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

Friday, October 30, 2009

October Books

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen -- a fiction book I got from the library. Cute story of a young lady living in a small village in London in the 1800s. I enjoyed reading about life in this village, the job as an apothecary, how people viewed epilepsy and the interactions of everyone. Really enjoyed this book; light reading.

The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read & Write It by Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano -- I have been taking my time reading this book which explains the pronunciation of each letter (as best you can do while writing a pronunciation) and how to write them. I made flashcards for each letter (most have four forms) and have memorized them now! The tough thing is sometimes trying to read the letters in words. Just as we do in our own handwriting, people don't always write their letters in "proper" form so it's harder for me. I will definitely be reviewing many things in this small book. It's packed with good tips and it's stated in easy-to-understand ways.

A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam
by I.A. Ibrahim is a full-color, easy-to-read guide touching on a few basics of Islam. Chapter one covers evidence for the truth of Islam which includes the Qur'an on human embryonic development, mountains, the origin of the universe, clouds and such things. It also mentions the "great challenge to produce one chapter like the chapters of the Holy Qur'an," biblical prophecies that supposedly speak of Muhammad, the simple life of Muhammad and the growth of Islam. Chapter 2 tells of benefits of Islam such as "the door to eternal paradise," "real happiness and inner peace," forgiveness of sins and "salvation from hellfire." The final chapter touches briefly on Islam's position on women, terrorism, justice, the family, the elderly, the day of judgment and how to become a Muslim. This book was a nice general overview of Islam, but didn't go into great detail especially in the third chapter. No mention of any controversial issues surrounding Islam today.

The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do
by Mark Atteberry -- the author delves into topics such as church hopping, slinging mud on the Bride of Christ, living below the level of our beliefs, fighting among ourselves, missing golden opportunities, settling for mediocrity, allowing wolves to live among the sheep and so forth. Quite challenging!

The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff is a novel I found in the new section of the library. I hesitated to get it because it was over 500 pages and I didn't want to commit myself to a book that size if it were boring. However, I found it quite interesting. There is a fiction part to it, but interspersed is much about Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young. Through the book I learned some about the beginning and early years of the Mormon religion as they made their way from New York to Ohio, Illinois and on to Utah. I was appalled by the hand cart method some of the immigrants were forced to use as they made their way to "Zion" (see pages 196 and following). I already expressed my dismay at the horrible practice of polygamy that was excused by the early Mormons as given by God. Attributed to Chauncey Webb as he approached his first wife about taking another wife (his third), after telling her "'we both know this is our duty to God'" -- his having plural wives, the book records, "I had probed Mrs. Webb's most tender spot. She could not deny that the Prophet had made this clear. Her faith was always pure, while I layered mine with expediency. I am ashamed of many things, but none so much as when I excused my passions in the name of God." (pg. 205; also see pg. 213). Granted this is likely a made-up saying by the author, but I thought it greatly summed up how men have justified their own lusts with saying it was God's will. This is what angers me about plural marriages. If you want to marry a woman because she is a war widow that's one thing. But when it's simply because you see another pretty face and lust after someone's body, PLEASE don't give me that junk about it being God's will! That's what angers me so much! The frequency that the Saints and Firsts would take new wives just because they wanted a variety of sexual experiences -- honestly, it makes me think of men as no more than animals. After expressing some of this to my husband, he joked the following evening, "Are you still reading that man-hating book?"

A Mile in My Flip-Flops
is a lighthearted book by Melody Carlson which I borrowed from the local library. It describes Gretchen's house flipping adventures.

Finding God in the Questions by Dr. Timothy Johnson (physician and journalist for GMA on ABC News) -- I found this at the local library and thought I'd read Dr. Johnson's personal spiritual journey. Although I didn't agree with everything he wrote, I found I agreed with most of it. I enjoyed reading why he preferred being a "follower of Jesus" rather than a "Christian." Part of this was because of how the Council of Nicea relegated the wonderful relationship of God and Jesus into a "basic biology lesson." He claims this set in motion a practice of a church which "increasingly defined its beliefs and practice through highly intellectual creedal statements" and where "it would become a political and even military-like force that would often elevate itself to the heights of secular power and prestige but all too often at the spiritual expense of distorting the original message of Jesus." (pg. 134)

I liked reading his thoughts of the term "being saved" or "being born again" and how in his view "'being saved' is a lifelong process" (pg. 143.) Also his views of John 14:6 were interesting. (see pg. 144). I previously wrote about an interesting part re: serving others.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer -- I've written a couple posts about this book earlier in October. It's a story about a woman's life in the FLDS cult and her eventual escape with her children. Besides the things I mentioned in my previous posts, I will add only these few things. Warren Jeffs, the so-called "prophet," outlawed the color red which meant many followers threw out anything that had red (e.g., children's clothes). Something I found interesting is that this cult is unlike the mainstream Mormons in that drinking tea, coffee and alcohol are not forbidden. In fact, Carolyn tells of an event she attended where nursing mothers were drinking alcohol. I don't believe getting drunk was the norm only that alcohol is not forbidden. This greatly surprised me since they are so strict about many other things. One thing I found horrendous is how Warren Jeffs would make a man leave his family and assign another man to that family or how he would reassign women to marry new husbands. Also hugging, kissing and cuddling your children was frowned upon in this cult. Such a truly rotten place altogether!

