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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saul Alinsky

Perhaps I should save this post for tomorrow seeing how it's April FOOLS Day, but I am so shocked that I need to type now. I was reading a political magazine a little while ago and Saul Alinsky's name and ideas came up in a commentary about our current administration. What caught my eye was the dedication to one of Alinsky's books. Check this out:

"Rules for Radicals" begins with an unusual tribute: "From all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer."

Lucifer is worthy of a tribute? 8-O

More about this man from Wikipedia:

In Rules for Radicals (his final work, published in 1971 one year before his death), he addressed the 1960s generation of radicals, outlining his views on organizing for mass power. In the first chapter, opening paragraph of the book Alinsky writes, "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away".[4]

Why does this even matter? Well, I was shocked at the Lucifer dedication, but saddened because

Alinsky's teachings influenced Barack Obama in his early career as a community organizer on the far South Side of Chicago.[7][8] Working for Gerald Kellman's Developing Communities Project, Obama learned and taught Alinsky's methods for community organizing.[7] Several prominent national leaders have been influenced by Alinsky's teachings,[7] including Ed Chambers,[5] Tom Gaudette, Michael Gecan, Wade Rathke,[9][10] Patrick Crowley,[11] and Barack Obama.[12]


Monday, March 30, 2009

His Handiwork ... amazing!

"But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers." ~ Matt. 6:29

And remember Jesus' point was "don't worry!"

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ... and all these things will be added unto you! Is He faithful?

March books

I found out about The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff while reading Niki's blog several weeks ago. She had started the book and gave an interesting introductory review of it which made me think that would be a book I'd enjoy. Which I did! I was at the library the other day and happened to find it. I was looking for something else entirely, but saw this and decided I'd read it. The story takes place during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Emma, the main character, is a Jewish woman who changes identities and becomes a gentile Catholic named Anna. It's exciting when she gets the opportunity to work for a Nazi officer though I sense her frustration in having to work for the enemy. Anyway, I liked this book. Although the characters were fiction, I could not helped but be moved thinking of the real-life Jews who had to endure life in ghettos and - worse - being sent to death camps. I actually stopped a couple times in amazement that that really happened ... not just to a few people, but to millions. Simply because they were Jews? Or in some cases sympathized with them or were less than "perfect" in the Nazis' eyes. It's tragic how people can mistreat fellow humans this way.

A few things that I made note of ...

from page 115 -- Emma recalls her father telling her not to blame people (such as Poles who worked for the Nazis or Jews who policed the ghettos) for what they do; "These are desperate times, and people are only doing what they need to do to survive."

Pages 123-4 -- Realizing the Jews were no match for the powerful German armies, Emma questions the purpose of the resistance realizing it's only symbolic; when asked "why are we doing this", Marta replied, "Because we have to do something. We can't just sit here and let our people be destroyed."

Emma's reasoning why she did what she did -- "To get close to the killers so that we can try to stop the killing." (pg. 197) -- I must admit what she did was rather predictable. I still liked the book for the sake of an interesting story. Perhaps I like some predictability.

Around page 316, I noticed all the times resistance, occupation and the use of a bomb and killing a few Nazis at a popular bar brought up images of current conflicts in the Middle East. Interesting parallels in my mind though I know they aren't exactly the same by any stretch. Still, it was so interesting to hear (read) those same words and ideas.

"There is always a choice. . . We have to take responsibility for our actions. It is the only way we can avoid becoming victims and keep our dignity." (pg. 373)

I finally finished What the Bible Is All About, a Bible handbook by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears that I've mentioned in the past. It's not that this book was so dreadful that it took me a long time to read it. Simply, it's around 700 pages, and I read it off and on although more purposefully the last couple of months (minus our days in Syria). Dr. Mears discussed the main themes, characters and teachings of each book of the Bible. I took notes on some of it which I may talk about in future posts. The is a great reference tool if you want a simple-to-understand overview of a particular book of the Bible.

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella -- definitely chick-lit; light reading; main character has great wit; I enjoyed reading some English phrases that are different from Americans ones

Dispensational Truth by Clarence Larkin is an over-sized book with lots and lots of charts! The author was a mechanical engineer and architect so I guess that explains it. This book was copyrighted in 1918 so it was interesting to read Larkin's point of view from nearly 100 years ago. Especially since this was written prior to the current state of Israel's establishment some thirty years later. Some of the stuff was a bit odd to me, other things very familiar. One thing that stood out was the realization that Isaac's wife Rebekah was a Gentile! I never really thought of it before. I enjoyed the discussion of the fig tree on page 157 and 158. Also the discussion of the Laodicean church on page 132 was interesting.

