Confetti, Silly String, Masks, and Streamers Everywhere!

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Milan has just had its Carnivale celebration.  Carnivale is the last hurrah before the carnal deprivation of Lent, and should technically be celebrated on Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.

In Italy, however, Carnivale is celebrated for two weeks.  Unlike the nearly naked and drunken celebrations of Carnivale in Brazil or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnivale here is mostly for children.  Confetti, Silly String in aerosol cans, streamers and costumes can be found in most every market and shop during the month of February.  And a two week celebration means that a child can celebrate Carnivale with her grandparents in Parma one weekend and celebrate at home in Milan the next weekend.

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One February I was in the small town of Iseo, Italy by the like-named lake.  I was tired, so I sat on a bench near a place where the sidewalk narrowed.  There was a boy about 3-4 years old in costume.  His dad was also tired so they shared my bench.  The boy had a bag of confetti and every time he saw another child approaching he pulled out a fistful and—POW!—showered the other kid with confetti.  The giggling that followed was positively contagious.  Then he would load up again and wait for his next victim.  We passed an hour or so this way.

February of 2010 I was in Venice.  I would never have deliberately gone to Venice during Carnivale because I don’t like being in crowds, but since I was there and it would probably be my only chance to do so, I went to St. Mark’s Square and watched the celebration.  Venice’s Carnivale is quite a spectacle, with some of the most opulent and elaborate costumes I have ever seen.  It reminded me of the costume party scene in Hitchcock’s “It Takes a Thief.”  I was told that some people save up all year for their Carnivale costumes, and I can believe it.  But it was a also an event for children.  At one point, I found myself near a family with two children.  The little boy kept tossing confetti on his little sister, who was too little to understand or appreciate the fun.  Finally he got frustrated with her and turned and threw confetti on me.  “Whee!”  I giggled every time he did it, which made him keep doing it until his mother stopped him.  I think she must have thought I was just being kind, but really I was having fun.

The very next day was when God told me about my ministry to Europe.  I like to think that God will use me and the rest of the missionaries in Europe to bring revival, and then we’ll celebrate in a party that never has to end.

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Yesterday celebrations ended here in Milan—just when I had gotten used to riding the subway with fairy princesses and Power Rangers!  All that’s left is Carnivale’s detritus: confetti and spent streamers all over the ground, and silly string going gooey all over the walls.  The city is really good about cleaning up after Carnivale, so there will be hardly a trace of its silly fun.  I don’t normally mind the winter, but February really needs Carnivale’s fun.  I think God knew that!

A Parade!

This morning I awoke at the house of my friends Roxie and Daniel, who live in Biella.  Roxie is called la orsa che abbraccia—the hugging bear.  She has earned this name because she gives big, warm bear hugs that make you feel very welcome and loved.  Outside the window, it seemed unusually bright for six AM.  It had snowed overnight, and as I write this, it is continuing to snow.  Roxie fixed me a fantastic (and fantastically big) breakfast and a sack lunch to take with me on the train.  Then she and Daniel drove me to the train station.

What a difference being in the train station!  At their house we all praised God for the beautiful snow, which is a gift from Heaven to water the earth in winter.  But in the train station I have heard nothing but whining about the snow, the cold, and illnesses.  Of course, illnesses don’t come from cold weather, but from viruses.  Besides, as believers, we should never say, “I’ve got a cold (or the flu or whatever type of illness).”  Pastor Fabio’s sermon yesterday was about how when Jesus said, “It is finished,” and bowed His head, all the curses from original sin were paid for—including sickness.  If we can manage to wrap our heads around the idea that it has already been paid—all of it!—then we can truly begin to live the victorious life of true freedom in Christ.  These are the days of miracles and wonders, if we can only believe it.

On the train to Santhiá, where I am at this moment, it has continued to snow.  Here I have about an hour between trains.  No sooner did I sit down to wait, then I heard music.  It was a band marching down the street toward the city offices across the street from the train station.  On what most people here are lamenting as a dismal and cold winter day, there is a band celebrating something.  I grabbed my camera and took some pictures—the only person to do so.  Again, it seems like the contrast between believers and unbelievers is as plain as black and white, darkness and light.

The Bible tells us that the world will fall into ever darker darkness, but the beautiful thing about that is the contrast between darkness and light.  Therefore, go and be the light of the world that you were created to be.  The people lost in darkness will be attracted to the light of the Son like moths to a flame.  And if there’s no parade, start one!  Our celebration has only just begun! Parade on a snowy day