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

Monday, August 31, 2009

August Books -- part 2

Here are the rest of the books I read in August. With the exception of a couple on this list, these are all lighter reading .. mostly Christian fiction from the local library that you can read in a day or two.

The Bride Bargain
by Kelly Eileen Hake is a fiction book I found at the library. It's about two women who were traveling the Oregon Trail, but got left behind in a town in the Nebraska Territory. The main character is Clara who is trying to find a bride for her employer's son, Saul, a doctor from Baltimore. I felt like I was back in time when adventurous Americans were traveling west for new opportunities.

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin -- fiction story about three young sisters who left home in Sweden to begin a new life in America; this book tell of Elin, Kirsten and Sofia's journey and hardships as they travel in steerage for two weeks across the Atlantic, are grounded on Ellis Island for two weeks and make their way to Chicago where their uncle lives. We sure do have it easy compared to immigrants of that time...whew!

The Bible and Tomorrow's News
by Charles Ryrie -- this is a small book my dad had and basically it tells the author's perspective on Biblical prophecy relating to the end times.

Sweetwater Gap
by Denise Hunter -- a Christian fiction library book about a young lady who goes back to rural NC to help her family at the apple orchard; main characters are Josie, Grady, Laurel, Nate ... message about holding onto guilt and being set free from it by Christ

Rebecca's Promise by Jerry S. Eicher -- Christian fiction book about a couple of Amish families; they sure do work hard!

Sisterchicks Go Brit is another book in Robin Jones Gunn's series where best friends visit a foreign country. In this book Kellie and Liz get an opportunity to see the sights in Olney, Oxford and London. I enjoyed living through them experiencing British things. One lesson of the book is about dreaming and taking risks.

Signs of Life by Dr. David Jeremiah is a series of forty short challenges to get us "back to the basics of authentic Christianity."

From chapter 5 Pass the Salt - "The Gospel isn't something we come to church to hear; it's something we go from church to tell." (pg. 23)

"Don't underestimate the power of sharing Christ. His Word does not return to Him void, and our work in the Lord is never in vain (Isaiah 55:11; I Corinthians 15:58.)" (pg. 38)

Find more quotes from this book in previous August posts.

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler -- discusses Abraham from the viewpoint of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The author, a Jew from America, travels to the Middle East for answers and to find this Abraham whom all three monotheistic religions hold in high regard.

A Proper Pursuit
by Lynn Austin is an enjoyable novel set in Chicago during the time of D.L. Moody. It's told from the main character's,Violet's, perspective and I found it a very cute book. Through it I was reminded about finding joy through serving others and seeing people with God's eyes. And also that women are perfectly capable of thinking and making decisions and are not the property of men. But I knew those things already. :)

The Returning
by Ann Tatlock deals with a family as they adjust to their father returning home after a five-year prison stay for drunk driving.

How Sweet It Is
by Alice J. Wisler is about Deena, a professional cook, who decides to leave her family and heartache in Atlanta and begin a new life in the North Carolina mountains. There she teaches a cooking class to troubled middle schoolers and learns lessons about trusting God with her whole hand in His. I like this quote from Helen Keller which was in the beginning of the book: "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

Friday, August 28, 2009

August Books - part 1

I read or completed a number of books this month so I believe I'll post about some of them now even though it's not quite the end of the month. Close enough though! I can't believe September is just a few days away....wow!

They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball is a book containing "insights from emerging generations." I've written previous posts about this, but one thing I wanted to take note of was from the excellent chapter on the church being full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally. I was challenged by the author's suggestion that we know why we believe what we do, why we take some things literally and some figuratively. He said that "The Bible says it, I believe it" theme from year's past doesn't work or impress emerging generations who want real answers. Also from this chapter, I like this quote:

"How sad that in our culture the Bible is known more as a weapon for beating, bashing, and shooting people than for being sweet like honey (Ps.19:9-11), for reviving the soul (Ps. 19:7), for giving light for direction (Ps. 119:105), for providing guidelines for walking in freedom (Ps. 119:45) and for its wisdom (Ps. 119:98)." (pg. 208)

The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra (the nom de plume of an Algerian army officer Mohammed Moulessehoul); this book makes me glad once again to not live in a place ruled by the Taliban and also makes me appreciate men who don't have such a careless and offensive view of women and wives; I got this at the library

The Attack by Yasmina Khadra is a story about an Arab Israeli citizen who is a successful surgeon in Tel Aviv. His world is turned upside down when his wife does something so surprising and, well, permanent. I found this at the library and greatly enjoyed it.

A militant Palestinian's response to Amin concerning the resistance -- "When dreams are turned away, death becomes the ultimate salvation." (pg. 220) and another who said, "There's no worse cataclysm than humiliation. It's an evil beyond measure, Doctor. It takes away your taste for life." (pg. 219). And another, "There's no happiness without dignity and no dream is possible without freedom." (pg. 227)

About his life as a surgeon, Dr. Amin says, "the only battle I believe in, the only one that really deserves bleeding for, is the battle the surgeon fights, which consists of re-creating life in the place where death has chosen to conduct its maneuvers." (pg. 234) and also as he surveys the Jenin area, "I hate wars and revolutions and these dramas of redemptive violence that turn upon themselves like endlessly long screws and haul entire generations through the same murderous absurdities, apparently without ERROR signals going off in anybody's head. I'm a surgeon: In my view, there's enough suffering inherent in human flesh, and no need for healthy people to inflict more on one another every chance they get." (pg. 167)

The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra takes place during the Iraq War. It follows the story of a young man in a small desert village as the American forces come through, disgrace his family and he seeks to restore dignity and honor. See previous posts for excerpts from this book.