The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock -- a fiction book I found in the new section of the library; told the story of a German family unwelcome in their Midwest community during WW II. Main characters were Sophie, Cole, Ellis, Graham and Riley. Light reading, but not my favorite.

Going Home
by Wanda E. Brunstetter -- a fiction book about an Amish lady, Faith, who comes home with her young daughter after living in the English world for ten years as an entertainer; light reading

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anyone up for some humility?

Andrew is not a preacher, but for some reason a few years ago he started receiving Today's Christian Preacher addressed to REV (his fulllllllll name)! Maybe it was a joke that someone played on him...who knows? Better than subscribing him to Playboy for sure, but anyway.... I am the one who tends to read through the quarterly magazine, and last night I came across this interesting part on humility as it relates to preachers.

I had recently been talking to a friend from a very different background when humility came up in our conversation. Friend asked me what was the reason two people from such different cultures (and countries, languages, religions & food!) could break down those potential walls and appreciate each other's differences, and, in fact, become dear friends. Like if we were writing a how-to manual with FAQs (frequently asked questions) how would I answer someone who said "how can this be done?" I started talking and within a few seconds was interrupted with "yes!" as soon as I mentioned the "h" word! I'd said something like, "Be willing to have a teachable spirit, humble yourself and truly listen to each other."

Why is being willing to humble yourself so important? Here is what this magazine has to say about humility as it relates to pastors. Read through and see if you agree or disagree.

1. "Humble pastors are teachable people. They are open to instruction and confrontation. An unteachable person is an arrogant person. Anyone who will not listen to rebuke is blinded by pride."

I've often found people unwilling to listen to other points of view to be arrogant. I've not always been successful, but this is an area where I've tried to be different. I've always been a pretty good listener, and I've found the more you really listen to someone and try to understand where she is coming from, the easier it is to make sense of things and find compassion in your heart for that person! I still have very strong opinions and principles from which I am not budging (unless the Lord changes my stance), however, I have found I am able to better appreciate others' perspectives as I've tried to cultivate a teachable spirit, where even if I'm not likely to agree with you, I'm going to learn from you.

2. "Humble pastors are willing to acknowledge their weaknesses and admit their mistakes....Godly people are sin-confessing people (I John 1:9). ... Some men in ministry worry that if they ever admit they were wrong or made a mistake, it will be used against them. This kind of insecurity ruins working relationships and productivity because the insecure man strives to cover his mistakes instead of correcting them."

I believe we can apply this to many more than just pastors. How about people in politics? And how about nations? Is it a sin for a nation to admit it was wrong? It seems these days it's more popular to never apologize in order to not appear weak. Like apologizing and patriotism cannot go together. Isn't this mindset arrogant? Why is it so difficult for a superpower nation - or any nation for that matter - to humble itself in front of the world and admit, "Hey, guys, you know when we _____________. Well, we made a huge mistake and we were wrong in doing that. Please accept our sincere apologies as we seek to make amends for what we did." I think it takes a big person - one of much character - to admit publicly and with sincerity that he or she was wrong. I find I truly admire a sincere person who has the guts to humble himself and admit a wrong. Much better than those who are only sorry because they were caught or who offer half-hearted apologies while trying to justify what they did or calling them "mistakes" instead of what they truly were: wrong choices on their parts! (Do I sound arrogant now? :-D Oops!)

3. "Humble pastors also will gladly allow themselves to be held accountable. Being humble means accepting responsibility for commitment and performance. . . . Pride causes a man to bristle when he is held accountable. 'Who does he think he is? I don't need someone looking over my shoulder!' That kind of thinking misses the point. If you serve on a team, you have an obligation to that team and you make commitments to that team. A 'superstar' thinks he isn't bound by the obligations of a team. A humble man gladly accepts his role and responsibilities as a team member."

I think we've all come across news on politicians or sports or movie stars who seem to be above the rules the rest of us have to live by. You've seen arrogant ball players who think they can do whatever they want because they have special talents in basketball or football. Most of us recognize them for the arrogant jerks that they are. But maybe we've never applied it to ourselves and reading this about our willingness (or lack of it) to be held accountable hits home. I also think this can apply to nations, but since I'm at my core an individualistic American from the South who doesn't have fond thoughts of the UN, I won't delve into actually applying this to the United States at this time. ;-)

May we always remember Jesus who came from the glory of heaven willingly. He humbled Himself for our sakes. Now let us humble ourselves and serve others following the example of our Savior. If He is not "too good" to wash dirty feet, how can we protest doing tasks we deem beneath us?

