27 February 2006

Our Great Transfiguration.

This past Sunday, along with being Fastelavn, was also Transfiguration Sunday. The text for of the Transfiguration can be found in Mark ch. 9. For those not anxious to pop open a Bible (which we can all understand), here is a little refresher. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and proceeds to be transfigured right there on the mountain top. Not only did his garments become "radiant and exceedingly white," but who showed up? That's right, Moses and Elijah--two of the biggest heroes of the Hebrew Bible. Peter then pipes up saying "Hey, let's build each of you a tabernacle!" Before he realizes it, they are alone with Jesus again.

Now besides this being a pretty fancy supernatural story, there's a lot more to it. In it, we see Christ interacting with two of the most gargantuan Biblical characters in a place where time and space have seemingly been disbanded. On top that, the text explains that "a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!'" (Mark 9.7)

From this mountain top experience, the three disciples that are with Jesus are offered a glimpse into the future. They are allowed to see Christ in his glory. And Christ is allowed to see his future.

Yet they miss it. They don't seem to understand what they were offered. They knew Elijah and Moses was important, but they didn't seem to quite get the meaning of what they were shown.

Do you think, like Christ, that we are offered a moment of transfiguration? I'm not referencing an experience where we have a change of heart, but rather when we are allowed to glimpse into the future to see where we are going. Surely we have these experiences, but the problem lies in whether or not we are aware that we are in the midst of them. Our human eyes are ignorant Divine glory.

How often are we able to witness God's glory around us, and yet we refuse to behold it.

I doubt we will have a moment where our clothes will be bleeched pure white. We walk around in dingy threads, dirty with the messups of human life. Perhaps we can't expect the show, but I think we can expect the clean.

God's Grace gives us that.

25 February 2006

...and a soft snow fell.

Today, Denmark celebrated Fastelavn.

This tradition stems from the age-old belief that killing a cat in a barrel then burying it in the farmer's field would ensure a good harvest.

Obviously now, the tradition does not include the use of real cats (don't worry Aunt Virginia and Mama), but there is still the symbolic act of whacking at a wooden barrel with a cat painted on it until it bursts open and spills candy everywhere.

Did I try, you ask? Oh yes. There was a line for 15 year olds and up. Well, my friends and I decided that we were, indeed, up so we had our tries. Sadly we didn't win, but we did eventually get our hands on some tasty candy.

The festival is somewhat like Halloween in that kids dress up and go from house to house asking for candy or money. They also have a cute song (sort of like the "trick or treat, smell my feet... chant), except this is a song and perky and says something like "give me something or else..." But realistically, it's only a little more threatening. Leave it to the Danes.

Not only do children dress up, but some adults as well. It's just a generally good time for everyone.

After taking part in the festivities, my friends and I headed to the Round Tower after the clouds in the sky began to part. We assumed the view would be better with clear skies. We were right.

The Round Tower was built by Christian IV as a place to observe the Heavens. Today, it can still be used for that at night, but during the day, hordes of tourists flock to it to get a 360 degree panorama of the city.

Copenhagen is beautiful. It was great to see it all from above and really be able to put together the different pieces of the city that we were familiar with into one cohesive whole. I've put some of the pictures from the top below, but check out the webshots like to the right to see them all...

After riding my bike home, I decided (with some encouragement from one of my dads) that it was time to clean my room. What a great feeling to have a clean room.

And as I was throwing trash away, a queit, soft snow began to fall and I thought, "you know, I'm glad I'm here."


24 February 2006

a snow psalm

bring me peace.

like snow to rocky lands,
cover me in your blanket,
silence my confused heart.

allow me to find warmth in your glistening sun
and pure love in your
eternal white.

Winter 2004

23 February 2006

Grace. Justice. Reconciliation.

In the process of the past 2 or 3 months, I've been challenged by multiple people to search for what I truly believe. The most recent challenge in the same vein asked me what my core theological commitments are.

Whoa. Hold on. What?

I thought about it for a while, and here's what I've come up with. It was actually written in essay form (albeit a slightly imformal), so what you are reading is an actual work submitted for a scholarship with some additions that wouldn't fit into the three page limit. And, obviously, it has been slighty edited so as not to sound too academic--where's the fun in that?

Let me know what you think.