The Blue Manuscript by Sabiha Al Khemir -- Eastern and western cultures mix and experience life together on this archaeological dig in a remote area in Egypt. I think my favorite part was around page 136 where the translator Zohra is discussing how her Tunisian father said she was "too English" when she showed reservation and planning and her mom accused her of being "too Arab" when "emotions gushed out unexpectedly." It amused me when someone asked her which language (English or Arabic) she thought in because Samer and I have had discussions like this before. "I can't believe you think in English!" or "You mean you think in Arabic, but have to translate your thoughts into English so I can read them?" Ha, ha!

I'll post the rest of the books later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reoccurring Themes

"The Bible is constantly sending people into the desert for redemption, because it's there, away from the ease of settled life, far removed from ready water, that they turn to God for sustenance." (pg. 68)

Is it true that we most often turn to God when things are unsettled? I read this quote above in Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler. Also from this book, check out the words below from Father John Lyons, a Catholic priest.

"The lesson of Abraham ... [for Christians] is you have to be willing to risk it all. You have to be willing to give up everything for God. Even in the New Testament, Jesus says unless you are willing to give up husband, wife, mother, father and children, for the Kingdom of God, you are not worthy to follow me. The bottom line is if you're too comfortable, or too secure, or too into having control, then you won't be willing to trust God." (pg. 48)

Surrender issues, eh? Have I not mentioned that here recently?

Re: The Lord's Prayer ... "When you pray that 'God's will be done,' you're saying, 'All right, God, I'm prepared to do your will.' Yet most of us want to do
our will, because most of us are control freaks. We want the security of knowing that we have a house, we have a job, our children are protected, we've got a savings account. And God says that's not going to bring the security you really need in life." (pg. 49)

This was more interesting to me because I'd just read an article reminding me that even though we may try to be good financial stewards, there was no guarantee of security. Rather our ultimate security is in the One who created it all and sustains us. Good reminder for me!

About the blessing of silence and getting away to spend time with God, the conclusion is "The message of Abraham is to be alone, to be quiet, and to listen. If you never hear the Call in the first place, you'll never know which way to go." (pg. 50)

Here is more getting-away-from-it-all, silence talk. I believe I mentioned that here lately as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Good Stuff from InTouch

A few days ago I wrote about the InTouch magazine I'd received recently in the mail. Here are a couple more things from the brief articles in it that stood out to me.

In her article on coping with an unexpected pregnancy, author Leslie Leyland Fields admits she had thoughts of "am I to serve others and shelve my own dreams forever?" when she found herself pregnant in her forties. Her surprise pregnancy meant interrupting her teaching job at a university just as she was nearing tenure. But she tells how God literally brought her to her knees. She writes, "I realized we never graduate from the call to live the life of love that Christ exemplified. There is no 'promotion' beyond loving and serving others, especially the weak and needy among us.'"

I liked that.

In a one-page devotional, the author mentions parents questioning "how long?" until their children take responsibility, help around the house and do things when first told. And then we are reminded this is nothing new because in the Old Testament it is recorded that God asks the same question of people.

"How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?" - Exodus 10:3

"How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?" -- Exodus 16:28

"How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?" -- Numbers 14:11

"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." -- I Kings 18:21

So I wonder if God is asking today how long until I seek Him with my whole heart and search for Him like hidden treasures. How long until I sit in silence before Him and earnestly desire to hear Him. How long until I surrender and say with conviction, "Not my will, but yours be done."

And one last thing....this verse which was dear to me a few weeks ago when I felt things were pretty bad. It came to mind one night before bed and encouraged me, and I read it again in this publication:

"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. -- Jeremiah 32:17

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Five Things About Me

Amber tagged me in a Five Things About Me post. Let me think of some random things that I've not shared before....hmmm.

1. About six years ago I met a group of ladies at Babycenter.com in the daily name poll section. Someone from Canada did a poll about the women who regularly voted and commented. Several of us started commenting more and more in that thread until we became friends. About a dozen of us still keep in touch on our own private Yahoo site. I have many of them as Facebook friends and read blogs for a couple who have them.

2. I am the only one of the group mentioned above who does not have children. I've just always liked names so I'd visit the site and vote and read/leave comments.

3. My brother in law is from Venezuela and did not grow up speaking English though you'd never guess that now. A few years ago when I decided to take Spanish at the community college, I remember him laughing at my southern-accent Spanish. :-P

4. The church I attended growing up was KJV-only so I grew up familiar with this particular version of the English Bible. And I liked it fine. However, a few years ago it dawned on me that not everyone understands English from the 1600s so I shouldn't be adamant that they only read the Authorized Version. I'm rather tired of that us-vs.-them attitude in churches. We should not focus on such trivial matters, though I know to them it's not trivial. Still. Here is MY thinking: I remember being taught that ages ago the Catholic church wanted to keep the Bible in Latin so the common people couldn't read it for themselves. That way only the church leaders could dictate what God's Word says. So fastforward to our time and I thought, "Hmm, if people cannot understand the KJV yet some church leaders insist it be kept in this old language, are we not similar to the church leaders of old?" Because *I* grew up reading, listening to and memorizing the old KJV and still don't understand all its words. How do you explain "charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" to someone today -- especially if he/she is not a native English speaker?

