The Uncommon Gift of Humility

Websters defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” A modest or low view of one’s own importance.

Humility has become increasingly uncommon in our culture, in fact, our culture seems to promote the opposite of humility, narcissism, self-centeredness and entitlement.

In the past humility was a highly prized character quality, one to aspire to, and work to develop in your life. Today self-promotion and entitlement to are to often the norm. How far up the ladder of arrogance have we climbed? We don’t have to look to far to be reminded we are all imperfect. In other words we all have good reason to be humble, but often we see people & sadly often Christian leaders living in the fantasy world of self importance.

Pride creates in us a self importance and lack of care for others. Humility breeds authenticity and self-awareness in us. Humility allows us to see others, value their opinions and give them a voice. Perhaps we have arrived at our current destination, due to the pseudo-reality of our lives in the 2 dimensional on-line universe. Social media gives us a very curated view of people’s lives and presents a like view of our own as well. We show only what we want to portray, and leave most of our reality in the shadows.

So is there a value to living a humble life in our current reality, and if so, how do we cultivate humility in our own lives? Here are a few thoughts:

First, I believe a humble life reflects more accurately the reality of our God given existence, and the dependence we have on other people. It allows us to move away from the fantasy lived by so many around us and to embrace the value of other people. Here is what is helping me (not in any particular order) move my life out of the shadows and into the reality of my dependance on God and to value others.

Avoid the humble brag – Too many times we as Christian leaders are the hero of our own story. Often couched in a pseudo humility, we are really sharing the awesome thing we did, or the amazing idea we had. Another all to common occurrence is stealing or not sharing well deserved credit from others who we should be celebrating for it. Sometimes even stealing credit that belongs to God alone.

Care Less about your reputation – Often we are trying to shape people’s impressions of who we are and what they think about us. We would be better off to worry less about what people think and focus more on the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and doing what is right in spite of what people think.

Value Authenticity – Be slow to speak and when you do speak, focus on what is real in our lives and the world around us.

Choose to live an others centered life – Choose to be concerned about others needs, thoughts and opinions. Take time to get to get to know people and their story, what they think and how they came to that understanding. Value where people come from and how it shaped who they are, good or bad.

Practice Gratitude – Be grateful to God for your life and people in it. Make it a point to show appreciation to those who do things for you and serve you. Always say THANK YOU to family, friend or stranger.

Regularly unplug from the electronic world – In our noisy world it has never been more important to unplug from the chaos around us and experience solitude and silence. Nature can be a helpful setting for this, it reminds us of how small we are and how BIG God is.

Cultivate Curiosity – Be curious about the world around you and the people in it. Listen more and judge less, ask questions. It’s a great and interesting way to live. Give others the gift of caring who they are and what they think.

There is much, much more to say on this subject than I have written here, I have just scratched the surface on this very important topic. I hope it has sparked a curiosity in you to explore it more with family, friends and strangers alike. Lets all strive to have 2023 be a year of greater humility expressed in our lives.

Santiago & Farewell

“In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.”

Isaiah 65: 21

I was talking with one of the Gallery owners in Alegre, he was a medical Doctor, who loved art and opened the Gallery because it was his passion. As we walked through the rooms he explained to me about each artist’s work.

The conversation somehow moved to family and I discovered he was Basque. We discussed our families and when I told him my family name was Barrenechea, he laughed. He said there is a District in Santiago called Lo Barnechea, settled by Basques. He told me it was a very nice part of town and that I must visit it while I was in Santiago.

We packed up the last of our belongings early on Saturday morning before heading to breakfast, our last meal on the ship. The trip was a wonderful experience, and met our expectations, but, after 21 days we were ready to spend some time on dry land. We left the ship for the last time and boarded a bus for the 1 1/2 hour ride to Santiago from Valparaiso. The drive was scenic through the hills and across picturesque valleys dotted with farms and vineyards, with tractors moving through the fields.

