"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September Books

Good day to you!  Hope everyone is well and enjoying the last few hours of September 2011. I seriously cannot believe we are marching towards Christmas at such a fast clip!  This year has flown. Of course I say this most every year now that I'm out of high school chemistry and algebra classes. 

Here's the list of books I finished this month.

Sounds of the River by Da Chen -- This memoir was about the author's life in college after leaving the countryside and going to Beijing - the big city - to pursue his English language studies. I enjoyed hearing how a tanned southerner from the country with a heavy accent viewed big city life and how he was treated by "white" Chinese. I enjoyed tales about his college classes, his roommates, his spiritual life and how he didn't toe the party line good enough for the Communist faithful.  I learned about bribes and how important they are in making things happen. I realized Chinese are a lot like men in other countries in their talk of girls. I enjoyed Da's interactions with foreigners - those from countries such as Cambodia as well as Europeans and Americans.  It was interesting how the Communists tried to keep their people away from the foreigners so they wouldn't be tainted with western thoughts and materialism and liberalism and capitalism (all that bad stuff we offer that has contributed to Chinese jobs since we buy a lot of their manufactured stuff).  Da shared about the time he worked as an English interpreter and an NBA group came through.  I enjoyed hearing his impressions of these guys and his adventures with them.  I liked his interaction with a few Christians he met. He was even given a Bible by a Norwegian and he was able to give it to his favorite professor from home who was overjoyed at receiving an English Bible of her own.  The last chapters dealt with his friendship with an American couple and his trying to get to America.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon -- The subtitle reads "Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe" - this book was about Kamila Sidiqi and her life in Afghanistan especially after the Taliban came to power.  Left in charge of a large family, Kamila looked for opportunities to support her younger sisters and brother and used her skills to open a dressmaking shop in the house. This book shares some of her adventures in securing new clients for her work and the ways she opened up her house to many women in the surrounding area who also needed to contribute towards the survival of their households.  I loved Kamila's attitude of looking out for others by providing work for more than just her family members.

The Unexpected Adventure by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittleberg -- "Taking Everyday Risks To Talk With People About Jesus"  -- I didn't have any more library books because I decided to not read one that I had left in the stack as it didn't interest me much. So while waiting until the next day to visit the library, I found this one on my bookshelf and decided to read it in the meantime. I'm glad I did as it make me happy to read the authors' adventures in telling others about Jesus.  I especially enjoyed the part about serving others (pg. 64), coming out of our cocoons (pg. 76), embracing divine interruptions (pg. 95) and the challenge to never give up praying for people (pg. 151).

God Against The Gods by Jonathan Kirsch -- "The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism"  -- see previous post

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine  -- see previous posts

My Tears Spoiled My Aim and Other Reflections on Southern Culture by John Shelton Reed -- This book was a series of essays discussing such things as what and where is the South, who is a Southerner, violence in country music, Southern culture, the Southern diaspora and even how Southern women were portrayed in Playboy.   Parts of it made me laugh especially when the author told stories of people he'd met or heard about or quoted letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines discussing Southern and Northern issues.  I have always been fascinated by that stuff so it was great.  I think my favorite chapters were "Life and Leisure in the New South" which talked about Southerners' characteristic easy-going lifestyle (read: we are lazy) and things we like to do in our free time.   "Refugees and Returnees" was also a fun chapter for me.

Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite van Geldermalsen -- If you want to read about a woman from New Zealand on a backpacking trip through the Middle East with a fellow adventurer who meets a Bedouin in Petra by chance, falls in love, marries and makes her home in a cave, this book might be of interest to you.  I enjoyed reading of Marguerite's years among the Bedouin, her help in their clinic, the food they ate, the things she finds worth mentioning. Yesterday I read of a man collecting money to pay a debt his tribe owed because someone killed a man in another tribe. Asking money of people to settle a debt like that just isn't what I'm used to. Also Marg's turn to get a gold tooth - a symbol of her father in law's generosity to his family. Yeah.  Well, it was really just a gold piece glued over her real tooth, but still. They find that attractive?  I don't think I'll ever get used to women being just another piece of property that you can buy if you come into money.  Marg's talk of a guy getting extra money and deciding whether to get a concrete floor, a new mule or marry again...ah.  According to her a lot of the second wives came from Egypt and they "brought an accent I couldn't understand, a standard of ululation I could never attain and pretty soon were producing a generation with fresh genes at a rate I had no desire to match."  (pg. 211)