5. I grew up in a Christian school from 4 years old 'til I graduated at 18. During that time I went to school with only one black person. So for my diversity-loving self, I grew to appreciate the Yankees that invaded my school especially during my freshman year. I still remember when Adam from Connecticut called me a redneck. :-)

Anyone who wants to do this, feel free. Let me know so I can read what you write.

Award & Obsessions

Sarah at Wrestling with Religion kindly gave me this blog award. Thank you! I recently met Sarah in "Blogland" and have greatly enjoyed her thought-provoking posts as she searches for spiritual guidance and truth. She often causes me to consider why I believe as I do. I always look forward to new posts because I feel challenged reading them and coming up with appropriate responses.

Here are the rules:

  • List five current obsessions.
  • Pass the award on to five more fabulous blogs.
  • On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them.
  • When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well.
  • Don’t forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by leaving a comment on their blog.
My current obsessions

1. Reading blogs & books -- whereas I used to most always read Christian fiction books, the last two years I have read quite an assortment about Muslims, Islam, Christianity and so forth.

2. The Middle East -- It's always held some fascination to me since I grew up reading the Bible and trusting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but it has become MUCH more of interest to me the last couple of years.

3. Damascus -- Syria that is. I was introduced to it in the context of the Apostle Paul's conversion as recorded in the Bible, but it has become a place that fills my heart and mind since God made this city extra-special to my life. I want to be there.

4. Foreigners -- I've always been infatuated with people who spoke differently, dressed differently, looked differently from what I am used to. I like accents and different cultures. I wish I had more foreigners where I live. My particular "foreigner love" presently belongs to Arabs, but I like others as well. Don't worry.

5. Figuring out God's purpose for me in life & where I can serve Him now -- I think this one speaks for itself, don't you? ;)

And here are the five blogs to whom I want to pass along this award. Since Sarah has already been chosen, I will select five others from my Google Reader. There are others I enjoy, but for now . . .

Little Steps Toward Home by Amber -- I discovered her blog earlier this year and have come to appreciate the variety of topics and Amber's great sense of humor. She is a recent convert to Catholicism, but posts a great deal about Orthodox Christianity as well. I find it all pretty interesting since I grew up in neither.

Emotions are Footprints in the Rain by Carmen -- A fairly new blog and not a lot there yet, but Carmen writes about her thoughts and books she reads in a way that challenges and/or encourages me.

Noctural Queen by Niki -- Since I tend to like reading about people's days and thoughts, I enjoy Niki's posts. Plus I know her personally so that helps.

The Batterson Blog by Mark -- I've read two of his books and found SO much good stuff in them. I was glad to find he has a blog. He writes short posts which often contain good things for me to ponder.

Musings of a Future Pastor's Wife by "Rachel" -- Not sure how I found her blog, but I enjoy reading "Rachel's" posts about her life in New Orleans. She is a great writer and covers a variety of subjects -- some lighthearted, some deep. I like the variety.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Caleb, Dreams & Relationships

Just when I really try to dismiss nonsensical thoughts that pop into my mind as unrealistic dreams that'd I'd best be getting over if I want to find any sort of contentment in the here and now, I get some little gem in the mail that makes me wonder all over again. It's not the first time God has used Dr. Charles Stanley's monthly InTouch publication to speak directly to some aspect of my life. It's kinda weird, but I like it! This month's topic is Caleb and "staying young and fruitful all your life."

From the article ...

"Far too many people are afraid to dream big dreams, but what they don't realize is this: they cannot dream anything that is too big for God. God gave Caleb a dream and placed it within his heart. How he responded was his choice. Would he remain focused and motivated or let his heart become burdened by the cares of his life?"

Recall Caleb had to watch a whole generation of Israelites die before he could enter the Promised Land. That's a whole lot of years for dreams to die and discouragement to set in the ol' mind!

In the "a word from Charles F. Stanley" section, the title is "Living to the Limit: Realigning Our Dreams With His."

And get this!

People want to know how to gain greater fulfillment. (I just want to know my purpose in life!) The answer is found through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. (Yeah?) Genuine contentment is not a matter of abandoning dreams and hopes; rather, it involves refocusing so that all we do and desire begins and ends with Jesus.

When we commit ourselves to the Lord in this way, life becomes very full. Dreams and goals have more meaning when we ask Him to place them within the context of His specific will and purpose for our life.

God wants us to yearn for His fellowship more than the temporal things of this world. If you commit to seek His will and trust Him to give you the desires of your heart, you'll step into the rich purpose for which you were created.

Love that! Yearning for His fellowship ... wow. Honestly, that is hard for me oftentimes. I mean, I want that, but it's hard to sit still before God and listen for His instructions. (I am too impatient and want answers after only 5 minutes of sitting there...okay, maybe 3 minutes.) That's why I told Andrew recently I wish God would just send me something in the mail so I'd know clearly what His plans were for me.

But maybe He doesn't often make it that easy because He wants me to spend time with Him, getting to know His heart, His desires, His love for people and His plans for this world. Maybe I should think about this time differently somehow. In this world of doing, it's hard to sit still without guilty thoughts of "I really need to stop wasting time and do something." But is it a waste - ever - to spend time with God?

I remember a man came to our church last year and the only thing I remember from his sermon is this quote: waste time on relationships.

I adore that. I think he was saying in reality that it is not a waste of time to develop relationships with others. Relationships are the most important things in this world, not all the material possessions and positions of power and fame that we strive for.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Four Quotes

"I refuse to be one of the living dead. Either live like a man or die as a martyr - there's no other alternative for one who wants to be free. I'm not comfortable in the role of the defeated. Ever since that night when the American soldiers burst into our house, overturning our ancestral values and the order of things, I have been waiting! I'm waiting for the moment when I'll recover my self-esteem, without which a man is nothing but a stain. . . . I'm not in Lebanon; I'm not in a hotel; I'm in a coma. And whether I emerge from it and go on or stay in it and rot is up to me." ~ thoughts of the young man from Kafr Karam, Iraq (pg. 246)

Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" quote came to mind when I read this.