As we arrived in Santiago the vast city was laid out before us. We dropped off at a hotel which would be our departure location in the evening for the airport. We met a friend of ours Steve who lives in Santiago and he showed us the town on the final day of our trip. We visited the Basque Club (Mary-Beth’s father had spent time there in the 1950’s) for lunch with Steve and his two daughters. We shared an authentic Basque meal and then headed for Lo Barnechea.

The taxi dropped us off at a corner cafe where we went in a had dessert and coffee. The Lo Barnechea District was nestled at the foothills of the towering Andes. They almost did not look real, more like a painting as they soared into the sky. Wow, it was impressive!

Santiago is a bustling modern City of almost 7,000,000 people. We enjoyed the summer heat, a nice contrast from Southern Patagonia. It was great to see this impressive city and learn some of its history. Most of all, it was a fine place to end our journey to the end of the world. Thanks for joining us for this journey of a lifetime.

Valparaiso, Vina Del Mar & Easter Island

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”

I Corinthians 2:4

In the cool of the morning we approached our last port of call in Valparaiso, Chile. This was a much anticipated destination on our adventure because in the adjacent community, Vina Del Mar, was where Mary-Beth’s parents Don & Sue Zarraonandia married and lived for a time in 1957.

We were excited as we disembarked the ship, because we had no time we had to be back on board, a totally free night. We began our day trekking into downtown Valparaiso, and took an Ascensor up the hill to the Alegre Arts District. It was a slow and steep climb up the hill where we wound through the streets to find rustic restaurants with culinary delights, bars and art galleries. We wandered through the galleries and enjoyed the street artists creative work. Before we left for Vina Del Mar we had to purchase a small painting of a fishing boat on the sand with the Valparaiso pier in the background. Art is almost always our favorite souvenir when we travel.

We took a long staircase down the hill and found a bus stop where we could catch a bus to Vina. It was an adventure although a short 15 minute ride from downtown. We got off the bus and could see the Casino that we had heard Sue speak about so many times. It was a beautiful white building with a red tile roof. On the inside in was more reminiscent of Las Vegas than the elegance of the velvet couches and roulette tables it housed in her description in 1957.

We walked along the beach watching as the powerful waves slammed into the rocks that had been piled along the sand to protect the shoreline. The sound of the waves and power of the water struck a little fear in our hearts. We were reminded of the way God reveals His power in the things He has created. The beaches were full of people, yet no one dared venture into the powerful waves. We were hungry and found a nice restaurant right on the sand and shared a salad of celery and avocado, quite a Chilean delicacy!

We visited a museum that told the history of Easter Island and the Rapa Nui people who inhabit the island. It is believed that they immigrated to the Island between 700-800 AD from Thailand. It was fascinating to learn the history of the Moai statues, how they were constructed and what their significance is to the Rapa Nui people.

Back in Valparaiso we headed back up to Alegre district to see a few more galleries and found a contemporary restaurant perched on the hill with a terrace overlooking the city below. The view was amazing and the food even better. Shrimp & artichoke soup for me and fresh salad for Mary-Beth. After dinner we walked back down the hill and the city was coming alive with young people on this Friday night. We passed an outdoor concert near one of the town squares that was thick with people. So much fun!

We arrived back on the ship in time to prepare for our trip to Santiago in the morning, our final day on this great adventure.

A German City of Roses – La Ciudad de las Rosas

“Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.”

Psalm 96:13

This morning we anchored in the harbor outside Puerto Montt, Chile. We took a tender into shore. We boarded a bus at the terminal and headed for Puerto Varas a German settlement about 20 minutes drive from the Port. As we drove down the hill into Puerto Varas and turned right into the town square, we saw streets lined with beautiful Rose bushes. Not just on the square, but all the streets of the small town. Being summer the bushes were bursting with rose blooms, like a giant rose garden.

We stepped off of the bus and walked across the street to the shore of Lake Llanquihue. It was a sight to behold! Across this massive lake Osorno Volcano jutted toward the sky with it’s snowy peak pointed upward, appearing that the volcano comes up out of the lake pointing to the heavens and praising God. The beauty of God’s creation was surrounding us. We watched the people enjoying the beach, walked the streets, had a coffee and shopped for a few gifts before heading back to Puerto Montt.