Almost Home is an exciting novel by Pam Jenoff. (She wrote the first book mentioned above.) The story is about an American diplomat who revisits her past when she takes a position in London. As she investigates the drowning of her college boyfriend, she comes to realize how it ties into her current investigation of an Albanian mob with ties to the Kosovo Liberation Army. When Jordan is reading a case report from the Balkans and learns of some of the atrocities, she reflects on her own life. "Guilt rises up in me. Growing up Jewish, the lessons of the Holocaust were deeply imbedded in my consciousness. 'Never again' was a familiar refrain. My parents, though not religious, saw this as their personal mandate. They had marched with the civil rights movement in the South in their younger years, protested on behalf of the Soviet Jews not permitted to emigrate during communism. Social justice, my father told me once at Passover, was our obligation as Jews, to free all people from the bonds of oppression as we had once been freed. But we are still failing" (pg. 189). Exciting book.

Damascus -- The Souq

A short walk from the hostel took us to this covered souq where we enjoyed seeing some of the products offered in Old Damascus. It was also a wonderful place to experience the people as they did their shopping. It was here that we ran into Samer's sister and her friend one day (picture) and also where we ate ice cream at Bakdash's famous shop.

It appears as though one is walking in an outside mall, when, in reality, it's "covered outdoors." That is not the blackness of night, but the darkness of a covered path.

Some of the many shops located at the souq

Here we are entering the shopping area and find what we were looking for. Something to identify us with the locals. Andrew tried it on first, but his head was too big for the band holding on the scarf. (LOL...I just noticed the woman laughing on the left side of this picture.)

I tried it on and ended up buying it. I wore it the rest of our shopping trip and one group of guys sitting in a store watching people go by said something to me about Palestinians since this kuffiyeh is one way of identifying with those oppressed people.

In the shops you would find a variety of nuts

and spices

for all your baking needs.

Andrew bought some candy and Chinese nuts at a place like this.

There were many many more shops such as these and others that sold jewelry, dried beans, souvenirs, toys, clothes and so forth. Additionally, there were places to buy delicious Arab-style fast foods. We also visited a hammam located in this area.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You are with me!

Sometimes, I believe, a passage of Scripture becomes so familiar that we quote the words without thinking of the wonderful truths God is sharing with us. Like the 23rd Psalm. Perhaps the most well-known passage; oft-quoted at funerals because of its precious message. But read it again now as you realize this isn't just a good passage for the dead. (Well, you know what I mean.) It's good for me! Now! Read and be encouraged by the Word of God!

How I wish to have child-like faith as this little one shows here.
Simply resting in His care as He leads.

Cute little lamb. :-)

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Trusting through Transition


Some people thrive on change. The variety, the spontaneity, the differences in routine are exciting and preferred to the same ol' stuff every single day. Some of us prefer our regular schedules, knowing what is supposed to happen now and somehow being prepared to face an expected thing. I find myself often in the latter category though perhaps as I grow older, I'm enjoying change somewhat. (Syria, anyone?) Definitely, change is not always my cup of tea because I find myself enjoying predictability. But life is seldom static no matter how much we'd like to keep it that way. Some people's lives seem to be often changing while others seem to be in a rut. I really want to embrace and enjoy change, and not feel as if I'm clinging to some wind-driven wave tossed about with no anchor. Ever wonder how some people seem to enjoy life's unexpected circumstances while others of us really seem thrown for a loop when the dreaded change comes?

I read a short article yesterday by Sue Cameron. I tried to find it online, but so far have not been successful. The article, "Troubled by Change?" deals with transition. She reminds us how the transition stage of labor is intense and demanding, yet it is absolutely necessary and the most productive part of achieving new life. She suggests, "If we're unwilling to endure them [times of transition], we'll never progress down the narrow channel that leads to maturity." Transitions can be anything from moving hundreds of miles from home to losing a spouse unexpectedly, loss of a job or your health .. even a surprise pregnancy.