"We're down to our last shot, the last cartridge in the chamber. Afterward, a new era will be born, and the West will never look at us the same way again. I'm not afraid of dying, but our deaths have to mean something. They have to change our situation. Otherwise, our martyrs aren't much use. ... I don't want our children to suffer. If our parents had taken things in hand in their day, we wouldn't be so miserable. But, alas, they waited for the miracle instead of going out and finding it, and so we're compelled to change our fate ourselves." ~ Sayed from Kafr Karam, Iraq (pg. 266)

Kind of sounds familiar.

"If you like being a doormat for worthless cretins, that's your business. But don't come and tell me how delightful it is. . . . The West doesn't love us. It will never love you, not even you. It will never carry you in its heart, because it doesn't have one, and it will never exalt you, because it looks down on you. Do you want to remain a miserable bootlicker, a servile Arab, a raghead with privileges? Do you want to keep hoping for what they're incapable of giving you? Okay. Suffer in silence and wait. Who knows? Maybe a scrap will fall out of one of their trash bags. . . . Those people must realize the wrong they do to us. They must understand that if they persist in spitting on the best we have, they'll have to make do with the worst. It's as simple as that." ~ Dr. Jalal to one of his novelist friends (pg. 279-80)

Reading this makes me kind of wish we could all just stay in our countries and not have to rely on each other for anything. *sigh* Then the heartless West wouldn't have to hurt the feelings of the people we come into contact with. For the record, I live in the West, I think I have a heart and I tend to like the "misfits" in the world. So there! :-P

"It's said that no one's a prophet in his own country. I would add, 'And no one's a master in foreign lands.' No one is honored as a prophet in his own country or as a master anywhere else. My salvation comes from that revelation: I want to be neither a master nor a prophet. I'm only a writer who tries to put some of his spirit into his novels for those who may wish to receive it." ~ the novelist's reply to Dr. Jalal (pg. 280)

I really liked this guy's attitude. He was satisfied with life. Although it wasn't easy and he wasn't given the recognition and fame some thought he might deserve, he chose to be content.

The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra

Our Brand

"Christians aren't known to the world because we all dress the same, comb our hair alike, or vote identically. We are known by our love. That's our basic identity."

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

Signs of Life by David Jeremiah

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wouldn't it be grand . . .

to reach life's end and be able to say as Jesus did,

"I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do" (John 17:4)?

And one more good thing....

"The way the world will know the compassion of Christ is by seeing the outstretched arms of His followers. . . . Compassion is about the moment! It is about using what I have at hand -- money, talent, encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on -- to meet another person's need."

Signs of Life by David Jeremiah

Faith & The Iraq War -- Barbershop Talk Continues

What: Barbershop talk
Where: Kafr Karam, a village in the Iraqi desert
Part One

On the other hand . . . as the men continue talking . . .

"It's true that we're reaping what we sowed: the fruit of our broken oaths. We've failed. In the past, we were ourselves, good, virtuous Arabs with just enough vanity to give us a bit of guts. Instead of improving over time, we've degenerated."

"And where have we gone wrong?"

"In our faith. We've lost it, and we've lost face along with it."

"As far as I know our mosques are full."

"Yes, but what's become of the believers? They go to prayers mechanically, and then, as soon as the service is over, they return to the world of illusions. That's not faith."

"Fifty years ago, when I was in Jordan ... I stopped in a village near Ammam. It was the time of prayer. I went to a mosque with a group of men, and we set about performing our ritual ablutions in a little paved courtyard. The imam . . . came up to us and asked, 'Young men, what are you doing here?' 'We're washing ourselves for prayer,' I replied. He inquired further: 'Do you think your goatskins will suffice to cleanse you?' I pointed out to him that it was our duty to perform our ablutions before entering the prayer hall. He took a fine fresh fig from his pocket and washed it meticulously in a glass of water, then he peeled it open before our eyes. Inside, the beautiful fig was crawling with maggots. The imam concluded his lesson by saying, 'It's not a question of washing your bodies, but your souls, young men. If you're rotten inside, neither rivers nor oceans will suffice to make you clean.'"

"Don't try to make others wear the hat we've fashioned for ourselves with our own hands. If the Americans are here, it's our fault. By losing our faith, we've also lost our bearings and our sense of honor."

Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra (pgs. 36 & 37)

I've got to say that I was impressed by the imam's example and words. He reminded me of Jesus in Mark 7 when the Pharisees were complaining that Jesus' disciples ate without washing their hands. Jesus replied that these people honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God. He further stated that outward things were not what make people clean and things entering the body didn't make people unclean. Jesus put it this way:

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

I think the point the imam didn't make or perhaps he implied and his listeners understood what he meant is how to make yourself inwardly clean. How to clean up the rot and wash out the filth. Did he think further actions were key? I can't say. What do you think is the answer to washing the soul? Can you do it on your own? If so, how? How do you make yourself inwardly pure before God? Do you agree that by going back to faith will make life better (e.g. no wars coming to the land)?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Iraq War -- "The Sirens of Baghdad"

What: Barbershop talk
Where: Kafr Karam, a village in the Iraqi desert

"But I can't let you unload our faults onto Saddam's shoulders. He was a monster, yes, but he was our monster. He came from among us, he shared our blood and we all contributed to consolidating his megalomania. Do you prefer infidels from the other side of the world, troops sent here to roll over us? The GIs are nothing but brutes and wild beasts; they drive their big machines past our widows and orphans and have no qualms about dropping their bombs on our health clinics. Look at what they've made of our country: hell on earth."