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam by Zainab Salbi -- very interesting book about a lady who describes growing up as the daughter of Saddam Hussein's pilot and "friend"; I greatly enjoyed her story and learning about the perspective of one who was impacted by Saddam's control and her feelings about sanctions on her people and the wars fought by Iraq (on Iran and invading Kuwait - she claims many Iraqis didn't like Kuwait because the latter came across as privileged and they though the other Arabs would support their efforts.)  She didn't like the sanctions on her people: punishment for a punished people. They would only hurt the ordinary people not Saddam who was entrenched in power.  While she was happy Saddam was removed from power, she hated the fact that, again, ordinary people would be hurt. Ordinary boys like her brothers would be drafted and the country was so destroyed.

"Any society that stops questioning its leaders is vulnerable to dictatorship, and Amo used our own traditions against us to help instill and perpetuate fear. To the traditional concept of ayeb, which dealt with things that were forbidden by cultural courtesies, and haram, which dealt with things that were forbidden by religion, Amo seemed to add a third, mamnu'a, which just meant forbidden....We lived in fear. Fear had spread through our society the way color does when you put a single drop of tint into the water to dye eggs..."  (pg. 117)

Wrong About Japan: A Father's Journey With His Son
by Peter Carey -- I would have appreciated this book more if I actually cared about manga and anime. I still liked the part where the Japanese guy told about his memories of the US's attack on his country. Did you know dropping bombs sound like heavy rain?

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda -- this is based on the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari an Afghan boy who was taken to Pakistan by his mother and left there while he was sleeping. He was only about ten.  But she felt he had a better chance of surviving there than within their family's village due to their being Hazara and Shia, two things Taliban apparently don't like.  This story was Enaia's adventures living in Pakistan, later escaping and living in Iran, later moving on to Turkey, Greece and finally Italy where he was blessed to find a family to foster him and give him a home.  Enaia graduated from high school earlier this year and plans to study in Italy so he can support his mother and siblings (whom he was reunited with) who live in Pakistan.

This book challenged me to be kind to strangers among me especially foreign ones. Maybe they are refugees in need of a friendly helper.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
by Alice Ozma -- I got this on the new book shelf at the library because it seemed rather cute.  The author and her father decided to read together for 100 nights.  There were rules such as they had to read at least ten minutes, her father read out loud to her and it had to be before midnight to count. The streak happened and was extended. Extended until Alice went off to her first year of college, in fact. The book is more than about reading books. It's about a single father through his daughter's eyes. It's about a quirky elementary school librarian who did his best to instill the love of reading into children. And it has funny, imaginative and sometimes sad tales of Alice's life.

Seeing Vietnam by Susan Brownmiller -- the subtitle is "Encounters of the Road and Heart" which about sums it up.  The author went to Vietnam on assignment for a travel magazine. Her job was to explore the country noting must-see places and points of interest.  I enjoyed seeing Vietnam through her eyes especially as she told about places through the politics and world situation of when she was growing up and seeing all the conflict with Vietnam. Several times I had to stop and think about why my country had to be involved in hurting others, killing them and harming future generations. It's so sad what we will do all because we fear something and/or want control.  Heartbreaking. 

But the book was really good. I enjoyed the author's encounters with natives, her official tour guides and flashbacks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jesus, Judaism/Baseball v. Christianity/Football, Changing Interpretations

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

Here are my last notes from this book. See this post for more of my thoughts.

First what the author said about herself in the introduction. I especially liked the last sentence.