Mrs. Cameron reminds us of Joseph's time in prison where he had to "outgrow the impatience and arrogance of youth" in order to become the ruler of Egypt that he came to be. And also there is David who was anointed king of Israel while still a shepherd boy, yet had to endure many hard times (including fleeing for his life!!) before he actually became king. "What they learned about the Lord during those times prepared them for the very roles God had ordained for them."

She gave this Scripture. Something from Jesus, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24).

She urges us to look at transitions as friends rather than enemies and to never forget we aren't walking through these changing times alone! God has promised to never leave or forsake us. So we can rest assured even through the changing times when perhaps we feel confused and pressed down, God is with us. He doesn't always remove the storms and dare I say, the changes of life, but He has promised to be with us. Delight yourself in Him and find rest no matter where transitions take you. Be joyful...He is there!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Damascus -- The Grocery Store

So the other day I wrote about our visit to the Cham City Center and ended the post with a picture of cereal. From this aisle.

Yes, the mall in Damascus has a very clean, well-stocked grocery store. I don't recall any malls that I've been in with stores like this. We had fun showing Samer and Barea foods that were familiar to us. There were quite a few on this aisle. Samer told me they don't eat much cereal. Also I recall showing them taco kits, boxed brownies and pasta, I think.

Of course Del Monte was a familiar brand.

Barea, Andrew & Samer

I took this picture because Michael likes Spiderman.

The guys checking out all the refrigerated stuff

like all these different sorts of cheese

and all these fish

and even this octopus

I wonder what the guys are discussing.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
February 1, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lots of Life Tidbits

Wow, there are so many lovely pictures on the Internet. When I saw this one I thought, "Ahhhh, heaven must have gorgeous places like this!" Seriously! When I imagine heaven, crystal clear water, fields of colorful flowers, breath-taking landscapes come to mind. Imagine, if God created this world with so much beauty, how much better His heaven must be! For no sin is there! No cruelty and selfishness and all that other mean stuff that is so prevalent here! Wow, I really want to go to this place.

Movin' on.

I have really been in a chatty mood here lately, haven't I? Let's see...some odds and ends from my neck of the woods.

I read in the Focus on the Family magazine about this year's National Day of Prayer. It's May 7 and the theme is Prayer ... America's Hope! I guess they are going for the " hope" thing since Obama made that popular. Anyway, truly prayer is a great thing! The verse they are using is Psalm 33:22, "May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You."

I had a fantastic Bible study as I read and reflected on Mark earlier today! First of all I was amazed in the first 5 chapters how often demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God or the Holy One from God! It had never struck me before, but it really jumped out today. Also in Mark 1, we find a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue! Interesting! I've heard pastors say that the devil goes to church each Sunday. In this case, he must have been in the synagogue on Saturday!

Also what stood out to me is when Jesus called his disciples how they immediately forsook what they were doing to follow Him! James and John even left their father with the hired servants to follow Christ! I wonder if I would be that willing to forsake all and follow Jesus. Or would I make excuses thinking the time was not right or surely Jesus wouldn't expect me to go lookin' like this! Hmmm, hmmm.

And finally, something I loved from Mark 5. When Jairus wanted Jesus to heal his daughter. They were on their way to Jairus' house when word came that his daughter already died. I imagine the sadness that assaulted Jairus as those horrible words came. Possibly he thought, "Oh no! Oh no! We are too late!" But see what verse 36 tells us:

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe."

Ah, our God of Hope! Wow! We don't have to be afraid when Jesus is near! And the good news is that He is always near. He has promised to never leave or forsake us! So we can choose to live by faith enjoying the goodness of knowing Jesus has everything under control. "Don't be afraid; just believe." Love it, love it, love it!

Today I also read this great blog post where the author discusses how free thinking atheists were wondering how everything started. Since they have foolishly (in my opinion) dismissed the possibility of God creating the world, they have to come up with a plausible answer. Afterall we ARE all here so how exactly did that happen? Ha, ha....check out Michael's post for a quick peek at those intellectuals' answer. They mock the fact that a snake talked and other crazy, no, impossible stories from the Bible so they have to come up with something really logical, right? Certainly God couldn't do anything outside of our logic and, oh say, work in the impossible things! *hmph!*

In other news, Andrew signed up to take a scuba diving class at the end of April and first of May. I baked a coffee cake recommended by my friend, Joni. She got the recipe from her Kraft magazine and when mine came, I decided to try it as well. Instead of cherry pie filling, I used apple. It's very moist and tastes great! This morning I listened to my cousin, Cory, as he hosted a talk radio program. He had a guest who made an interesting statement. I will maybe write about that another time once I muse over it a bit. I think this is quite enough for now.