Thus concludes this post on humility.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thoughts on Colossians 1:9-14

I've been pondering some things from Colossians 1&2 the last few days. Instead of sharing a lot of those verses in one post, perhaps I'll just share bits and pieces in coming posts. From the first chapter:

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Some observations:

1. How wonderful would it be to know people were often praying for us to be filled with all that good stuff from God?! (see vs. 9)

2. I'd love to live a life worthy of the Lord so that I might please Him in every way! Oh to have that great strength from Him so that I could endure life's trials with patience.

3. From verse 12, I love that God qualified us. We didn't qualify ourselves, but He enabled us or prepared us to be partakers in the kingdom.

4. He rescued us from the kingdom of darkness. Unlike the books I've read lately, where men were the ones who could rescue their plural wives in the hereafter, the Bible tells us clearly that God is the One Who did this. By giving this much power to men is making them like God....which it seems the polygamists often have in mind, unfortunately.

5. He brought us into the kingdom of the Son whom He loves ... and in Whom we have forgiveness of our sins.

Good stuff! What is your favorite? Does anything stand out to you?

This picture was taken by Samer along the Rhine River in Germany, October 2009. I love the sky!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Now for something lighter . . .

After writing about Escape yesterday and finally finishing this 400+ page book full of infuriating things, I think I need to write about something less serious this morning.

I nearly did a double take Friday night when Andrew arrived home after eleven with a curly black wig complete with its own pick! I was talking to him as I walked down the hall, stepped into the kitchen and saw it.

Susanne & Michael
Oct. 24, 2009

When I tried it on myself, I laughed so hard Andrew heard me all the way out at his truck. Actually it looks a lot like my hair when I tease it. Only darker. And I don't stick a pick in mine.

Michael - Oct. 24, 2009

Michael called me Thursday morning to discuss my coming to pick him up for the park. Then he stepped into his room explaining to his mom he needed to talk to me privately. He shut the door, but she could still hear him despite his whispering. He said, "I'll talk to you on the phone for a few minutes to delay doing my homeschool." Crazy kid.

He is going to Classical Conversations on Tuesdays. This is where they dissected the crawfish earlier in the week. Also they are learning lots of other good stuff including Latin endings. Hehehe...it makes me laugh to think of Michael learning Latin. Tomorrow he has to read his report on Caesar Augustus. That's the guy he chose to report on. He recognized his name from the birth-of-Jesus story as recorded in Luke 2.

Saturday we had a birthday party for my dad. It was Halloween-themed and many of us tried on the black wig. It looked very authentic on my Venezuelan brother in law! I think you can see it here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crazy Cult

After enduring a polygamous household where the wives constantly bickered, tattled and made life a living nightmare and where the husband and father of over fifty children ruled with cruelty in a community that saw women and children as property and, therefore, game to be beaten, Carolyn Jessop had had enough. Finally! But what did she do? Well, she went to Warren Jeffs, the acting prophet of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. The despicable man who made their restrictive life even worse. Carolyn took a 17-page letter detailing the abuse she'd endured at the hands of her husband, Merril. And what did Warren do, but try to make her out to be the immoral, failing one!

"'You have the opportunity to become a goddess in this good man's home if he chooses to take you with him in the celestial kingdom. If you persist in wasting this life by offending your husband, you will be cast out as good for nothing and no man will ever want you in his kingdom. You need to repent, keep yourself in perfect obedience, and pray that Merril will find it in his heart to forgive you. If you continue to waste the precious time you have here on earth fighting him, you will have no place in the afterlife." (pg. 296)

Argh! Argh! Argh! How can men have that much control over women? And say this is all from God? This cruelty? Argggggh!

Merril's fifty-third child (Carolyn's 7th) was diagnosed with spinal neuroblastoma at a young age. Can you guess what this horrible man and most of his other wives said about it? Harrison was stricken with cancer because Carolyn wasn't in perfect harmony with Merril. And guess what? Perfect harmony meant that Carolyn was berated for ordering shrimp off a menu because poor darling Merril hated shrimp! Carolyn had to change her order to steak!

When the favored wife beat one of the other wife's children, Barbara defended herself: "Cathleen, you are out of order and you know it. I was only doing the will of my priesthood head. For you to question is pure rebellion." (pg. 291)

Remember, y'all, "perfect obedience produces perfect faith." (pg. 205) There is no room for "rebellion" against what this potential god says.

I know there were times while reading this book that I felt I could sling it across the room. I felt my blood start boiling at the way people in families (weird as they are!) could treat one another -- even slapping and beating their children until they were bruised!

Andrew said, "Are you reading another man-hater book." Nice timing since today is our anniversary, huh? Heheheh. Thank God Andrew is NOTHING like these creeps!

Quotes/information from Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

Be Thankful!

"If the stars came out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night just to watch." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember the story from Luke 17:11-19 where ten lepers are healed by Jesus, but only one, a Samaritan, comes back to give Him thanks?

How important is our thanks to God and others? I found this thought-provoking as I read it from the latest In Touch magazine.

We tend to ignore the things that are always present or available to us; it's easy to take those things for granted, no matter how wonderful they are. When we're accustomed to material blessings, we hardly count them as blessings until we begin to lose them -- whether they involve health, financial comfort, or easy access to life's "necessities." Might we be so familiar with such blessings that we actually trivialize them or view them as our rights? Have we heard about God's grace so often that it no longer gets our attention?