“Go without hate. But not without rage. Heal the World.” –Paul Monette

Deciphering one's core theological commitments is tough. We each have a set of values and beliefs—many that can be summed up in one word—about our faith. While these traits and aspects are vital to our spiritual livelihood, finding our core theological values requires one to focus their lens on the smallest of details, but also broaden the scope of their lens to question where such traits come from. The word “core,” in this case, asserts that these commitments are the very substance of what one believes in. Of course, I believe in hope, forgiveness, kindness and love. The question does not lie in if these ideas exist, but rather where do those ideas find meaning in my faith?

After much contemplation, my thoughts kept settling on three words—grace, justice, and reconciliation. Each one is different, yet each is connected with threads that seem to run through humanity.


Grace was the first of these notions to appear in my mind. It is a simple word, and quite beautiful in its pronunciation and meaning. I define grace as the goodness of God. This is my ultimate theological commitment because it is the wellspring from which the rest of my faith flows. It is the grace of God that offers hope, joy, love and peace, reconciliation and so on. From the seemingly inconsequential (like waking up in the morning) to the life altering (the promise of eternal life), we are able to see God’s grace.

Earlier in a class, I wrote this about Grace:

I believe in Grace--the unlimited, encompassing goodness of God that embraces me in my doubt, hurt, pain and celebrates my joy. Grace flows into my wellspring and gives me life. It erases my guilt and renews my hopes.

What is particularly astonishing about grace is the implied knowledge that those who receive it (humanity) are not deserving. I state this idea with some caution. I am weary of defining the recipient as evil; it is our imperfections and errors that make us unworthy, not an inherently evil nature.


Justice is my core theological craving. It is what I pray for, what I search for, and what I know I can find. The notion of justice is fascinating in that it seems to break down into two basic forms, easily identified as human justice and divine justice. The first of these, human justice, is the form we are most familiar with. Television shows like the popular Law and Order and CSI franchises, have created a sense that justice is a form of retribution. It seems that we live in a society that repeats the mantra “you hurt me, so you must suffer.” For many, the fulfillment of this mantra equates to justice.

In order to more fully understand the idea of grace, we must search for the meaning of divine justice. The inherent problem with searching for anything on a divine level is that we can only begin to grasp the ideas and notions that surround the Divine. As humans, we think as such. This is not to say that our thoughts are erroneous, but rather, limited.

Divine justice swirls around God’s capability to offer unconditional compassion and love. We claim unconditional love, but to not recognize our incapability of attaining it would be folly. While humans can muster magnificent and tremendous amounts of love and compassion, we are unable to mimic such devotion. We love, but only to a point. We open our arms with compassion, but find our arms growing tired. God does not falter like humans. God keeps loving; God keeps his compassion flowing. Where humans insert a “but,” God insists on “regardless.” We have God’s love, regardless; we have God’s Grace, regardless.
God wants each of us to find rest in the Divine. God’s justice is exactly that divine desire being realized.

I am often asked where my position on justice leaves those who do wickedness in this world. Such questions are asked assuming human justice—people did wrong; therefore, they should be punished. I assert that it leaves them where we all will be—Heaven. “Why,” they ask “should we even try to be good? Why should I put up with the rules?” We follow the rules and strive to live Christ-like lives, because in doing so we are able to open the doors of reconciliation. If one only attempts to follow Christ in an effort to walk through the gates of Heaven, that faith has gone sour. Christianity, when soley concerned with an eternal outcomes, shifts from the foucus I believe Christ had (focusing on others) to a selfish religion focusing on the self. As Christians, we are called to reach beyond ourselves, searching for justice through reconciliation.


I consider reconciliation to be my core theological purpose. As I have become more aware of other interpretations of Christianity, it seems there is an implied sense of exclusion—Christians either exclude or people feel like they are being excluded. While many Christians are appalled that some might feel shunned by them, it is not hard to find how many people do not see the warm embrace that Christianity claims. Our purpose, as Christians, is to reconcile these emotions. In God, we search for unity. If God’s Kingdom surrounds us and calls us to strive to act like God, we must heed that calling. We must act as agents of reconciliation.

Jesus’ arrival brought new realizations of what role humanity should take. Through his words and deeds, it becomes clear that we have a responsibility to reconcile—to bring comfort to the hurting, rest to the weary, and hope to the downtrodden.

As a member of the gay Christian community, I see hurt all around. People who have been forced away from their faith search desperately for the inclusion they’ve heard about throughout their lives. Others have given up the hope for such reconciliation. A Christian’s call is to reconcile these searchers to the God that loves them. We are to make them aware of their status as Children of God. Christianity is not about “saving our own souls and those of others;” but rather, is about craving God and interacting with the Divine by helping others do the same.

