. If we can find ways to simply be kind and accepting of one another, we find a place, a moment, a space where truly the Divine nature in us and others can shine.

God is working overtime in me, and I’m sure in you, to bring us to a place where we can see all people as children of God. We may not speak the same language, we may not have the same beliefs, we may not live in the same culture, but we are all good creations of God. It reminds me of the refrain of a hymn…
“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor Tom

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