Wow! Is this why this recession has been so hard on many Americans? Things we previously took for granted -- such as being able to have a house, fancy car, good food plus DSL, cool cell phones and the latest entertainment -- were no longer easy for us to acquire? Makes me wonder how many "rights," "necessities," and blessings I have been taking for granted because they are things I am used to having. What things would I most miss if I no longer had them? Things I'd previously thought would just always be here. What about you?

My pastor often says that he will never be the greatest fisherman (he loves bass fishing). Nor will he ever be the world's best golfer or father or preacher. But he says he wants to be the most grateful man ever! So he praises God every day all the time. He doesn't want to be a grumbler or murmurer. (Ever notice from the Old Testament how much God detested that attitude in the Israelites?) So how about we give my preacher a run for his money and try to be the most thankful people in the world? Afterall, God is good and He has given us many wonderful gifts to enjoy!

Can I get an "amen" on that? ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Today is . . .

my dad's birthday. I found these pictures in one of my brother's Facebook photo albums and thought they would be good to share today.

My dad loves his kids. (There are four of us though this post only pictures two.) When I was little I would cry when he'd leave, but sometimes he would take me riding on his bicycle. Even when I was only a few months old. Here we are at my grandparents' house in SC. I was probably 3 at this time. My brother is sixteen months younger than I am.

My dad grew up on a dairy farm in a rural area of North Carolina. He worked a lot on tobacco farms nearby. He wondered at times if he ever would leave the farm. Then the war broke out and young men were being drafted. He joined the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era. Instead of being drafted and sent to Vietnam, they sent him to Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada where he said they had tunnels through the snow! Several of his Air Force pals were sent to Vietnam. After getting out of the Air Force, he went to college, graduated and later became a high school teacher in North Carolina. Later he became a principal/administrator of two Christian schools.

My dad and I have always been close. We are quite a bit alike, too! For starters, we both like ice cream! :-)

Happy birthday!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jesus Knows Best

In the final chapter of his book, Finding God in the Questions, Dr. Timothy Johnson (physician and journalist for GMA on ABC News) quoted from Matthew 25:31-45 where Jesus told how people would be separated on the day of judgment. Dr. Johnson says, "Jesus' checklist is truly startling when you look at what is left out, in contrast to the dominant emphases of so much modern religious teaching." (pg. 185) Things such as "no mention of correct thinking" (e.g. learning the creeds and fundamentals of Christianity in the "right" way), "no mention of correct positions on social or political issues" (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, the proper place of women), "no mention of power or fame or wealth" (e.g. net worth, educational achievements), "no mention of time spent in traditional religious practices." However Jesus said the things that would keep us "from being a goat on judgment day is crystal clear - namely, attention to the 'least important ones.' Obviously these people were very important to Jesus, but he knew - as we all do if we are honest - that they are usually not very important to us." Jesus' whole life was about ministering to the needy, meeting needs, reaching out to the hurting, righting wrongs. So "we must be willing to live our lives in service to others." (pg. 185-187).

Dr. Johnson told about a career journalist who had interviewed many many "stars" over the years -- NFL players, movie actors, best-selling authors, politicians and so forth. This person said although we fawn over them and want to know every detail of their lives, he found most of these "'idols are as miserable a group of people as I have ever met. Most have troubled or broken marriages. Nearly all are incurably dependent on psychotherapy. In a heavy irony, these larger-than-life heroes seem tormented by self-doubt.'" By contrast he also spent time with people who had worked with the "ultimate outcasts" like the lepers in India and the homeless in America. People who'd left high-paying jobs to serve in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other such places. He writes, "'I was prepared to honor and admire these servants, to hold them up as inspiring examples. I was not prepared to envy them. Yet as I now reflect on the two groups side by side, stars and servants, the servants clearly emerge as the favored ones, the graced ones. Without question, I would rather spend time among the servants than among the stars: they possess qualities of depth and richness and even joy that I have not found elsewhere.'" (pg. 191)

I loved this! It seems Jesus' example for us to follow -- loving and serving others -- is the very thing that will bring the most richness and joy to our lives.

And Jesus also taught that the greatest among you is the one who serves others.


Changing the Culture

Do you agree?

We know it's important to change culture, but we're increasingly uncomfortable with politics as the means. You change culture, not by its laws exclusively, but by changing the hearts of the people in that culture.

We have to be close enough to people who are sinners in order to influence them. Yes, God wants us to be pure, but also to be emotionally and physically close to people who are broken. We can't withdraw from the world and also hope to influence it.

NonChristians interviewed had this kind of attitude towards most in churches: "'Most of the church experiences that I've had have led me to believe that Christians are unChristian and that they are no longer as Jesus intended.'"

The author believes "we all need less of the media in our world and more of the Bible" so that we can be changed on the inside. We need to realize how critical our relationships and conversations with others are. "While we can't change everybody's perceptions about us, [we should] be more careful representatives of Christ in our relationships."