"Saddam made it a mass grave."

"It wasn't Saddam; it was our fear. If we had shown a minimum of courage and solidarity, that cur would never have dared become such a tyrant."

"Why do you think they're here, the Americans?" ... "Is it Christian charity? They're businessmen, we're commodities, and they're ready to trade. Yesterday, it was oil for food. Today, it's Saddam for oil. And what do we get out of all this? If the Americans had an ounce of human kindness, they wouldn't treat their blacks and their Latinos like subhumans. Instead of crossing oceans to come to the aid of some poor, emasculated ragheads, they'd do better to put their own house in order. They could do something about the Indians they've got rotting away on their reservations, kept out of sight like people with some shameful disease."

"Why did Bush attack our country? . . . Because they wished to rid us of a despot, their former flunky, but now a compromising figure? Because our sufferings had finally touched the hearts of the vultures in Washington? If you believe that fairy tale for one second, then you're irredeemably screwed. The USA was extremely worried about two things that might interfere with its hegemonic projects. One: Our country was very close to acquiring full sovereignty -- that is, a nuclear weapon. In the new world order, only nations that have a nuclear arsenal are sovereign; the others may be potential hotbeds of tension or providential sources of raw materials for the great powers, but from now on, that's all. The world is run by the forces of international finance, for which peace is equivalents to layoffs. It's all a matter of living space. The second thing the USA knew was that Iraq was the only military force in the region capable of standing up to Israel. Bringing Iraq to its knees would make it possible for Israel to dominate the Middle East. Those are the two real reasons that led to the occupation of our country. Saddam was nothing but an excuse. If he seems to give the Americans' aggression legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion, that doesn't mean using him is any less of a diabolical ploy. Their trick is to create a diversion in order to conceal the essential objectives of the exercise, which are to prevent an Arab country from acquiring the means of its strategic defense and therefore from protecting its integrity, and, at the same time, to help Israel establish definitive authority over this part of the world."

The Sirens of Baghdad
by Yasmina Khadra (pgs. 33-35)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Weakest Link

In one of the chapters in Signs of Life, author David Jeremiah discusses the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Remember this moral young man had kept the law since his youth, but Jesus asked him to do one last thing and then come follow Jesus.

Dr. Jeremiah writes: "The young man had kept the external requirements of the law, yet sensed in his heart that it wasn't enough to gain eternal life. Jesus loved him for his honest search and transparent inquiry. But when Jesus moved the conversation from external proficiencies to internal priorities, the young ruler's face fell. Jesus had focused on the weakest link in the chain that the young man had hoped would anchor him to heaven's gate." (pg. 183)

Makes me wonder about the weakest link in my chain. What am I having a hard time surrendering to the Lord before I follow Him?

My Week

Let's see....my week in review. Last Saturday I met with SSS at Smitty's and talked to her about their work in the West Bank (Palestine). Sunday I heard a sermon that spoke directly to what I'd been wallowing through (self pity). Then on Monday I struggled with that again for a good hour before God spoke to my heart and gave me a great suggestion for working through it.

Tuesday I didn't want to be home all day again so I went to the bank and a different branch of the library. (Just to go somewhere I'd not been in a year or so.) I was looking on the bulletin boards to see if there were any clubs or meetings of interest, but all I saw was something for gay guys and I qualify for neither. I found 3 books while there and have read two of them already (one about Kabul and the other about an Arab Israeli citizen). They are written by the same author - an Algerian man who uses a feminine pen name to avoid army censors.

That evening Andrew and I went to supper at our friends' restaurant. Yesterday they shut it down so I'm glad we were able to visit Mayberry's one last time. It was good talking to Sam and Pam for a couple of hours.

Wednesday I picked up Michael and we visited my parents' and grandparents' houses. I made some fudge (all the ingredients - chocolate chips, condensed milk, walnuts [which I omitted] and vanilla - are within the box except the 2 tablespoons of butter) and my grandparents had KFC. I'd already eaten so I just ate a biscuit and gravy and skipped the chicken, mashed potatoes ... oh, I did eat a few bites of cole slaw. I just remembered that.

Thursday I went to Monterrey's with Teresa. That was a nice treat since I don't see her very much any more. She's a busy nurse at a local clinic! After lunch and a quick look at Cato's, Teresa was off to work some more and I headed over to JC Penney since I got a $10 off coupon in the mail recently. Found some New Balance shoes that were on sale. I go through tennis shoes fast because I walk a lot in my neighborhood.

Friday I picked up Michael and we visited my youngest sibling at his work. We took Berkie to lunch nearby. Well, Berkie likes Japanese food so I gave him money to get that and then he met us at Moe's which is what Michael preferred. (Btw, my brother's name is David, but it's hard to switch to saying that when I've called him Berkie for over twenty years! His middle name is Berkley so ... )

Yesterday I went to ALDI and bought about 28 lbs. of carrots for our juicer. I also bought about 6 or 8 packages of broccoli (for the juicer), a bag of spinach, 2 pints of blueberries, 16 oz. of strawberries, bananas, a few canned goods and a small laminator that Stephanie needed for Michael's school supplies. I spent the afternoon and evening trimming the ends off the carrots, washing them and letting them air dry on the counter top. A couple of years ago my brother Daniel came by when I was doing this and saw three kitchen towels spread out with carrots all over them, plus more carrots waiting in the bowl. He walked into my house and exclaimed in mock horror, "What is this? A carrot slaughterhouse?!" Ever since then I have used that term 'cause I thought it was funny and fitting!