21 February 2006

Barefoot in Copenhagen

I hate shoes. Those of you who know me well know that I jump at the chance to walk around barefoot. In class, at home, wherever, chances are that you will be able to find me without my shoes on, or, a pair that can be easily slipped off.

I'm not sure why I'm such a fan of having toe-freedom. Maybe it's that socks make me a bit claustrophobic. Or that double-knots will be the end of me.

Or maybe it's because when I'm barefoot, I'm connected. When I walk around the apartment, or outside (at home, not in Copenhagen...not yet, at least), and I feel the earth beneath me, there is a flooding sense of connection. I know where I am then.

Sometimes it's scarey to walk barefoot. You don't know if you are going to step on glass or a pinecone or in dog poop. But you just sort of do it, because it feels good.

Too often, we wear shoes to protect us from the possibility of hurt all the while keeping out feet from experiencing any real connection.

I think I'm finally beginning to take of my "shoes" here. While I was on the study tour, I was having so much fun. But as our return to Copenhagen approached, I remember thinking that it would be good to get back. After a month of living here, Copenhagen is becoming home. I know how to get around, how to interact, where to find cheap food.

I have people that I call when I want to hang out, and, more importantly, call me when they want to hang out.

It's official that this is no longer just a trip, but a journey. Trips are when we see pretty things, take pictures and move on to the next sight. Journeys find connections with people and place. Journeys challenge you to search your deepest being, and help you find your way home--even if home is redefined.

I think one of the hardest things about a journey is the fact that so much of it is directly you on your own, yet you still rely on those you've known.

In an earlier post, I wrote this:

You see, if home is where you heart is, then you can never really be homeless. You live in the hearts of places you grew up in, the people that opened their arms, and the experiences that
changed your life. You might travel all over the world, but when it comes down to it, your home is where your heart is--leave it in Copenhagen, leave it in Fairburn, leave bits of it at Elon and
Woodward and Atlanta. You have a home in all those places. Leave parts with teachers and counselors, parents, and guides--there you'll find home too.

Home isn't a singular place, one expression of a place lived. It is that in addition to the lives surrounding it and the life crafted by it.

Home is where you can be barefoot.

I think I'll take off my shoes now.


18 February 2006

The Captain and LT.

The past three days have consisted of a whirlwind of tours, museums, friends, and fun.

I just returned from my short-study tour (much HSS-Tour D love!) to Velje and Odense. We left on early Thursday morning in a dense fog and mist which stayed around for the whole tour. Despite the groggy atmosphere, we each had an enormously fun time.

Captain (Peter the Librarian) and Lt (short for lieutenant, Katherine) guided us throughout western Denmark and introduced us to the rest of this amazing country.

After crossing the big and little Bell bridges onto Funen (the island betwenn Zealand and Jutland), we stopped at an efterskole. This is a strictly danish idea of students in the 9th or 10th grade taking a year off to study art, music, travel, soccer or basketball, then moving on to highschool or techinical school or not. We were greeted by a group of very friendly students who were anxious to show us around their campus. Students live in "houses" in a style similar to Harry Potter minus the cool talking painting and passwords. They live with these kids and take classes with them. The whole idea was fascinating, and by the end of our stay, all of the DIS kids had pretty much agreed that they wished they had such an opportunity at that age.

Our next stop was at Jelling (pronounced yel-ling) to see the ancient ruinic stones and monument of Jelling. After a thorough visit to the museum, we rain across the street in the rain to touch the stones and climb the mounds. The monoliths are intriguing because it is on these massive granite stones that we find the first reference to Denmark, dating the country back over 1000 years. It also references Gorm the Old who is the Great x 29 Grandfather of Denmarks current monarch, Queen Margethe II.

After we were satisfied with our lessons in Danish history, we found ourselves at our accomodations for the night. The hostel was very clean and compact and served its purpose quite well. We had a bed, warmth, and shelter. Just what we needed. After dinner at the hostel, we made our way out to explore the night life of Vejle. Six or seven of us ended up at a perfectly charming pub on a sidestreet in Vejle and stayed there until the bartender called a cab to get us home. We had such much fun. The bartender's husband came and sat down with us and soon after many danes followed. Stories were shared, jokes were made, drinks were had and each one of us Americans felt warmly welcomed and at home.

After a long night in the hostel complete with drunken visitors yelling in the hallway at 1:30 am (no dice, I say, no dice) and middle school bed talk (you know the kind--turn off the lights, say your going to sleep, then end up talking for 2 hours), we were up, taking cold showers, eating breakfast, and finding our way to Aarstiderne.