Quotes and ideas from interview with In Touch Ministries with David Kinnaman, President of the Barna group and author of unChristian

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Plural Marriage Cinderella Story

"My grandmother believed plural marriage was the most sacred aspect of our faith and told me story after story about how the Mormon Church had been the church of God until it abandoned polygamy. . . . The principle of celestial marriage is what defines the FLDS faith. A man must have multiple wives if he expects to do well in heaven, where he can eventually become a god and wind up with his own planet. A man has spirit wives in heaven, where he fathers spirit children. (Becoming a spirit child is the first step on the journey of coming to earth.) We also held fast to the belief that our father was once a spirit and then came to earth to get a body and try to prove that he is worthy enough to become a god. . . . I felt like the luckiest little girl to be one of God's elite and a spirit who was the most chosen of all his spirits before I came to earth. Proof of that was that I had been born into a faithful bloodline. I was FLDS royalty. The culture really believes in the value of bloodlines. . . . Understand that we were taught to believe we were better than everyone else in the entire world because of our beliefs. Since I had been selected to come to such a royal bloodline, my grandmother told me that I had the chance to become a goddess if I lived polygamy and proved worthy. It was our own version of the Cinderella story Just having the opportunity to live in a plural marriage was sold to me as a special blessing that few would ever have. . . . My grandmother explained that we had pledged to God that we would never do anything to undermine his work and would produce many children. There were thousands of chosen spirits waiting to come to earth. We were the women who would give birth to them. Grandma told me that my sole purpose on earth was to have as many children as possible." (from pgs. 17-19)

~ as told in Escape, biography by Carolyn Jessop, formerly of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS)

Contrast the portion written above with these passages from the Bible.

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2)

And also this from the same chapter:

11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

And Romans 10 tells us: 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

I choose to accept Christ's work as my way for salvation. I don't believe plural marriages and having lots of children are the ways for us to be acceptable to God.

Interesting book so far.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


... I walked at the park. 'Twas a beautiful fall day!

... I crunched acorns,

... crackled leaves

... and stopped to smell the roses - literally.

... I laughed thinking of Michael describing his dissection-of-a-crawfish adventures from yesterday at school. He told of pulling off the arms and seeing the pink heart. Fun stuff!

... I went to the bank, got some interesting library books, did some things at my workplace, bought bananas, went to the park and then went by ALDI.

... I came home and cut, washed and dried 30 lbs. of carrots for my juicer. Well, the air dried them, but I laid them out so they could dry and then put them away.

... I had a pleasant talk with a friend discussing various cultural aspects while reading a book from the library, Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands. It features 60 countries and tells what to expect if you do business in those areas. I read the section on the United States. Most of it I knew already - yay!

... I was told I sing like a white American woman.
/:) Really?

... I was reminded that the journey IS life. Don't wait 'til something else happens before you feel life begins. It's happening now. Live it. Well.

Don't sights like this make you want to break out running through the field singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music....ahhhhhaaaahhhhhaaaaaa" and laugh?

Samer in Germany on the day his class went to view the Rhine River
October 17, 2009

C'mon! You know that it does!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Polygamy: always a maddening subject for me

I've long loathed the idea of polygamy especially as I've read Muslim blogs the last couple of years. However I can respect the idea in which polygamy was passed along to the Islamic world in the beginning -- a way of taking care of war widows and the notion that you must treat all wives equally and limit yourself to only four (unless you happened to be Muhammad who conveniently got an exception from Allah on that requirement.) At least the Muslims have a respectable reason for taking more than one wife even though I highly doubt it is the reason most polygamists take more than one wife today. Somehow I get the impression they are looking for younger, newer models when they take plural wives these days. Especially when they hold the "I can get another wife if I want" thing over their current wives as a threat when said wives don't give into their whims or serve them enough. But I digress.

I am currently reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Although the book is fiction it also has a lot of church history intertwined as it relates to Joseph Smith and the beginning of the Latter Day Saints or the Mormons. Ages ago, I'd read a few fiction books that discussed Mormon things, but now I am reading this book and it's quite eye-opening. Mormons today come across as such decent, truly wonderful people -- and likely most of them are! They project a great image to the world. However, their beginning makes me shudder. Like their prophets urging them to accept plural marriages so that they will obtain salvation and help others obtain salvation. And then their prophets lying about their polygamy because they know outsiders won't understand. They figure they'll first convert them and then explain that these celestial marriages are needed and part of church doctrine. The way they went around quizzing people on their thoughts and actions in order to urge confessions from their members. The way Brigham Young said, "Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or that woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus meant. This is loving our neighbor as our self; if he needs help, help him; if he wants salvation, and it is necessary to spill his blood upon the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it." (pg. 180) Although the 19th wife, Ann Eliza Webb Young, admits that some have interpreted his words differently, STILL! Can you imagine "the Prophet" of your religion saying such things?! And, yes, this 19th wife just mentioned was wife of the famous Mormon prophet Brigham Young. She divorced her husband and crusaded for ending polygamy here!

