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How to Not Look Like an American Tourist in Europe

My sister on a Belgian parkbench

I don’t really like being a tourist. At least I try to avoid the term, even if I am travelling and taking pictures of commonly visited sights in foreign countries. I guess the main thing is that I want to experience the culture more, speak the language, and get deeper than the superficial experience enjoyed by most other tourists. So when I went to Europe, I naturally wanted to try to blend in as much as I could. I did some preparation before the trip, but much of what I now know I discovered in my travels. If you are planning to go to Europe and you too want to avoid looking like a tourist, this post is for you! Here are some things that I’ve learned: Read More

Current Language Mission – Nahuatl

Fall at the Bruce FarmGreetings, faithful readers! I have returned to my native continent, and I decided just now to take the time to write up a real live blog post. You see, those photos and short posts from Europe did not freely flow from the fount of creativity, but were the result of assigned writing for one of my classes. This did not detract from their quality entirely; some were quite good in my own estimation, but others were a little forced, and would have gone unwritten were they not assigned. For these latter I apologize, but I hope to improve my habits so that I can have time to write down the things that I am truly inspired by.

At this moment I am currently sitting on a bench next to the driveway at our north-central Texas home. When I left Belgium it was cold and damp, but the fall leaves were lovely. When I arrived home, Autumn was still in the process of putting on her garb, and I am glad to report that she is now fully arrayed in her customary splendour. The leaves are turning all sorts of colours, the prickly pears are laden with bright red tunas, and the evening sunsets top it all off in a great show that mankind can never replicate. Meanwhile, I am preparing for my next travel destination: eastern San Luis Potosí, Mexico–which will prove quite a change from northern Europe. Read More

The Vanity of Versailles

Gates of Versailles

It was the gold that shone most brightly in the morning light, and as we stood outside the palace gates of Versailles, it was easy to understand how the exterior of this grand edifice was built to impress. On either side of the royal gates was a tall, Classical-style building, and where the frieze would normally be found, the inscription A Toutes les Gloires de la France was carved in large letters, for all to see—“To All the Glories of France.”

Gazing on all this glory, meant to reflect the power of the king of France and the splendour of his kingdom, the first words of Ecclesiastes came to mind: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Even though these things once impressed peasants and nobility alike in favour of the king, today they are simply a relic of the grandeur that once was, an empty palace open for anyone who will buy a ticket to see it. Even though it is still a very grand place, the vanity of it all is perhaps more evident in modern light.

Hymn of the Week – Debout, Sainte Cohorte

This morning I had the opportunity to lead singing in French for the first time. This is one of the songs I led.

Musique: G. J. Webb
Paroles: R. Saillens

Debout, sainte cohorte,
Soldats du Roi des rois!
Tenez d’une main forte
L’étendard de la croix.
Au sentier de la gloire
Jésus-Christ nous conduit;
De victoire en victoire
Il mène qui le suit.

Debout, le clairon sonne:
Debout, vaillants soldats!
L’immortelle couronne
Est la prix des combats.
Si l’ennemi fait rage,
Soyez fermes et forts;
Redoublez de courage
S’il redouble d’efforts.

Debout, pour la bataille!
Partez, n’hésitez plus;
Pour que nul ne défaille,
Regardez à Jésus.
De l’armure invicible,
Soldats, revêtez-vous!
Le triomphe est possible
Pour qui lutte à genoux.

Debout, debout encore!
Luttez jusqu’au matin.
Déjà brille l’aurore
A l’horizon lointain.
Bientôt, jetant nos armes
Aux pieds du Roi des rois,
Les chants après les larmes,
Le trône après la croix.

Translation (courtesy of Google, since I have lots to do right now): Read More

Hymn of the Week – Chantons en Cantique et Psaume

This week we worshiped with the church in Paris, and I was delighted to be able to sing a number of songs that I had never heard before. This is one of them.

Chantons en cantique et psaume
De Jésus la royauté ;
Faisons voir de son royaume
La grandeur et la beauté.
Jésus offre à tous les hommes
Son pardon, sa douce paix.
Dans son royaume nous sommes
Pour toujours ses saints sujets.

Contre Christ et son Eglise
Satan ne peut prévaloir ;
Sur le roc elle est assise,
L’enfer n’a plus de pouvoir.
Christ ouvrit pour nous les portes
De la tombe d’un seul mot ;
L’adversaire et ses cohortes
Ont dû cesser leur assaut.

Nous pourtons, hélas ! la tare
De la mort dans notre corps ;
Mais Jésus dit à Lazare,
Mort trois jours : « Lazare, sors ! »
Attendons ce jour ultime :
La terre entendra Jésus
Prononcer ce mot sublime,
Et la mort ne sera plus.

Translation: Read More