"I find that the more I study Jesus, Mary Magdalene, James, Peter, and Paul in their own historical contexts, the more I come to appreciate my own Judaism: the diversity of its teachings, the richness of its encounter with the divine, the struggles it faced in accommodating to the Roman world. I appreciate, even find inspirational, the message of the kingdom of heaven, a message that spoke of the time when all debts are forgiven and when those who have willingly give, without thought of reciprocity, to those who need; a time when we no longer ask, 'Who is my neighbor?' but 'Who acts as neighbor?'; a time when we prioritize serving rather than being served. ... But as much as I admire much of the message, I do not worship the messenger. Instead, I find Jesus reflects back to me my own tradition, but in a new key.  I also have to admit a bit of pride in thinking about him -- he's one of ours." (pg. 8)


In discussing the "distinct canons" of both Christians and Jews, the author notes that even what ends each canon is significant.  For Christian's, the Old Testament ends with Malachi.

1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.
 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

For Jews, the Tanakh usually ends with II Chronicles 36 and the edict from Cyrus:

22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
 23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
   “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the LORD their God be with them.’”

"The Tanakh thus ends not with a promise to be fulfilled by something new but with an injunction to return to one's home, to one's roots."

Ms. Levine uses a sports metaphor saying Christianity is more like football.  "There is a linear sense to the Christian canon; one moves from the promise of the line of scrimmage to the goal of the (eschatological) end zone.  Judaism, at least as understood by the canonical order, is baseball. The concern is to return to Zion, to go home." (pg. 199)

I guess this helps explain why Jews have often longed to return to Jerusalem.


She discussed that Judaism had a more communal approach whereas Christianity in a general sense was more individualistic.  Jews were more likely to argue with the texts and with other Jews and realize "in some cases multiple meanings are possible.  Jews are more inclined to say, 'I'm right, and you may be right too.'"  (pg. 205)

Perhaps related to this - at least in my mind - this midrash which the author gives as an example of "a number of midrashim [that] go out of their way to prevent the view that Moses is divine."  She writes,

"Moses receives God's permission to see the great teacher Rabbi Akiva. Seated in the last row of Akiva's school, Moses is so distressed by his inability to follow the discussion that he grows faint.  Yet when Akiva's students inquire, 'Master, where did you learn this?' Akiva responds, 'It is a Law given to Moses at Sinai.'  In other words, Moses could not understand the interpretation of the Torah that he himself received. The story not only highlights Moses's limited knowledge but simultaneously praises those who continue to interpret the text and celebrates the text's own ability to speak to each generation." (pg. 202)

I believe she's saying the text is not set in stone, but the interpretation should be changeable as people change.  Also there is the fact that not even the prophets who gave us the texts can say for certain what they mean especially for all people of all times. 

Your thoughts?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Putting Judaism back into Jesus...so the Christians won't hate us!

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

So I got this book from the library because I thought it would be interesting to read about Jesus as his teachings may have come across to a first-century Jew hearing his parables and teachings, messages of repentance and even prayers.  And I guess the book is about that. I mean the first chapter has sections on his parables and prayers (I enjoyed the section on the Lord's Prayer), but much of the book is more or less putting Judaism back into Jesus since the author is a Jew and understandably doesn't like Christians throughout the centuries and even today to say that Judaism is a legalistic burden, misogynistic and overly concerned with purity rules. 

I know Jews have been mistreated over the years and I tried to read this book understanding her mindset on that, however, the group of Christians I grew up in is so pro-Jew that the current State of Israel can do the most atrocious things and they chalk it up to "Islam's thugs" doing something to the poor Jews so that the Jews have no choice but to defend themselves.  So, I read the author's words putting Judaism back into Jesus (so no one could argue he was anti-Judaism, anti-Law) thinking, "Oh, I didn't realize some Christians wrote/said/taught these things." Well, I guess I did know it on some level. Again, it just wasn't at all what I was taught or even today what most of my family and friends believe about Jews. I suppose the main thing many of them would be guilty of is desiring the Jews to follow Jesus because they believe Jesus is the Way to the Father, the Messiah whom they seek. 