Back at the harbor we decided to head toward the Angelmo Fish Market in the “Old Port.” It was a bustling place with lots of vendors selling fish, food, art and trinkets. There were also a slew of local restaurants to choose from. We picked one with a view of the harbor and great local cuisine and enjoyed lunch.

After eating lunch we visited a number of street artists and purchase several small paintings with scenes typical of this part of Chile. Art is one of our favorite souvenirs when we travel abroad. All in all, It was a beautiful sunny summer day and it could not have been more perfect, it was the kind of day that made you want to lift your hands and praise God for His goodness to us! Come let us Praise the Lord!

4 Seasons in one day – Punta Arenas, Chile

This was a day that made it hard to believe we were in the middle of summer in South America. We docked in Punta Arenas early in the morning. As we did a walking tour through the city, the wind picked up and made the walking cold and difficult. We walked through the historic downtown as we learned the history of this old city.

We walked up a flight of stairs taking us up the hillside to a patio that overlooked the sea and the city below. From this vantage point we could see the beautiful colors of the painted rooftops in many colors across the city below..

As we walked in the streets this cold and windy morning, we began to look for a place that we could get coffee. Through out our time is South America we struggled to find good coffee, but we hoped this day would be different. We came across a Coffee shop and we heard they had the best coffee in Punta Arenas, so we stopped in and gave it a try. We ordered an avocado toast to split plus coffee. The owner of the shop had spent several years living and working in a coffee shop in Australia and brought his knowledge back to his home town to open a new coffee shop.

As we finished our coffee and toast and headed back out to the street for our walk back to the Port, the sun shown on our faces and he wind had stopped. We felt warm as we walked and began to understand why it is said in Punto Arenas you will experience all four seasons in one day.

The Chilean Archipelago and the Amalia Glacier

“The City was pure gold, clear as crystal, and its wall was made of jasper.”

Revelation 21:18

As we cruised North out of Ushuaia through the Chilean Fijords we witnessed a part of nature that appeared unchanged since it’s creation. I realized that the world around us for the next few days could only be seen by ship, or perhaps helicopter. We would see some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in my lifetime.

An archipelago is simply a chain of Islands. The Chilean Archipelago goes for nearly 1000 miles. As we navigated the fjords North, we passed 5 glaciers, all of them a sight to behold on our way to Punto Arenas, Chile. Punto Arenas is on the windswept Pacific Coast of Patagonia another one of the many faces of Patagonia. We spent the day walking the streets of this hillside town, learned it’s history, drank some good coffee and shared an avocado toast. This place has a reputation for having 4 seasons in one day. This mid summer day felt more like Fall or Winter to a couple of Californians.

Back on the boat, the next day about mid day we approached the Amalia Glacier. As we came closer the water began to turn to an aqua blue from the sediment from the melting ice. When we entered the bay that was home to the glacier, the water was nearly white next to the blue ice. The ice in certain spots was white as you would expect, but in others it was a shade of blue that I am not sure I can describe to you, a deep, rich, bright blue, a color of heaven. I am still fumbling for words to describe what I was seeing.

All that to say this piece of God’s creation was almost too beautiful to accurately put into words, and pictures did not seem to do it justice. The Apostle John in Revelation 21, is trying to describe in human terms the vision that God gave to him. I have a sense that is what it will be like when we get to heaven and see it for the first time. We will be overwhelmed by it’s beauty and not be able to find words for what our eyes are seeing. What a gift to see the Amelia Glacier, a great preview of what is to come!

Ushuaia the Southern Most City in the World.

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Acts 13:47

When I read the many passages in the New & Old Testament that mention the “ends of the earth,” I never thought I would actually be there, but that is where we have spent the last few days. 

Ushuaia, Argentina is the Southern most City in the world. We arrived there in the late afternoon, but there were gale force winds and the ship could not dock, so we had to anchor in the harbor over night. Early the following day we were able to dock. We went with a group of people to Escondido Lakes. It was a spectacular drive through glacial carved mountains and canyons, scenery unlike anything we had seen before. It was beautiful!