So that was my exciting week in review. Also this week marked 6 months since we left Damascus and I think I can finally say I am over that place. It took 6 months, but I think finally I am free of longing to be there again. It's about time, eh?

Better get ready for church now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Open Hands ~ Surrender

"What are you grasping tightly ... trying to keep under your control ... unwilling to give to the Lord? Perhaps it's a relationship? a possession? a plan, a goal, or a dream? Maybe it's an attitude of bitterness you should have released months ago? Perhaps God isn't able to bless you because your hand isn't open to receive His blessings."

"A closed hand is based on the faulty assumption that we know more about what's best for us than our all-knowing God whose wisdom is unfathomable. An open hand, however, reflects the humble awareness that the Lord Jesus can do more than we can do and that His plan for us is better than any we can devise. An open hand says, 'Lord, You know how precious this thing is to me, but I acknowledge You are more precious. You have a greater plan for my life, and I don't want to miss it by clinging to my own tarnished treasures. I'm opening my hand to You in surrender and trust.'"

I read these words this morning and wanted to note them here. Thought they were good ones. What "precious thing" are you holding onto that you need to surrender to the Lord today? Can we trust Him with our precious things? (Pssst, those "things" can include relationships with people, too. Including our spouses and children...hmmm.)

Source: Signs of Life by David Jeremiah pg. 170

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friends & a Mini-Sermon

Today I had a wonderful time hanging out with an old church friend, Teresa. She saw me online this morning and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch since she had an hour break instead of the normal thirty minutes. So I met with her and we ate at Monterrey's and then walked over to Cato's for the last 15 minutes of her break. I greatly enjoyed that!

Last Saturday I went out with SSS. She is a friend whom I'd only talked to online. Andrew has known her husband for years and knew SSS, but I'd never met her face-to-face. She and her husband went to the West Bank last year and I've kept track of them via e-mail updates and Facebook. Anyway, finally she was back in town for a short visit and we got together for an hour at Smitty's ice cream shop. What a treat to meet such an encouraging lady! Several weeks back I asked her this by e-mail.

It's been wonderful reading about your experiences. How do you measure success? Do you find it in just knowing you are doing what God called you to do no matter what appearances show? Or have you seen actual progress in some areas of life there? I am eager to hear how YOU define "success" -- or maybe that's the wrong word. Hmmm. I hope you understand where I'm coming from with my question.

I greatly enjoyed her reply and was given permission to post it, but only to put it was from SSS and not her name thus why I'm using only her initials.

God doesn't call us to success, but to faithfulness. (Semantics here!) God's success IS faithfulness! So our young adult team has been faithful to the Gospel and perhaps the world cannot see much of a difference, but they will go home changed people who are able to be faithful in the circumstances of their lives. They will never forget what it's like to live under occupation and not be able to travel across a border to visit a sick relative because an oppressive power is controlling that border. (You and I could not ENTER Greensboro because it is controlled by the ones in charge holding the guns.)
The other thing God does NOT call us to is individualism, because God calls us into community. These young adults had to struggle with living in community and sharing everything while trying to live simply. They also witnessed the Palestinians living more simply and more harshly that the Israelis because of the occupation.
Finally, in my three-point sermon, (HAH - - did you know this was a sermon?) God doesn't call us to mind-numbing pleasure, but to servanthood. The world's call is to constant busyness with whatever feels good - - Nascar, television, computers, facebook, music, sports, eating, drinking, sex, obsession with our bodies, face lifts, family (and here I mean MY family is all that counts) and on and on. This sounds like a tirade against all that is fun and good, and that is not my intent, but God calls us to walk away from some of this stuff and take time to HELP others - - even if it means to sacrifice a little or a lot.

Sorry for not posting it sooner, but here it is now. Really great sermon, I thought.

Also the other evening we visited Sam and Pam at their restaurant. I've greatly enjoyed seeing some of my friends this week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"The History of Islam" on Democracy

So recently I mentioned that I'd finally started reading volume one of The History of Islam by Akbar Shah Najeebabadi. Three volumes were given to us on one of our last days in Damascus. I started reading recently, but hadn't done much more reading until this morning when I read about 30 minutes in it while walking on my elliptical machine. I've only finished the forward, introduction and part of the first chapter thus far so, yeah, it's slow going.

I did find a few interesting bits in the introduction today. Speaking of France and America, he stated democracies "cannot prove a source of blessing for mankind" and went on to say that the ideal government is a "system that lies between democracy and autocracy" as modeled in the "first four centuries of the Hijrah era." (pg. 42)

While the author says democracy looks pleasant when seen from afar, his opinion is that "high morals taught by religion cannot grow and flourish in a country where the flood of democracy is surging. Democratic system of government seeks to put man on a path of such an unnatural freedom that he can no longer retain his Divine values." (pg. 42)

Additionally the author claims that "democracy is basically against sense of religiosity . . . [and] it is religion alone and not government which can hold one back from indulging in evil acts of murder, theft, adultery, etc." (pg. 43)

"It is, perhaps, the most ugly example of human depravity that we, today, find even Muslims desiring of European and American type of democracy, which is totally against the teachings of Islam and something highly injurious to mankind. Such a shift in Muslim thought is the result of the timidity and lack of courage, and it is reduced to such a state because of ignorance and ignoring the teachings of the Qur'an and Hadith." (pg. 44)

After reading this guy's views on democracy, I am understanding why bringing democracy to the Middle East is not such a great idea. And it's no wonder it's been such a struggle in Iraq! The people don't want democracy if they are good Muslims! Now why couldn't America's leaders simply read the introduction to this book to find out how Muslims view our brand of democracy as so evil?