But then Ms. Levine said not all Jews were even looking for a Messiah.  She explained that just as there were Sadducees who believed only in the Torah and no resurrection of the dead and Pharisees who tended to add fences around the Law and believed in resurrection, there was Shammai's school and Hillel's - not all Jews believed the same.  Makes sense. I know Christians and Muslims who hardly believe the same as other Christians and Muslims so why not Jews? There's always a range of thought in groups with some believing more literally and some more metaphorically and so forth.

I shared this story on Facebook because I liked how Rebbe Moshe Leib of Sassov (1745-1807) taught his disciples how to truly love their neighbors.

"Tell me, friend Ivan, do you love me?"
"I love you deeply."
"Do you know, my friend, what gives me pain?"
"How can I, pray, know what gives you pain?"
"If you do not know what gives me pain, how can you say that you truly love me?"

Lesson: "Understand, then,...to love, truly to love, means to know what brings pain to your comrade."

(pg. 116)

Ms. Levine encouraged Jews and Christians to read the texts together and through each other's ears because Christians may not realize how "the Jews" doing such and such in John's or Peter's or Paul's words comes across to a Jewish person.  She also pointed out to Jews that most Christians probably do not read anti-Jewish thought into the New Testament texts.  I believe Rebbe Leib's illustration goes along with that. If I know that certain texts bring pain to someone because to them it seem accusatory, I can truly love my Jewish neighbors better.

Besides manna, I don't recall food ever coming down from heaven to feed people. Unless you count quail which God used to feed people on occasion. While discussing the "Lord's Prayer" Ms. Levine mentioned the phrase about giving us our daily bread and recalls a Jewish prayer said before eating, "'Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."  Bread, she notes, does not come forth from the earth. Grain does and then you use the grain to make bread. It's God giving grain from the earth and humans making and baking bread.  She says these prayers are each "a concrete petition that God will motivate our hearts to do the right thing. Both insist that humanity and divinity work together."  (pg. 49)

Other notable things according to the author:

1.  Jewish teaching for some is such that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to "have a share in the world to come" as "righteous people of all nations" would be included. (pg. 69)  Therefore Jews don't often see any need to convert people to their faith.  (There have been times of exception or perhaps this thought is the exception.)

2.  One Jewish philosopher's thoughts on why men needed to be circumcised and not women: "Circumcision is required to check male pride as well as male sexual impulses; women, ... have no such problems."  - Philo of Alexandria (pg. 71)  The author's point of bringing this up is because some have claimed women were perhaps not full members of the Jewish community since God made an outward covenant - circumcision - with only the men.  She argued that their community considered women full members without their having to be circumcised.  And the bigger reason for this being mentioned is that some have argued that baptism is more egalitarian since both men and women are included in this covenantal sign.

3.  "Multiculturalism, then or now, cannot function if there is a homogeneous default that causes one group to give up what is of enormous value to them, especially if what is to be forsaken is divinely mandated Torah." (pg. 76)  -- I just read that and found it both understandable and a bit disconcerting.  It's fine if you are talking about Jews wanting to eat kosher or observe purity laws.  Absolutely no problem. But it gets more questionable when you have a group whose divinely mandated scriptures imposes its will on the full population*, who tells its followers (according to how the majority interpret it) that they are the rulers and the unbelievers are to be protected, yet second-class citizens.  I guess I was reading too much of what I fear happening after these revolutions in the Arab world into this statement.   I've been all for the uprisings against these brutal dictators and I want the people to enjoy freedom, but I do hope they can avoid bringing Taliban types to power who will rule with iron fists anyone who does not subscribe to their interpretation of religion.  Sadly, power is often corrupting unless we remember to keep it in check and stay humble.

* I suppose we do this also when we make laws limiting rights to certain groups because it's against the teaching of our faith. I'm specifically thinking of homosexual groups.