We spent some time walking along the lake and snapping photos. On our way back to town we stopped at a sheep ranch and had lamb cooked in the traditional style over a fire pit. It was delicious! They also kept and trained Siberian huskies as sled dogs for tourists in the winter. They must of had 50 of them in an enclosure. 

The actual town of Ushuaia is built up a hillside from the water in a cove. It was a bustling town with lots of activity. It reminded me of some combination of San Francisco & Rozaje, Montenegro. Very cool place!

We left port a little early, at 3:30 pm, because we would be cruising up Glacier Alley passing 5 glaciers as we navigated through the Chilean Fijords. We had made plans to have dinner with a Jewish Couple we met on the ship from Atlanta. We sat at a window on the starboard side of the ship that gave us a stunning view of the glaciers as we passed by. It was jaw dropping!

The combination of seeing the most spectacular landscape I have seen in my lifetime and the interesting dinner conversation about Judaism, faith and Jesus was almost surreal. When I read in Acts that God calls us to be “a light to the Gentiles,” I am reminded of our responsibility to be intentional to share our faith with those who don’t know Jesus. But today, God sent me to the ends of the earth to share my faith with a Jew and I pray that someday he will find the true Messiah, Jesus. 

Cape Horn: The End of the World

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37:4

For some reason on this trip I keep going back to 1982. In 1982 my parents had moved from Southern California to Northern California. They moved to a small town in the Central Valley called Lodi. One summer day I had to go to the travel agency (they use to have those before Expedia & Travelocity) to purchase a ticket to fly to Southern California. As I was sitting in the lobby waiting for someone to assist me, I noticed the different travel posters up all over the walls, all of exotic places around the world. One in particular stands out in my mind, a poster of Hawaii. I remember praying a prayer telling God that I had a desire to see the world, and if it fit in with His plans for me, could He give me this opportunity. Fifty six countries & five continents later, God has answered that prayer.

The ultimate achievement for seafarers for hundreds of years has and continues to be, to round Cape Horn where the Atlantic and Pacific come together. This is the Southern most point on the South American continent, some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Over 10,000 plus lives known have been lost trying to make their way around the Horn. It is also a graveyard for sunken ships who have attempted the treacherous journey.

As we left the Falkland Islands our last stop before the Horn, we were filled with excitement and a little bit of nervousness. In talking to some of the crew on the ship about going through the Drake Passage & around the horn, they said you never quite know what you are going to get. One guy told me “I once went through and it was like glass and another time there were 30 foot waves.” Yikes! We had a two day journey before we would reach Drake Passage and the Cape Horn. The first day and night was calm. The Captain said we would have mild winds, but on the second day we will see who the Cape really is. Yikes again!

Day #2 we were expecting a rough ride and little sleep, but we slept through the night. We awoke early and the wind was blowing around 40 knots, with moderate waves, not too bad. We made our way to breakfast and then the upper deck on the bow to watch as we approached the horn. We had perfect front row seats for the adventure of a lifetime. We rounded Cape Horn around 10 am and it was beautiful! Cape Horn is actually an Island and we made a 360 degree circle around it. Only one family lives on Cape Horn, the Lighthouse Keeper with his wife and children. Other than that the Island has no inhabitants.

After we circled Cape Horn, we headed North to Ushuaia, Argentina through the Beagle Passage where Charles Darwin traveled on his exploration ship the Beagle. More on this tomorrow.

As I have reflected on this experience, I sat in awe, in awe at the beauty around me, like nothing I have ever witnessed before. In awe at God’s 40 + year long answer to a prayer I prayed when I was 19. I am reminded that God cares about the details, the small things in our lives, He cares about our desires. This was surely the ultimate travel experience I could have and I am so grateful to God for fulling the desire of my heart. I heard it said that the world is a book, and if you don’t travel it’s like only reading one page. I think this is true. Travel has taught me that the world really is a small place, and people are more alike than you think. Most importantly God loves them all and desires to show himself to the world through us.