Aarstiderne is an organic farm which delievers boxes of fresh produce and food to the doors of over 25,000 Danish households. Our tour was long, but informative and led by a beautiful dane named Christian. We ate lunch at Aarstiderne which was amazing, then departed for our next stop, Sønderborg Slot (or Castle).

Sønderborg Slot dates back to 1158 and was in use as a fortress or castle until 1920 at which time it became a state museum. After a thrilling visit to the dungeon and learning about the Danish/German Wars, WWI and WWII, we made our way to Dybbøl Bankle. This is the battlefield where Denmark was at war Prussia and where the final battle took place in April of 1864. This battle cost Denmark virutally 1/3 of its land mass to be lost to Germany.

Next, we checked in at the Hostel (which was reallllllly nice) and decided to head out to the shopping street to find dinner and drinks. My group stopped at a fun place called Maybe Not Bob, and I ended up eating the best nachos I have ever had. Y'all. They were amazing. After checking out the early nightlife, almost every person on the tour was back at the hostel and asleep. We were exhausted.

Day three included a visit to Odense, the home town of HC Anderson. Anderson wrote novels, poetry, and, most famously, fairytales. Stories like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, and The Nightengale were penned by Anderson, along with many others. We toured the museum (yes, there are museums everywhere) of HC Anderson, walked around the town then headed back to Copenhagen.

A full, but amazingly fun three days. It was just what I needed. A break from Copenhagen with people I was comfortable with.

Here are the top memories from the trip:

(1) Lunch Ladies are Universal. At the efterskole, we ran into lunch ladies who were nice and were mean. Dependent upon the worker and the time of day--just like highschool and college.

(2) Playing Never-have-I-ever with Danes in Vejle.

(3) Sitting in the back of the bus with the cool kids. Not really. We weren't the cool kids. But we did call same seats.

(4) Learning "bad words" in Chinese. Because youthful minds always want to know.

(5) Cold Shower. Vejle Hostel. 745 am. No hot water. Bad experience.

(6) 16 year-old tour guides. So cute; so illegal.

(7) The Cueball heist. A bar, a cue ball, and a sudden urge for a souviner. Don't worry, nothing was actually stolen. Promise.

(8) Do you like Ferries? Have you ever ridden a ferry before? It was a bad joke. It was super funny. Maybe you had to be there.

(9) Kasper at Maybe Not Bob. The bartender was great!

(10) Dolly Parton was everywhere. Who knew that the blonde bombshell was as permeating as she really is. I heard her every night I was out. Crazy.

(11) We got lost in Odense. It was great. Not really.

(12) Church Hopping. You know you're a Religious Studies major when instead of shopping, eating or barhopping, you hunt down and look in every church you can during your free time.

(13) 51 points. Mike and I, random test on Danish history. We got 51/64 points. Beat that Gretchen and Liz with your 35 points.

When I finally got home, I stumble (or found by Grace) this poem. It a little long, but worth the read. Mary Oliver is amazing.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through that door full of curiousity, wondering
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

-Mary Oliver, New Poems

This weekend, I didn't just visit.


14 February 2006

The Past Two Days.

Ok, so, before you get on my case about not updating I only have one thing so say. Laziness is sooooooooooo good sometimes.

And, every once and a while, it bites you in the butt (look dad--no profainity).

I finished up my two papers and turned them in today. I can't say much more about them because I honestly don't know what to expect out of them. I wasn't (like many of my peers) very clear on the whole process of these particular papers. Add the fact that I was writing about Plato and mix in a little "I have no freakin' clue" and you can begin to see my dilema. So, we will just wait and see the result and do better next time.

Monday found me still struggling with feeling "blah." But two Tylenol PM and 8 hours later, I was feeling much better. Until about 3pm today, when I was called out in class by my professor on the fact that I hadn't read the assigned reading for that date. Guilty as charged, and it's totally my fault (so please save the lectures for later dates), but it still made for a rough afternoon and an awkward class as well as a flood of emotions.

After doing the right thing and apologizing to the professor for not being prepared as I should've been, I left for a fried food hunt with my Elon friend Brigid. She was my closest Elon friend that came to Copenhagen (but even then, we weren't all that close); however, she understood exactly where I was coming from as I vented about the situation (because there are more details than are included here, which I will not include).