Your thoughts on any of this?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts on Pagans, Christians, Constantine, Julian, Polytheism and Monotheism

For some reason I just can't get into the writing mood enough to make sense of this post. OK, maybe I got the writing part down, but the editing suffers.

Yet I wanted to record a few things from
God Against The Gods by Jonathan Kirsch that I found interesting. Overall I really enjoyed the book. The chapters on Constantine and Julian were good. I know I've read some about them in the past, but it's been awhile so reading their stories - from this author's perspective and from my grown-up one (ha) - was good for me.   Kirsch asked if Constantine were really a Christian noting how he was labeled "the Great" in Catholic tradition and "St. Constantine" for the Orthodox.  Perhaps Kirsch recognized Constantine didn't seem all that devoted to the faith he claimed to fight for.  He wasn't even baptized until he was close to dying.  Maybe he wanted to commit all the sins he could in life before taking this crucial step because during his life as a so-called "Christian emperor," I surely wouldn't say by his fruits that I knew he was a follower of Jesus.  He had his own son killed for goodness sake!  I even went back and read where the Bible teaches

10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.   (I John 3)

So does this mean if you kill your own son, you are not a child of God?

After reading all this about Constantine, I made the observation on Facebook:

If my only examples of Christians were the people Julian saw, I think I'd be "apostate" too. Whew!
Yes, I sometimes express my thoughts on books on my Facebook statuses. Just so you know.

Other bits from the book that made it on Facebook as well as other notes of interest.

"'Paganism' to the pagan never existed, ... It is not far from the truth to say that before Christianity invented it, there was no Roman religion, but only worship, expressed in a hundred-and-one different ways." 
-- John Holland Smith in The Death of Classical Paganism  (Kirsch quoted from this guy on pg. 9)

The author shares that paganus is really just a villager and in Roman military terms it differentiated the civilian from the soldier. Christian "rigorists" ready to be soldiers for the One True God "characterized anyone who refused to take up arms...as a civilian, a slacker, a 'paganus.'"  Interestingly Christians were called "atheists" because they were against most of the gods, goddesses and godlings (as this author puts it) except the One True God.

This next bit was wild because the author talks about the fight between Christians because of the wording of Jesus being of similar substance to God vs. the same substance as God.  He said in Greek the only difference in the two (similar and same) was an iota.   Kirsch writes,

"The question of whether God and Jesus were made of the same stuff or different stuff was and is ultimately unanswerable - indeed, that was what church authorities meant when they characterized the Trinity as a mystery - but that did not stop ordinary men and women throughout the Christian community from literally brawling with one another over an iota."
  (pg. 161)

Charming, no?  Seriously I wonder sometimes what God thinks of such things. Does He watch and shake His head at how we treat one another? Especially those of us who say we know and follow and serve and submit to Him.

"At the heart of polytheism is an open-minded and easygoing approach to religious belief and practice, a willingness to entertain the idea that there are many gods and many ways to worship them. At the heart of monotheism, by contrast, is the sure conviction that only a single god exists, a tendency to regard one's own rituals and practices as the only proper way to worship the one true god." 
(pg. 2)

The heart of polytheism sounds somewhat like Universalism, doesn't it?  Actually the author ends the book claiming western countries with religious liberty and cultural diversity are honoring pagan values.

"Contrary to what we have been encouraged to believe by the teachings of monotheism, the phrase 'pagan morality' is
not a contradiction in terms.  The pagans may have been guilty of hypocrisy, praising virginity and fidelity while indulging in sexual adventures of various kinds, but they were no more hypocritical than worshippers of the Only True God who have shown themselves to be equally capable of failing to practice what they preach." (pg. 59)

I just thought this was ouch-worthy. Too bad it's true too often concerning us hypocritical believers.