This book also deals with an offshoot or sect of the LDS which claim the Mormons today have compromised by calling for the end of polygamy. This cult still practices polygamy though the US only recognizes one legal wife per man. Therefore, they learn how to apply for government benefits and get loads of welfare checks. It's not unheard of for men to have 15 or 20 wives with scores of children! Because of all the inbreeding, you can have a cousin, aunt and half-sister who are the same woman! :-O Ugh...it sounds horrendous to me!

This book has over 500 pages and I've not quite read 200 and have been disgusted by much thus far. To be fair Ms. Young said that some women like polygamy. They have accepted it as something from God so they are fine with their husbands taking new wives which help them all obtain salvation. Also these women like the companionship of other women around the house, their help with the chores and children and so forth. However, she said many women hate this practice even though they have been brainwashed to believe it's necessary and the will of God.


I sound like a pothole!

Last night my California friend shared a cute 36-second Geico pothole commercial with some of us. We are online friends who have talked on the phone fewer than a handful of times since we met over 6 years ago. Anyway, I cracked up laughing because she wrote:

Hey y'all. Have ya seen the Geico PotHole Commerical?

I just totally love it. I love the way the pothole talks. Apperantly if you type that in on a search I'm not the only one in the world that thinks the little pothole sounds cute! It's adorable and .... lol, I haven't spoken to Susanne in a long time but this is how I imagine she sounds. Everytime I've seen it, it makes me think of her. :)) Sorry Susa!

And then I watched the commercial and found it so amusing. Especially around the 12 second mark where the syrupy-sweet, Southern-talkin' pothole says, "Yer tire's all flat and junk." Check it out.

So I wrote back that it was funny, but I didn't think I was quite so sweet sounding. Her reply made me smile:

lol well, just know that when I read what you type...I hear it in the potholes voice. :x

So I sound like a pothole. Guess that's better than a pothead. Cute commercial. And it's nice to know that my voice is remembered. :-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So you might recall my post back in August when I discussed The History of Islam on democracy. Well, I started reading a bit more in this book today. Yeah, it's really slow going. It's not that the book (well, volumes) are boring, but I just have been reading other things. I find these good to read when I am on the treadmill since they are hardback and fit well on the handles. Lately I've been walking outside so I haven't read in this book lately. So anyway, today I did. Chapter 2 is on Muhammad and it's a looooooooooooooong chapter. Like from pages 87 to 255. I didn't read but part of it or I'd still be on that treadmill reading even 4 hours later!

Here are a few interesting tidbits.

First, why reading books about Arabs sometimes becomes tedious to me. Here is one sentence in the early part of this chapter.

"Waraqah bin Naufal bin Asad bin Abdul-Uzza, Uthman bin Al-Huwairith bin Asad and Zaid bin Amr bin Nafil-the uncle of Umar bin Khattab, and Ubaidullah bin Jahsh assembled at a place and began to think over their beliefs and actions." (pg. 87)

I hope y'all understand what I mean. If it said "Steve, Joe, Rick, Mike, Dan, Sam and his uncle Caleb got together to think," I could handle it better.

Now keep in mind we got these volumes given to us at an Islamic bookstore in Damascus, OK? You can even click here and see where we got them, from whom and their home now on my bookshelf in North Carolina.

This from page 93, speaking of the Arab prophet:

His mother had dreamt an angel telling her that the baby to be born had been named Ahmad. Thus she named him Ahmad, while Abdul-Muttalib named his grandson Muhammad. According to the report of Abul-Fida, when the people asked Abdul-Muttalib as to why he gave his grandson a new name, setting aside all the names current in his family, he replied, "It is because I have a longing that my grandson should be praised and commended by one and all in the world."

Now I think this grandfatherly pride is sweet and very understandable, but I found it a bit weird that Muhammad's mom supposedly dreamed the baby's name and she "obeyed" the angel, but the grandfather overrode the angel. Kind of interesting. I immediately thought of instances in the Bible where angels from God or God Himself named babies -- like Ishmael, Isaac, John the Baptist and Jesus. This example reminded me most of John the Baptist. Luke records that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and told him his wife Elizabeth would have a son whom they should name John.

59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."

61They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."

62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John."

You see the people even questioned this name due to lack of family connection just as they did Muhammad's. However both parents were in agreement that his name was to be John.

Last thing of note so far is that Muhammad had very little time with his mom in his early years. Yes, she died when he was only about 6, but get this: "According to the custom of the Arab nobles, on the eighth day he was entrusted to lady Halimah of the Banu Sa'd clan of the Hawazin tribe to suckle him and bring him up. The nobles of Arabia would entrust their babies to bedouin women so that they would become healthy and strong in the open and free climate of the desert. Besides it would help develop eloquent speech, because the language of the bedouin was more pure, graceful and eloquent than those living in urban areas." (pg. 94) According to this book, Muhammad was only brought twice yearly to visit his mother and grandmother.

For some reason I found that interesting. I never knew babies were given to bedouins to raise in the desert nor would I expect nomadic wanderers to have more eloquent speech than those in urban areas. Cultural things are so interesting, huh?