It was an interesting situation, because I was raised by a school teacher in an environment where the teacher was ALWAYS right. But the more I go through classes, the more I learn that no, the teacher isn't always right. Perhaps their knowledge is right, but perhaps the way they handle a situation isn't ideal.


I went to an orientation for my short study tour after class and found myself with 24 other students anxious to hear exactly where/what we will be going/doing over the next 3 days. It includes a visit to see the Jelling Stones which have the first mention of "Denmark" over 1000 years ago, a stop at an organic farm, and to Odense (the birthplace of HC Anderson of Ugly Duckling and Little Mermaid fame). I'm excited for the opportunity to hang out with some kids I don't really know and the chance to see the rest of Denmark outside of Copenhagen.

Tonight plans include friends, drinks and a gay bar called Oscars. Class, man, high class.


12 February 2006

The stars come up spinning
every night, bewildered in love.

They'd grow tired
with that revolving, if they weren't.

They'd say,
"How long do we have to do this!"

God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is aneed coming through one of us,
a passion, a longing-pain.

Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don't try to end it.
Be your note.
I'll show you how it's enough.

Go up ont he roof at night
in this city of the soul.

Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes!

Sing loud!

~Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks

Weekend Adventures

What a weekend.

Friday saw the arrival of my first two "to be turned in" academic assignments. My professors are approaching these like they should be easy enough...nothing to really be concerned with. Sure. If you're a history or a philosophy major, that might be the case. I, however, am neither, and quite frankly am slightly intimidated. The only thing remotely close to the assignment in my history class that I've done before were Lynn Huber's primary source preperations (for those of you who've experienced them, you know what I'm talking about). The other paper is a philosophical explication. Try saying that three times fast. Then trying writing one. My professors, however, are very accessible and are more than willing to help each of us stumble through our first attempts to end up in the green vallies of success (hopefully) when we write our next set of papers.

That night, I had dinner with some familiar friends at a trendy student cafe'/bar which served possibily the best fries I've had. Ever. Two things about food in Denmark (and most of Europe). (1) They aren't fond of ketchup. Let me tell you, this American stands out when he has to order extra ketchup to satisfy his tomato fix (I blame my mother for this), but such is life. (2) Most of you probably have experienced this, but ice isn't really something people do in Denmark, nor most of Europe. I suppose they have a lot of ice naturally, so they opt not to add it to their drinks. I honestly didn't realize how much I relied on ice (or an ice maker) until now. Nothing gets ice. Nothing.

Later that night I went to a "Sex and Chocolate Party." Contrary to popular belief, it is not an orgy, but it does involve pajamas and chocolate and lots of fun.

After a few short hours of sleep, 4 friends and I were on a regional train to Sweden. Our first stop was in Malmo. Nothing was really open when we arrived around 9:30, so we wandered the streets and found 3 Subway Fast Food Shops. All Open. So, we did what any college student would do--stopped to have a bite. Once finished with our tasty toasted sandwiches, we made our way to an amazing church. Churches are default site to see when visiting places in Europe. They have a deafening sense of history, importance and faith. Wandering their halls leaves you in the midst of something far grander, important and meaningful that you could ever hope to be.

This church had the most beautiful alter that stretched all the way to the top of the ceiling. Christ at its peak with various Biblical characters forming the foundations beneath him.

Next we walked around a quaint park that almost killed us with packed ice on the sidewalks, through a cemetary, and to the main shopping street.

After lunch, we hopped on the train again and found ourselves in Lund. Lund is a major university town of Sweden. The population was much younger, and the air was filled with youth. Excepting their church (which of course was the first stop we made). This cathedral was built 900 years ago and includes the largest pipe-organ in Sweden along with a floor-to ceiling astronomical clock with parts (still working, mind you) that date from the mid 14th century. Phenomenal.

Once we made our way back to Copenhagen, I had had an long 2 days and opted for a quiet night with my friend Andrea, who I met in the Frankfurt airport three weeks (which seems like months) ago. After Danish Chinese food (explain that to me) and a cold walk back, I passed out until this morning.

I attended a service at the International Church of Copenhagen this morning. It was good to feel that familiarity again, but it brought back such good memories of my home church at Elon that I couldn't help but wipe away a tear or two. That place (ECC) has meant so much the past 3 years and still continues to hold me close. Man, I miss it. And I miss home too.

Copenhagen is grand, but Elon is home.


09 February 2006

Mama's Boy...

I haven't really felt well today. Actually, I've pretty much felt like death on a stick--roasted over a furnace. I woke up with that icky "I might be getting sick, but I have a chance to push it off, so I'm going to try my damndest" feeling.