The author then goes on to discuss the autocratic democratic rule where one king or caliph - the best among them and elected in agreement with the majority opinion - was the leader until his death. However, unlike most autocratic powers, the author declares that hereditary rule should be done away with because the ruler should be elected by the people. Good ruling traits aren't necessarily passed down in the family and the son of the ruler should not automatically be his successor. That's where the democratic part comes in. "The Muslims need no institution of law or constitution or formation of any modern system of government, for they possess the noble Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Thus the task of electing [the] best man for the job is also not difficult for the Muslims. The man who knows the Qur'an and Hadith more and acts more upon them is the most deserving of all to become the ruler of the Muslims." The author states that the people should challenge their rulers if they deviate from the Qur'an and Hadith, but as long as the ruler is staying true to those things, the people had to follow every order of the ruler and not even think of revolting. (pg. 47)

OK...all that is well and good if you live in a place that elects a tolerant ruler, but what if you are in Taliban territory and the majority elects someone who makes women stay at home and they cannot leave the house without being covered head to toe with only one eye showing? What if the ruler interprets the Sunnah so that women have to have permission -- even from their male children -- in order to go somewhere. What if temporary marriages are encouraged for men, and women are threatened with starvation if they won't drop everything to have sex with their husbands whenever the mood hits? If you live in Syria where the Muslims are more tolerable, it is different than if you are living in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.

And is it just me or do others have problems with the government empowering morality police in order to make sure your abayas are long enough or your beard is the proper length or you don't talk to someone of the opposite sex? It seems societies like this treat their citizens as if they are mischief-prone children who have to be kept in line. It's as if these men think they were directly appointed by God to keep all the people in line.

Great books so far, eh? And that was just the introduction!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Six Months!

Today marks six months since our last day in Syria. It was the day we visited Samer's family at their house and met with Basheer, Ahmad "Jake," and a couple of Basheer's friends later that evening. We walked in the souq and bought a few goodies to take home. We made a few more memories in the hostel. And I cried. Boy, did I cry.

I miss this place. Just the atmosphere, the sights, sounds and smells. And the people. Out of this world. Lovely people.

Six months already. And in some ways it seems like a lifetime ago or like a dream. But I have pictures to prove I was there. Thank You, God, for the amazing opportunity that we had to visit Syria!

Miss y'all.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oh yeah

Psalm 118:24 -- "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

One other thing my preacher said today. Notice the Psalmist didn't say "I feel like rejoicing so I will be glad in it." It was an act of the will! I choose to rejoice in this day. In everything give thanks, rejoice in the Lord always...you know, that kind of stuff!

Pitiful or Powerful?

So I've been living in a really bad attitude this week. Normally living in a bad attitude makes no sense and the proper preposition would be living with a bad attitude. But, well, you weren't part of my week (unless you are a few unfortunate people) so you just don't know. Trust me, I was living IN a bad attitude...ahhh.

Now that we have that settled. I even went to church this morning permeated by this bad attitude. I barely sang the worshipful songs, I had to force myself to smile so I wouldn't look like I'd been vaccinated with pickle juice (as my preacher likes to say). Yeah, I was really showing the joy of the Lord in my life. *ahem* I was in one of those bless-me-if-you-dare moods.

So the songs were sung, I picked up my Bible, dutifully turned to John 5 as instructed and then my preacher said "are you going to be pitiful or powerful" and followed that with a sermon on self-pity and how it sours your attitude, relationships and everything else. He told us how the Bible warns about letting a root of bitterness get into our hearts. Brian shared that gratitude was the cure and the book of Isaiah instructs us to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

He mentioned how self pity stuck to you like an oppressive spirit .. it really held you down and that's exactly how I felt this past week. I just couldn't smile and found joy in very little.


I know compared to 80% of the world (or better) I have an outstanding life. I am satisfied with my house, my car, my belongings. And God has blessed me with a great place to live near family and I am not in a war-torn area, I haven't seen anyone starve to death or be dismembered by a land mine. I am blessed. So why have I allowed this spirit of self pity?

Honestly I am bored and feel I have no purpose in life. I read all these great books about serving others and I want to do that, but I'm not sure where. I think I want to interact with people, but my life is such that I do my job at home and except for trips to Wal-mart and Food Lion and the library, I don't experience people that much. I have sweet friends, but they are busy moms. So I am really bored of ME.

But since God made a point of specifically addressing my heart problem of the past few days - and boy, oh, boy, did I have silent laughter at Him a couple of times during church because of that - I know I have a choice to make. I can continue letting this root of bitterness take over and make me miserable ('cause I was miserable wallowing in that self-pity) or I can choose to be grateful, start praising the Lord and "come before His presence with singing" instead of complaining.

Oh, Brian also told us that wallowing in self pity removes the blessing of God from our lives. And I really want God to allow me to serve Him somehow. I don't want to be some grouchy ol' hag. I really want my life to show Christlike love, peace and joy. I want to shine for Jesus, not give Him a bad name because of how I live.