Yes, I know...I pick out strange things to share sometimes. :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Process of Forgiving

Thanks to you who have commented on the recent anger posts. The author went from anger into forgiveness and I thought this worthy to share. From the October In Touch magazine devotions:

Confession to God is the beginning of the process [of forgiveness]. Come before Him, admitting any resentment and acknowledging it as sin. As you lay your anger and hurt before the Lord, let Him begin to heal your broken heart.

Sometimes the process can also involve going to the offender and confessing your sinful attitude toward him. This is not the time to itemize his wrongs but simply to admit your own. Although the offense against you may seem greater than your unforgiving attitude, avoid the temptation to "rank" sins. And leave judgment to God.

Forgiveness brings freedom from the agitation that accompanies resentment. In working through the process, you'll begin to see the one who hurt you through eyes of compassion. Eventually, you will be able to thank God for the opportunity to learn forgiveness and live in His lavish grace.

Does this sound too good to be true? I wonder if anyone out there has had this happen in her own life or knows of someone where this happened.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Devil

How intelligent do you think the devil is? Could he come up with a religion fortified with miracles and scientific facts proven many centuries later? How wary are you of the devil's abilities or do you tend to dismiss him because you either think he is not real or your faith in God is so great?

Just some late-night musing on my part. What do you think?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Family Stuff

On Thursday I took Michael out to eat and then we went to a local park and he played for a while. Before we left, we went down to the soccer field and twirled. He wanted to chase me as we twirled so we were twirling and running at the same time. Such talent, I dare say. After that we played Ms. Pac Man and the blue ghost while walking along the lines drawn for the soccer field.

On Friday I picked up Michael and he met me at the door dressed as Darth Vader. When he met my mom and dad at the door, he had to be fully dressed with his mask and cape. It's cute how he takes on Darth's serious persona. But then he raises the mask to assure my dad that "hey, it's just me under here, Poppy."

He said he and Blake were going to do a show .. kind of like he went to in Disney when he got to train to fight against Darth Vader. He will be Darth Vader since he has the costume. Blake will be Luke. My dad is going to help train the kids to be storm troopers. Michael assured me he will take off his mask at the end so the kids will know it was only him under there. He said he will charge 25 cents and give part of the money to his parents to help out with expenses. He asked my dad for some wood and a saw to build a background.

Tonight I went over to my grandparents' apartment because my uncle Artie and his son David came up to visit from Jacksonville, FL. I'd not seen them in ages. David was 2 last time I saw him and now he is 13. He asked where I was from and when I told him, he said I sounded like I was from...Texas. Or like that lady on "Facing the Giants." I guess he noticed my southern accent. He seemed to like me though he didn't realize our relationship fully at first. Sweet kid. He drew us pictures to remember him by.

Michael and Blake were there with Stephanie and Will. My mom was also there and we sat around the living room and sang for a while. I'd forgotten how funny my uncle could be. It'd been too long, but it was nice sitting around, singing and laughing like the olden days.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on Anger

I Peter 2: 23
about Jesus -- "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly."

More thoughts on anger from the In Touch devotionals...

In dealing with anger, first we must "recognize anger in our hearts" and then "confess unrighteous anger as sin and then begin to deal with it immediately. Because anger is often a response to hurt, care must be taken not to excuse or defend it in the name of justice. Although someone may have sinned against you, holding onto anger in response is also a sin. Scripture tells us to overcome evil with good, not to repay it (Romans 12:17-21). . . . We can't expect to live in the new nature Christ has created for us while retaining our 'right' to be angry and hold grudges."

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

And lest we think this stuff is too hard. Well, it is. In our own strength. However, Paul tells us in Philippians 4:

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And all things includes forgiving those who have hurt us, right?

"Such a response is unnatural since the One who modeled it is supernatural. Priorities need to change for us to emulate Jesus. Love and understanding must supersede the need to defend ourselves; preserving the relationship must replace safeguarding our rights. Let Christ be your defender and protector."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughts on Anger & Imitating God

James 1: 19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

I've been reading the devotionals in the back of this month's In Touch magazine. The recent topic is anger and I wanted to share a few things said.

An angry spirit is contagious. It is passed from one person to another -- and from one generation to the next. Workplaces can become tense environments full of caustic words and attitudes. Ire turns homes into battlegrounds of verbal explosions or silent hostility. Even churches suffer from malicious gossip and fights over personal preferences. . . . Children learn to respond to life's situations by observing their parents' example. They then develop similar attitudes and patterns of behavior. We need to give serious thought to what kind of heart we are passing down to our sons and daughters.

Wow, really sobering, huh? Are we passing down a heritage of anger and resentment? Children often mirror what they see in us. I couldn't help but think of family feuds (e.g. Hatfields and McCoys) when the author mentioned passing down this angry spirit from generation to generation. Can we not see this displayed throughout the world? In my opinion, it should have absolutely no place within the family of God!