Classes were painful today because I couldn't help my mind from roving back and forth. They lasted forever, as did that afternoon. I ended up returning to the apartment around 5:30 pm only to pass out on my bed until Per woke me up for dinner at which time I received the obligatory "you don´t look so good" to which I repsonded (at least in my head) "no joke?"

Food made me feel better, but I couldn´t help missing my mother.

I´ll admit it. I´m a mama´s boy. Say what you will, but she makes my life and yesterday..damn...I just really wanted my mama. The funny thing is that I could get her to come over here if I really wanted to (don´t get any ideas, mom), but something tells me that I have to get through this.

So a hot shower and sleep it is.


08 February 2006


There is something magical about snow. Not the snow that sticks and creates a world of white. That's nice. But the magic of snow is in the moments when it swirls around and takes you by surprise. When it falls gently, like petals thrown by the gods upon the earth--each flake a taste of clean and hope. When I was growing up, snow was the most amazing thing to grace the earth. It was beautiful and clean and, most importantly, allowed for "snow days" with no school. On nights where snow was forecast, there was a tangible hope in the air--please snow, please snow, please know. And, when it did, there was no better feeling in the world.

Most of the snow in Copenhagen is gone now.

But it snowed tonight. It didn't stay around; it was perfect.

Today, like all my Wednesdays, found me without any classes. I did have a "fieldstudy" which consisted of a wonderfully boring, yet necessary documentary about Kierkegaard's works and life. Aftwards, my friend Gretchen and I wandered around Copenhagen until 1ish when I came home and prepared for the rest of my day.

Tonight, I went and had dinner with new friends. They're not just aquaintences anymore. No, I think they can be classified as friends. We cooked a delicious stir-fry (I brought the chicken), and toasted to Copenhagen and new friends. Later, after dinner, we found our way to a quaint coffee shop and just enjoyed each other's company. I left with my friend Erin, and I realized that what I had been needing since I got here--social interaction with kids my age (to put it plainly), but also the recognition of a common experience, story and dream--I had gotten...four times over.

That's when it snowed.

Here's to Mel, Erin, Tyler, Nor (did I spell that right?), and Punille (I know I didn't spell that right) the Dane. Thanks for a great night.


07 February 2006


First off, before I even write my first sentence, I would love to give a shout out to Aunt Sherri. I don't know who Aunt Sherri is, but I met her neice today who informed me that Aunt Sherri enjoys reading my blog. So, I decided that, in the spirit of keeping a readership, I would say "Hey! Enjoy the blog and thanks for reading" to Aunt Sherri.

Whew. Now that I got that out of my system (and yes, I was legitimately excited when I found out that I had a reader that was not blood related or even close to it), I have to say that I had a wonderful day.

For starters, I was able to sleep until I was awoken by natural sunlight. Yes, friends, that's right. The sun was out. The constant warm rain last night had melted away much of the grossness that accumulated over yesterday, and by midday is was warm enough that it was no longer necessary to button up my jacket. It was wonderful. This Southern boy felt the slightest twinges of being at home here.

After an invigorating three hours of classes about witchcraft and Plato's approach to gender, I rushed to the Round Tower to meet with Tim, the pastor at the International Church of Copenhagen. We went to a quaint little coffee shop to talk about religion; more specifically, we spoke of Christianity in Denmark, the differences between Danish approaches to religion and Amerian ones, as well as my need for spiritual fulfillment which, at the present moment, is not being satisfied as I would like it to be.

Religion in Denmark is fascinating because it's quite mysterious. Danes aren't real fond of discussing their religious beliefs, considering their personal faith to be just that--personal. So, this poses a problem for a person like me who is majoring in religious studies, is constantly intrigued by different faith traditions, and who is on his own spiritual path.

Meeting with Tim was reassuring. There are people in Copenhagen who care about having a faith of their own and helping others along their journey. I have to keep reminding myself that I've only been here for a little over two weeks. That is comforting to a certain extent, reminding myself that I have more time to figure it all out, but it is also alittle daunting--I've already been here for 2.5 weeks. Whoa.

Anyway, yesterday, in the midst of the bitterness, I forgot to mention that I saw a military band randomly parading down the main shopping street (over 1 km long). It was random and a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary afternoon.

Also, I went to Fredicksborg Castle this past Sunday. Pictures will be up shortly: follow the link on the blog.

Many thanks to those who gave kind words the past few days.


06 February 2006

l u c k y .