War in the Falkland Islands

When I think about the Falkland Islands, I am immediately taken back to 1982 when Ronald Reagan was President and Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain. I was in college in 1982 and remember the British Invasion of the Falklands, but I did not really understand the issues or why the Falkland Islands were important to Great Britain or Argentina.

I imagine the Argentines claimed ownership of the Islands because they were off their coast. The British first came to the Falklands and developed a settlement in 1700’s. After giving up the islands to the Spanish, in 1833 Britain retook the Islands and has been in possession of them ever since. The Falklands Islanders number 3,662 and they are a proud British people, many who’s families have been there for generations. We meet one person who’s family has been on the islands for 7 generations.

When the Argentines invaded under the leadership of President Leopoldo Galtieri they made several miscalculations. First was they thought there would be perceived as liberators by the Falkland Islanders, but they were not, they are British sovereigns and wanted nothing to do with Argentina. Second, they did not think the British would come all they way from England to defend the Islands, until one day an entire Armada of British Ships showed up at their doorstep to liberate the islands. The war lasted 72 days before Argentina surrendered to the British.

We arrived in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands early in the morning and we were excited to see this very unique place. We took a tender from our Boat into picturesque Stanley Harbor and disembarked, almost immediately it was apparent how much the Falkland Island war still impacts them today over 40 years later. We did typical tourist things on shore. We ate the most amazing fish & chips and we visited a beach where many penguins nest and live. We were told it took 10 years for the Argentine mines to be cleared from the beach so it could be used again by locals.

We visited the Anglican Cathedral, the Southern most Anglican Church in the world. It’s a beautiful brick church with stain glass windows. Inside the walls were lined with plaques in memory of the members of the Church who were lost in the 1982 war.

We left the Cathedral and continued walking, we came to a war memorial commemorating the British and Falkland Islanders who gave their lives in the 1982 war with Argentina. We saw two soldiers and a woman placing a wreath and leaving a Falkland Island flag to honor someone who’s name was listed there. There is a bust of Margret Thatcher at the memorial with this inspcription:

“They are few in number, but they have a right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiances.”

Margaret Thatcher

I was reminded that the Christian life involves a “spiritual war,” one we fight everyday against the devil and his demons who are trying to defeat and destroy us. He is an enemy invading a person that belongs to Jesus. This passage in Ephesians 6 is a great reminder, kind of one like the war memorial on Thatcher Drive in Port Stanley. I would like to sign off with the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: 10-12:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

A Day in Patagonia

Sometimes you have a picture in your mind of what a place will be like, well Patagonia was one of those places for me, and it was quite different than I expected. We pulled into Puerto Madryn, Argentina at 7 am as the sun was rising. It was a warm & beautiful day.

At 8am we headed for a small Welsh Village about an hour away from Puerto Madryn, called Gaiman. Puerto Madryn was settled by 150 Welsh immigrants in 1865, who were escaping poverty in Wales and looking for a better life. This wave of immigration was followed in the early 20th century by a large settlement of Basque immigrants. This struck a cord with me as I remembered my Grandfather Louis Barrenechea’s telling me his sister Maria had immigrated to Argentina in the 1920’s. I wondered if she was one of those who settled in Puerto Madryn?

Raising sheep is one of the major products of the region, mainly done by Basque ranchers. As we drove through the countryside, I had to adjust my idea of what I thought Patagonia would be like. I was expecting, mountains, rivers and lots of trees. I know parts of Patagonia do look like that, but not this part. It was flat, arid and had no trees. It kind of reminded us of Northern Nevada.

We arrived in Gaiman, and drove through the small village stopping at a Welsh tea house for traditional tea, bread & cakes. It was great! We were serenaded by a Welsh choir singing tradition Welsh cultural songs and hymns. As a community they have worked very hard to preserve the Welsh culture and language in Patagonia. Most of these descendants of the original Welsh settlers speak Welsh, English and Spanish. They have done a pretty good job preserving their culture as It felt like a little bit of Europe carved out of Argentina.

We have more of Patagonia to see in the days ahead. I am excited to see what it will be like as I hold my expectations with an open hand.