I find it interesting . . .

(note: this is mostly political stuff)

-- that an American billionaire paid $35 million in order to fly to space on a Russian rocket, the Soyuz; I believe it's his second trip -- wonder if he gets frequent flier miles :-)

-- that on Tuesday President Obama interrupted American Idol programming for the second time in recent weeks. I've not watched much AI this year so it didn't hurt my feelings. I just read that evening. Or uploaded pictures to my blog. Can't remember actually.

-- that several companies receiving bail-out money actually owe federal taxes! Two companies owe over $100 million each.

-- that Daniel Hannan, a British politician, spoke up against Gordon Brown for Brown's response concerning the global financial crisis. I heard Hannan's 3-minute speech and was amazed at his strong words. Apparently the world was, too, because Wikipedia reports

A video clip of the speech went viral on YouTube that evening,[4] attracting more than 630,000 views in 24 hours on YouTube. It became the 'most viewed today' youtube video worldwide. [5][6][7]

Wow, check it out! "The devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government." "Every British child is born owing about 20,000 British pounds. .. You cannot borrow yourself out of debt!" What a speech!

-- that the current European Union president, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, spoke out against the United States' plan for getting over the recession.

OK, check this out.

Europeans leaders hope the new U.S. administration will agree with them on tightening oversight over the global financial system — which they see as crucial to fixing the global economy.

Instead, the United States is focusing its efforts on economic stimulus and plans to spend heavily to try and lift itself out of recession with a $787 billion plan of tax rebates, health and welfare benefits, as well as extra energy and infrastructure spending.

To encourage banks to lend again, the U.S. government will also pump $1 trillion into the financial system by buying up treasury bonds and mortgage securities in an effort to clear some of the "toxic assets" — devalued and untradeable assets — from banks' balance sheets.

We are going to spend ourselves out of the recession. The US government is going to spend all this money it doesn't have in order to do what exactly?

Obama insisted Tuesday that his massive budget proposal will put the ailing U.S. economy back on its feet. "This budget is inseparable from this recovery," he said, "because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity."

But Topolanek took aim at Washington's deficit spending.

"All of these steps, these combinations and permanency is the road to hell," Topolanek said. "We need to read the history books and the lessons of history and the biggest success of the (EU) is the refusal to go this way."

"Americans will need liquidity to finance all their measures and they will balance this with the sale of their bonds but this will undermine the liquidity of the global financial market," Topolanek said.

Source: Yahoo News

I tend to agree with the Czech PM. I guess time will tell. I just don't see how spending more money that we don't have will improve things in the long run. *shrug* But what do I know? I'm not an economist or a brainy politician. Maybe it'll work out somehow.

-- that Turkey has not been as affected by the global crisis. I saw on CNN yesterday -- while at McDonald's -- that they had their own crisis in 2001, cleaned up the banks afterwards and haven't had to deal with the mess that most western nations are facing now.

-- that several Asian nations are discussing a different world currency since the US dollar has been devalued greatly in recent months. Also China has bought so much of our debt, and it seems they have expressed concern over our ability to work out our faulty finances. I really hate being in debt to anyone. Why are we in debt to Communists??

Just some thoughts lately.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Damascus -- Cham City Center

The first Sunday we were in Damascus, we were invited to have lunch with Samer's family. We met Samer's mom, twin brother and sister at this mall for a delicious Arabian meal. I wish I'd taken pictures of some of the food .. there was lots!

We ate at Cham City Center

Here is another view of it

It is a pretty mall with many shops

They have a number of banners supporting the Palestinians

Unlike most malls I am familiar with, this one had a place where we spent several minutes after our meal. Here is a clue.

Any guesses?