So I felt God talked directly to me this morning. Challenging me. (Yikes!) Maybe there were others who needed it or maybe they had to endure this sermon because of me. Either way, I was thankful -- and actually amused -- that God used Brian to speak to me this way.

Thank the Lord for loving us enough to not leave us to wallow in our stinky self-pity!

Now ... to start that singing!

Speaking of which, I love "I'd Need a Savior" by Among the Thirsty! Check it out! Wow!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Action Verbs!

"We have to make a conscious choice to focus on serving others. Our sinful nature, utterly self-centered in its orientation, naturally puts self first. Our culture, which is a corporate expression of natural (fallen) human nature, . . . encourages us to think of ourselves. . . . If we are to be obedient to the Scriptures and serve one another, we have to buck the trend, go against the grain, and battle uphill to change our focus." (pg. 67)

Check out the decisions Jesus made as He chose to come to earth. As recorded in Philippians 2,

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Did you notice all those action verbs? All those deliberate choices? Made himself nothing, took on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, found in appearance as a man, humbled himself, became obedient to death!

Have we made the choice to serve? Or are we only one of those boring state-of-being verbs who just sits there and does little?

"If you were a walking advertisement for the Lord, what would people learn about Him?" (pg. 70)

Reflect on the fact that Jesus likely wasn't a standout in the looks department. Not one we'd see on the streets and say, "Wow, He looks impressive" or "He holds himself like a king .. check out that regal bearing." But then think of how people flocked to meet Him even staying for hours to be in His presence. People sought Him out, scholars were either amazed or silenced by His teachings. He spoke with authority and changed lives where ever He went. Now remembering that we are representatives for Christ, think of this: "People may not stand amazed at us when they pass them on the street, but when they get to know us, what do they think?" (pg. 78) Do people see a difference in your life that they want? Or do they say, "If that's a Christian, who needs this Jesus?"

Thoughts and quotes from Signs of Life by David Jeremiah

One last thing, Suzy at Sailing by Starlight wrote a beautiful and challenging post on prayer. She is reading Mother Teresa's book No Greater Love. Check out Suzy's post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mars Hill vs. The Synagogue..approaches, I mean

In the chapter "The Church Arrogantly Claims All Other Religions Are Wrong," the author quotes from emergents Duggan and Penny and then explains that "Christians come across as naive and arrogant when they can't even carry on a conversation about the religions they reject. We need to understand that people in emerging generations . . . place a high value on respecting and seeing beauty in all faiths and expressions of spirituality. If we don't recognize this and aren't sensitive in how we talk about other faiths, we come across as unintelligent, primitive, close-minded, and uncaring of people who hold different views." (pg. 165)

Concerning her own spiritual search, Penny stated: "Eastern religions were more attractive to me, because they focused more on being kind to others, loving other people of other spiritual beliefs even if they are different from you, treading lightly, and being humble. I think that was similar to the message of Jesus, ironically, but that's the opposite of what I experienced from church and Christians." (pg. 166)

Keep in mind that America is a post-Christian nation. Where we used to assume most people were Christian at least nominally, that is increasingly no longer the case. America has become the most religiously diverse nation because of our acceptance of other faiths being practiced here freely. Thus we need to know about other beliefs so we can speak intelligently with people. Don't just spout a Bible verse and say "Jesus is the only way." Be willing to listen to others as they share their beliefs and build relationships with them. The author reminded us that the Apostle Paul spoke differently to those at the synagogues than those on Mars Hill. The former group feared God while the latter worshiped many gods. Paul's starting points and approaches were different depending on whom he was addressing, and we have to keep in mind that people in our nation won't often have the same worldviews and perspectives as those who grew up in the church.

So what about us? Do we expect "Mars Hill folks" to have the same knowledge as those from the synagogue? As a foreign missionary goes to another country and learns the culture and language, we must know the culture of ... well, our own culture! Let's be willing to listen and learn and don't arrogantly dismiss others' beliefs. Show them the love of Christ by hearing them and caring about what's on their hearts.

(And, yes, I know I am preaching to myself....I am the one most in need of this lesson. )

From: They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Be willing to get your shoes dusty on the streets of this world."

"In biblical times, the only people who got their feet and sandals dusty were those who left the cleanliness and safety of their homes. Whether they were going to the market or to minister, they had to leave home to do it. Likewise, if we are going to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, we are going to have to leave home. It was Jesus who spoke these words in one of His parables: "Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled'" (Luke 14:23)."

"Am I willing to get my own shoes dusty on the streets of this world in order to make the love of Jesus Christ available to those who do not know Him? If I am going to be like my Savior, the answer can only be yes." (pg. 45)

"As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
~ Jesus in John 20:21

In his book Signs of Life, Dr. David Jeremiah discusses these things quoted above and made this interesting statement. Do you agree?

"One mistake of the modern church seems to be that when someone is converted to Christ, all too often in the name of discipleship, we hurry that person out of his place in the world into the sanitized confines of the church. Instead, perhaps we need to challenge ourselves to leave the walls of the church and walk with that new believer back into the world to reach his friends for Christ."

Furthermore, he adds that in order to get dust on our shoes, we need to "leave the 'clean' environment of church and home and to go into our neighborhoods and communities and do what Jesus did: show people how much God loves them by meeting them where they are and providing what they need." (pg. 46,47)

I am trying to figure out how exactly I can do this right now. I know where I want to get my shoes dusty, but where does God want me presently? I wish I knew.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Narrow Way

Louai sent me some pictures of Syria and this was one of them. I wanted to use it and thought of a verse that talked about narrow paths.

13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Words of Jesus as recorded in the book of Matthew chapter 7.