It's snowed all day. Well, snow/rained/slushed/grossed all day.

In fact, it was so disgusting this morning, that my professor for my Danish History Class didn't make it. But he also works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the given political situation, he very well might've had to have missed class to deal with some "situation." In anycase, I found myself in a cold classroom at 8:30 in the morning with no professor to enlighten me on the ins and outs of Danish history.

Now, I should claim that I am by no means an early bird; however, I don't always mind getting up in the morning. In fact, if I sleep much past 10, I feel like I've begun to waste a day of opportunity, which, by Grace, was afforded me. But this morning, I had no intention of setting one toe off my sleeper sofa. I was so determined not to get up that I reset my alarm. Twice. We all know what that means.

In any case, I found myself awake and professorless, so I bonded with my Danish history classmates, then did some work for my next class (and first session of the semester of this class)--Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was a Danish religious philosopher in the mid-19th century, and quite a character. I think it will be a wonderfully interesting semester, but the class has the potential (at least right now) to be (1) boring and (2) killer.

After crashing for a short nap, I got up and had probably the single most awful afternoon I have had yet in Copenhagen. The weather was (and still is) wickedly horrible. I had nothing to do besides homework and felt completely alone.

To add to the situation, Per and Hans had to work late, so we didn't even start cooking dinner until 9pm which left us to begin to eat supper around 10. Needless to say, I was hungry and grouchy. While dinner was cooking, I had a revelation. I, at that moment was miserable. I was alone and tired and hungry and missing home desperately. I was miserable.

And after I thought about myself in a pit of woe, I remembered how lucky I was that there was this great couple here who was willing to come home after a long day at work and cook and take part in my life--and put up with me. I owe it to these two wonderful men to meet them half way.

After a wonderful dinner, I was cleaning the dishes while Per enjoyed his usual after dinner coffee (real coffee, he would comment, not the shit they serve in America) and we got to talking about the classic American movie musical. Now, nothing says "I care about you" like a Dane who explains to you each scene of Singing in the Rain (complete with acapella renditions of the songs). From there we sang everything from Judy Garland to Julie Andrews.

My life was suddenly wrenched into perspective. My disappointment with this afternoon was filled with humanity--worrying about ourselves, hoping to improve our situation. But in singing and cleaning, I realized that there is something much more vast than each of our individuals worlds.

I returned to my room to write about Judy and Julie and Per, and found this message from a dear friend at Elon.

#1. I miss you like crazy. CRAZY, I tell you.
#2. Can I send you mail? If so, where might I direct a piece of post?
#3. I miss you.
#4. I love you.

I'm so lucky.


05 February 2006

Happy Birthday Hans!

In the midst of the ever-escalating tension, I thought I might write a little about what traditional Danish birthdays are like.

This morning Per and I got up before Hans to fix him a traditional Danish breakfast including bacon, eggs, cheese, viennebrod (vienna bread--or danishes). Then, we woke him up by waving small Danish flags around while singing "Happy Birthday"--the American one, because it was the only one I knew. When Hans came into the kitchen, his gifts were at his place, and the table was a vertible feast.

After breakfast, we finished setting up for the big evening! It seems that it is tradition that family and friends drop by the birthday person's home to wish them many more, and to gather in community. I'll write more about that in Part 2.

All day is spent preparing for the evening visitors. Drinks and food for the event, and then you wait. There's no telling when people will stop by, or how many will visit. But that is half the fun.

On the big birthday evening, people begin to saunter in around 7 pm. They arrive mostly unannounced under the assumption that they, of course, would show up on a dear friend's birthday. After inital group bonding (aka drinks, snacks, and discussion), everyone is led to the dining room which has been set with flowers, candles, and Danish flags. Once there, everyone partakes in a buffet of sausages, cheeses, bread, and fruit. In other cases apparently there are many sweets and cakes, but in this case, Hans likes to stay healthy.

And then we talk. And talk. And talk. It is 12:45am and there are still people here chatting, and they are going strong. It's truly fascinating to see how differently cultures celebrate a common day, but also, how similar they can be. From gifts to breakfast in bed, there is a definite assertion of love, celebration and hope for the future.

That's what we each need most now. Love. Celebration. Hope.


04 February 2006

It takes skill...

My mother e-mailed me the other day. Here is some of what she said, and I have to say, I'm not sure she is too far off:

The news broke here last night about the tension in Denmark and there's a column in the AJC [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] about it today. What a bummer. Who would have thought Copenhagen, winter of 06, your semester abroad. Damn, Jonathan, promise you won't pick out my nursing home!!!!