"No wild beasts are so hostile to mankind as are most of the Christians in their savagery toward one another."
  - Ammianus (pg. 211)

It seems Christianity the Religion lost its Jesus roots a long, long time ago. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus or any of the apostles tell us to be unkind to others. Instead Jesus tells us to love our enemies. So if your fellow Christian is an enemy, love him. And for those who believe Paul invented Christianity, he says pretty much the same thing in his letter to the Romans (see chapter 12 here).   These people of the Roman empire taking up arms for Jesus are just in error.  And killing fellow believers? Wow. 

Again, no wonder Julian decided to serve other gods. 

Though Julian didn't have much use for Christianity, the author claims he "admired and envied the superior organizational skills that the Christians brought to bear in setting up and running their churches."  (He liked organized religion...which I find in contrast to more and more people today who want to find God in their own ways.) He decided to copy them and "invented" a "pagan 'church' with its own all-encompassing theology and its own unified clerical hierarchy...He established a unified pagan priesthood. ... He encouraged the Hellenes, the term he used to describe what Christians called 'pagans,' to follow the Christian example in both chastity and philanthropy. Pagan priests were to avoid the excesses of the tavern, the distractions of the theatre and the seductions of erotic literature, and they must shun the company of actors, jockeys and dancers.  He even prescribed a set of dietary laws that he extracted from the cult of the Great Mother - root vegetables, pomegranates and pork were forbidden, and fish was to be eaten only when prescribed."   Additionally he made all the gods and goddesses subservient to the "the most high god whom Constantine had once worshipped, the solar deity variously called Apollo, Sol Invictus and King Helios." (pg. 255)

I thought the dietary restriction part was fascinating! Bye bye, morning glass of carrot juice!  And does this mean french fries were forbidden, too?  Ah!

To really get back at the Christians, Julian decided to allow the Jews (whom the Christians now regarded as their worst enemies) to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.  Although the Jews were monotheists and Julian not, he saw the commonalities between the Hellenes and Jews. 
"'We have all else in common - temples, sacred precincts, altars for sacrifice, and purifications,...in all of which we differ not at all from one another."  (pg. 260)

A series of natural disasters coupled with a rising threat from Persia got in the way of this Spite the Christians rebuilding project.

This quote was at the beginning of one of the later chapters.  Made me of think of morality police who make people keep outward rules -
for God's sake of course!

"What should be said of us, who are forced to live piously, not by devotion but by terror?" 
- Maximus of Turin (pg. 269)

Your thoughts on any of this? I'd love to hear 'em!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I remember awhile back there was some talk about how human brains were wired to notice patterns so maybe I can chalk this up to that, but in


So, yesterday I was in the mood for and ate tuna on Wheat Thins.  I can't tell you the last time tuna and crackers was my supper choice, OK?  Like, um, years.  Years!  Like living-at-home-with-my-parents years!

This morning I was looking through a few Facebook statuses from overnight and read one acquaintance's that said

"just ate a bowl of tuna with some Crackers and i do have to say it was the bomb"

What?!  Who eats tuna and crackers and posts about it on Facebook because it was so delicious?

I guess those like me who decide it warrants a blog post to talk about the oddity of it.

Have you ever noticed odd patterns like this?

In other news I was at some store yesterday just walking around and listening to people. Not eavesdropping...they were talking loudly so I had no choice but to hear them. Have you ever stopped to think about what a person from another country (or even state!) would think if he or she were walking through the store with you hearing the same things and seeing the same products displayed?   I wonder what would take their attention.  (Reminds me of this great video of the British guys in Walmart! Haha!) 

Samer saw this picture of Michael on Facebook yesterday. 

Michael's cousins were getting ready to head back to South Carolina where they live and I said, "Let's go outside to wave to them" so we did.  One cousin threw his arm around Michael and told his grandmother to take a picture of them.  Sweet, huh?

But the thing that Samer commented on was Michael's feet! 

They were bare and he was outside!

It's funny what takes people's attention sometime! 

Speaking of taking attention, I was talking to my aunt and cousins the other day when I felt a little cheek on my fingers. I looked down to see this.

Has anything or anyone taken your attention lately?  What odd coincidences have you noticed?