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
February 1, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Damascus -- The Last Day

Six weeks ago today was our last day in Damascus. It was chilly and rainy. I'm talking buckets of rain or it seemed that way to me since there were puddles everywhere in Old Damascus and on the roads. I was very glad it had not been this way during most of our visit since we walked a great deal daily. Thankfully, despite the cold rain, we had a lovely time though I had a very sad morning dealing with the fact we were only hours from leaving the place - and people - we'd grown to love. When I first arrived in Damascus, I was in mild cultural shock. I remember thinking, "OK, God, I came. Hopefully, I can deal with this place the next 12 days and then be back in my comfortable, familiar home." But after only a couple of days, I felt I was at my second home. And as the day of departure drew nearer I was sad as I thought of leaving.

On that Tuesday afternoon we took a taxi and visited Samer's family at their house. They had a nice assortment of appetizers and sweets for us to enjoy.

I really like this picture of me with Dania and Samer's mom.
They were so very kind!

Andrew with the twins, Samer & Barea

Barea was so kind to let me borrow his laptop so I could send my sister a birthday greeting. I was not able to visit the internet cafe' due to the rain. Barea showed us some of his pictures from his time in London. (The wax museum is so cool!)

Basem was very thoughtful to take time out of his studying to meet us. I am glad to report that he passed his exam for the highest British certificate! Congratulations on this wonderful achievement!

This visit to Samer's house holds a very special place in my heart. I pray for God's blessings on this precious family. I hope to see them again one day.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
February 10, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Remember . . .

"Be still and know that I am God."

Psalm 46:10a

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Damascus -- Our Room at the Hostel

We arrived in Damascus in the wee morning hours of Friday, January 30. We walked the long way to the hostel because none of us were excited about climbing the ladder at 2:30 in the morning. (I discuss the two options here.) As you can see Andrew and I were very excited to be at our destination. We had to stop and take pictures along the way. OK, maybe that was more my "had to stop" than his . . .

Since the hostel just happened to be in the Christian
quarter, Bab Touma, we found statues of
the Virgin Mary in this traditional area.

Samer and Ahmad (Jake) came with the hostel driver to greet us at the airport. Here we stopped along the walk to the hostel so I could get a picture with them. I think I'm standing in front of a water fountain.

Finally we got to our room and found we
each had a bed like this to sleep on.

Also there was this sofa. We decided to get pictures of
the room before it got too cluttered with our stuff.

Had to get a picture of this bathroom. The shower was unlike any I was familiar with. It wasn't so bad except that there was no division between it and the rest of the bathroom. So most everything got wet when we used it.

One day Samer saw this room decoration on the shelf above the
sofa and demonstrated how to play this old instrument.

Andrew decided to give it a try. Notice our room is circular.
It was in the tower.

The sofa became Samer's sofa. He was our right-hand man,
and the sofa was his "office" if you will. I'm sure here
he is planning another meeting for us.

Many times in the evenings we would set up Samer's laptop
and view the pictures we'd taken that day.

Later I will show some pictures from within
the hostel
, but outside of our room.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

God of This City ... by faith

My pastor often talks to us about faith. It's great that he does because I often need reminders since I am prone to doubts and fears. One thing I recall him saying is that faith is calling that which is not as though it were. In other words, believing that God can do great things despite how circumstances seem at the moment. So with that in mind, I want to share this song. When I came home from Syria and went through my sad, restless time of missing the people and life over there and wondering what was next, I heard this song. Like really heard it. As in I seriously thought, "God, is this what you are saying about Damascus? THAT city which is so much on my heart right now?" Perhaps I'd heard it before, but when I came home it was like the lyrics registered with me. And somehow they just seemed to apply to what I wanted for Damascus...and still do. It's what I am trusting God for by faith.

God of This City

You're the God of this city
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You Are

You're hope for the hopeless
You're light in the darkness
You're peace to the restless
You are

For there is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

Chorus 1:
Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done
In this city
Greater things are still to come
And greater things are still to be done here

Verse 2:
You're the Lord of Creation
The Creator of all things
You're the King above all Kings
You Are

You're the strength in our weakness
You're the love to the broken
You're the joy in the sadness
You Are

Chorus 2:
Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done
In this city
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for you and love for you
In this city

Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done
In this city
Greater things are still to come
And greater things are still to be done here

Friday, March 20, 2009

Damascus -- Wednesday Night Highlights

On Wednesday night I had the opportunity to share about our trip with children at my friend's church. Melissa had told them about our trip and they prayed for us while we were gone. I find that very touching especially when I remember that I hadn't planned to tell Melissa about our trip until perhaps after the fact. Maybe it's just me, but I find it takes more explanation when you say, "Oh, by the way, we're going to Syria next week" than if we decided to visit the beach or mountains or even Florida. Understandable.