I'm not sure how many of you have been keeping up with the news, but there are some serious tensions rising between much of the Muslim world and Denmark (which is increasingly becoming most of Europe). Today, things worsened as the Danish embassy was burned out of its building in Syria.

All of this began over cartoons published 3 or 4 months ago depicting Muhammad (first problem) with a bomb as a turban (2nd problem). Everything seemed fine, until, about a week and a half ago, poop hit the proverbial fan. Now, after other major European papers republished the cartoons, we are finding ourselves in the midst of a huge political debate--freedom of expression v. religious toleration.

Now, while I'm very much a proponent of freedom of expression, I must say that I would probably be pissed if someone mocked the central figure of my faith. So throw in two major human rights into the bowl, stir in some ignorance, a little misunderstanding and pop it in the oven of hot hatred...and what do you get? Something like the current tensions swelling currently. Oh, and when you take it out, sprinkle with dumb ass. Mmmm...tasty.

So, this evening, after another wonderful dinner and time with my dads, I turned my troubled heart to Rumi. Rumi, whom I've referenced before, was a 13th century Persian poet and the founder of Sufi mysticism. He was/is phenomenal. Once he wrote something along the lines of "When I walk into the Muslim mosque, the Christian church and the Jewish temple, I see the same God." I always like to read Rumi when I'm worried or scared or sad. I just open my copy of a very worn and used The Essential Rumi tranlated by Coleman Barks, and somehow I always flip to a relevant page.

Here's what I read this evening.

Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or etheral, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul,

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.


There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens,
With wandering talk it closes.

A single breath unites us all. We just have to keep breathing.


02 February 2006

Cats Really Speak Danish.

My two dads, Hans and Per, have 5 cats. Four of them are Siamese (think Disney´s Lady and the Tramp---[sings] "we are siamese, if you please..."). The other one is a Burmese named Knul. Actually, they are all named after former Kings of Denmark, and are all males. That´s right. No women in the house. Not even the cats. Living there, at least.

In any case, one of the most eye-opening experiences I´ve had thus far in Købehavn (I can spell it like that because I´m on a Danish keyboard right now--its the danish spelling for Copenhagen, fyi) was watching my homestay dads praise, play with and scold the cats--all in Danish!

Well duh, Jon. Obviously they would speak in danish to their cats. Yes, I know. But what struck me was how, the first time I heard it, I thought to myself "the cats can´t understand danish..." And then it dawned on me that my cats at home, Ginny and Nellie (or Blackcat, as I like to call her), understand my english just about as much as Hans and Per´s cats understand their danish.

I felt so stupid. Of course they wouldn´t understand english or danish--they´re cats!

Clearly, it isn't the words that mean as much as the emotions behind them. Sometimes, it´s not so much what we say a how we say it.

We approach our lives in the same way. We assume that all the messages we need to get will be in plain english (or your language of choice). Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn´t be listening for the words, but for the emotion. Every day, we live our lives thinking we´re right because no one has told us we´re wrong. Perhaps something is telling us to change, we just aren't listening because we don't know what to listen for.

Or we just aren´t willing to hear it.


01 February 2006


Almost every student at DIS does not have classes on Wednesday.

The notion is nice. It allows students a break in the middle of the week, as well as the opportunity for classes to participate in "field studies" which are used to enhance the classroom experience. Basically, fieldtrips for college students.

The catch is that if you are taking 4 classes, there is no way that you will have a field study every week. So, the question is: what does one do with these midweek breaks?


After a slow morning of emails and thinking, I called my friend Liz, and we decided to meet up at a trendy little coffee shop next to our school. A short bike ride later, I found her and we set out to explore parts of Copenhagen we had yet to discover. We ended up walked along Strøget, the main shopping/pedestrian street in Copenhagen. We had seen part of it, as DIS is very close to it, but we had yet to venture up into the high-end shops area.

Later that afternoon, we tried to find a movie to watch, but it seems everything either started an hour before or an hour after, so we opted to get warm and see some art at the Statens Museum for Kunst (the State Museum for Art).

The collection is magnificent and was a refreshing end to the day.

And just what I need after I ran myself and my bike into a concrete barrier on the side of the bike lane I was riding in...but that is another story. Don't worry. I'm ok.

Vi Ses!


Also--I found this poem at a charming contemporary art museum Liz and I went to today. Many museums have free admission on Wednesday.

one thinks
it's rain
only the dry leaves falling

drought by dick higgins