Saydnaya Monastery in the mountains

So, anyway, I found it incredibly sweet that she would pray for us while we were those 6,000+ miles from home and have her church kids pray for us as well. Wow.

I had a great time talking with the dozen or so children! They ranged in age from 6-11, I think. Plus there were perhaps 6 to 8 adults in the room. Everyone was very attentive and asked great questions. I was excited I had the privilege of sharing with them.

I told them we had traveled to Chicago and then taken a huge plane to Turkey before leaving for Damascus. Thankfully some of them were familiar with Damascus because of the connection to the Bible. One girl told how Saul was converted by Jesus on the way to Damascus. Later the apostle Paul became one of the greatest missionaries. This church in Old Damascus is dedicated to his story told in the book of Acts and the Pauline epistles.

Here is a view from inside Bab Kissan. It has scenes from the life of Paul. Andrew and I had a good time looking at the pictures while remembering the words from Acts. We did this our first day.

We told the group some cultural things about Syria in particular how the greetings were different from how we do things in the States. I shared how young men would rarely shake my hand, preferring instead to place their hands on their hearts, nod their heads and greet me with some Arabic words of peace. They seemed interested when I told them how men would greet men with hugs and kisses and even walk arm in arm down the streets. My theory on that is the streets are too crowded so they don't want to lose their friends in the crowd!

Talking about Syria, one cannot leave out the influence of Islam. I dedicated much of my discussion to this belief system by comparing the similarities and differences to our own Christian beliefs. We shared pictures of mosques including the courtyard at the Umayyad.

I told what I knew concerning salat, the prayer/worship time, performed five times per day by devout Muslims. And I told how I even heard the azan (call to prayer) over the mall's loudspeaker the Sunday we were there.

Additionally I shared what Muslims believed about Jesus (Isa al-Massieh) and contrasted it with Jewish and Christian beliefs. Maybe some were surprised at how Muslims thought of Christ. Before I met Samer, I never knew Jesus was a virgin-born prophet in Islam or even considered by them as the Messiah for the children of Israel. I decided this audience would be told some basics of Islam so they would not be as ignorant as I!

I taught them insh'allah, alhamdulilah and ma'al salemeh. And also explained that Allah is simply the Arabic word for God used by both Christians and Muslims. Allah is in both the Arabic Bible and Quran. (By contrast Jesus' name is different. Isa or Yeshua maybe...I can't recall the latter. Yeshua looks more like the Hebrew name for Jesus, but I understand the Arabs DO have different names for Jesus depending on if you are Muslim or Christian.)

I shared how eating pork was unclean for Muslims and also how they prefer NOT having dogs as pets. Sooooo unlike most Americans we know for sure!

The kids seemed to especially enjoy photos of the Arabs we met, most especially the women and children.

I gave each of them a name of one Arab we met. I challenged them to pray each day for "their" Arab reminding them that we are to lay up treasure in heaven not on earth. My goal was to share some things about Muslims so that these young people would have tender and more understanding hearts towards these individuals often negatively portrayed in our media.

A lot of the girls were interested in praying for the gals we met at the market (Maha and Dania above) and also Rana's cute children (also shown above.)

The mountains near Damascus are so different from the ones we have here in North Carolina. For starters, ours have trees! I shared some of these photos with them so they could appreciate the beauty of another country. Here are two from Krac des Chevaliers, the old Crusader castle.

I'm not sure if the adults were surprised when I mentioned that in the minds of many Arabs much of the Middle Eastern conflicts - including the Iraq War - were just extensions of the Crusades which happened centuries ago. I know I was surprised when I learned this a while back! I often think I have a fairly good memory, but Crusader days ... um, no. So it was interesting to learn this fascinating thing!

So I shared some things about our trip. All in all, I think I was very positive and truthfully was able to share how wonderfully kind and hospitable the people were in Damascus! And, Lord willing, the group now knows some things about Muslims and Islam so they can go forward in understanding and love instead of ignorance and fear.

I was very thankful for the privilege of speaking with such a wonderful group of young people and adults! Andrew went with me and helped especially with sharing the pictures. Also he volunteered to show Nolan how the Syrian men greet each other, but Nolan declined. ;-)

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009