The author asks:

Which would you prefer: churning anger or Christ's peace? Both require sacrifice. To maintain anger, you might have to forfeit healthy relationships and a godly heritage for your descendants. But to acquire peace, ask God to help you leave your grudges, personal rights, and insults on the altar.

Notice the choice here? Maintaining anger requires effort - a choice on your part. The author challenges us to get rid of any resentment, anger or bitterness in our lives. Perhaps we don't even realize we have bitterness down deep, but he urges us to ask God to reveal it to us so we can get rid of it with His help. Somehow I ended up reading in Ephesians and thought these verses were worth noting in this post:

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

See how we are urge to make every effort to be unified? I daresay we often don't put much effort into keeping things peaceful. Why? Because like you, I want my own way! I want to explain why I am right, how you hurt me and I want to be understood no matter if losing peace is the price!

And then read on to these familiar verses. Ones that most church-going children learned in their Sunday schools or AWANA programs. But don't just gloss over them because they are familiar. Read them, and better yet, LIVE them! How different America could be if those who say they follow Christ actually applied these few verses.

29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

And finally this wonderful reminder from the first two verses of the next chapter. Ephesians 5:

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We must be like our Father. Live a life of love and service today!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paul's Humor

That Paul! He does have a sense of humor, doesn't he? Actually I never noticed this until my preacher brought it to our attention as he went through a wonderful series on Philippians in recent weeks. The theme of Philippians is joy and, indeed, it's a great chapter to find the "secrets" to God's kind of peace and joy. Paul says we can have a peace that surpasses human understanding. Peace and joy: good stuff for sure! And they seem to missing among many in the world today .. at least where I live.

Anyway, on to Paul's humorous tidbit to end this chapter. Take a look at this from the fourth chapter:

21Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. 22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.

Does anyone else find it a bit humorous for Paul to end this letter with greetings especially from those who belong to Caesar's household? In today's terms that would be like saying, "Those who trust Jesus from the house of Saud greet you" or "All the Christ followers from Kim Jon-il's household told me to tell you hello."

Amusing, eh?

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Be about the Father's business!"

Just read this on Mark Batterson's blog:

"Life is too short and the message is too important to spend our energies criticizing each other. Infighting must break the Heavenly Father's heart. It's self-righteous. It's sideways energy. And when we take pot shots at each other we're just playing into the enemy's hands. We need to be about the Father's business!"

I agree! Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would all be one as He and the Father were one. Instead we are fractured and often criticize one another - frequently over minor issues! How distracted we are from the purpose God has for us in this life!

I read two of Mark's books (see "Chase the Lion" and "Wild Goose Chase") and enjoyed his insights. So now I read his blog. He often has great gems to share.

Random Spiritual Thoughts

These are just some random thoughts that I noted from the devotional section of the October In Touch magazine.

Speaking of Jehoshaphat, "he had developed the habit of seeking the Lord in various situations," and likewise "we must discipline ourselves to seek God every day, acknowledging His Lordship and our dependence on Him."

"If we start our day thinking about Him instead of our own plans, and regularly read and apply Scripture, then we demonstrate a heart that is pursuing Him." -- I really like seeing this and circled "apply" because I read the Bible, but don't always apply it. So what good is that? James tells us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. I've become a sponge. Also I've been wondering how to pursue God -- He speaks often of seeking after Him and following Him so maybe this is a clue of how to do this.

"Goals should align with Scripture; then our heavenly Father directs us, and we follow with confidence. We ... ought to have a clear picture of what needs to be accomplished." The example given is the young boy David who knew the God-mocking Goliath needed to be challenged.

"Live intentionally." -- Two words with a lot of punch, eh?

"Our success will be determined by our dependence upon the Lord. If we set out to accomplish anything in our own strength -- even a godly task -- we will fail." -- Reminds me of Jesus' words in John 15 -- "without me, you can do nothing." Nothing is pretty much self-explanatory.

"The Lord will equip us for every task He assigns."

"You can continue to live as before, or you can find out what God plans to do in your life." -- I circled that "or"!

Do you agree or disagree with any of these? If so, why? Any personal stories of how some of these have become true in your own lives? How does one live intentionally anyway? Hmmm.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


My friend, Niki, posted this picture from Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and gave me permission to use it. I love it!

Here is a quote* that could go along with it. "If we pray while focusing on His greatness, our troubles will shrink into proper perspective." Because for sure when you see sights like these gorgeous mountains, you should think of the greatness of our Creator! Wow!

Today was pretty good. I reallllllllllly miss my nephew who has been in Orlando, Florida since last Saturday. They are visiting all the sights of Disney World so I have been Michael-less this week. I will be so happy to see him again!

My friend Louai (click on his name to see him at work) called on Google Talk from London. We only talked about 20 minutes or so. He wanted to hear me say the Arabic alphabet since writing it wasn't giving him the full affect -- especially on letters like "khaa" and "gheen" . Those are said further back in my throat...kind of different from most English words. I can say them OK, but not great. "Gheen" especially gives me trouble if my mouth is dry. I have to have some spit to work with. It's said almost like when you gurgle mouthwash. Definitely my Arabic has a Southern-American accent to it. :-)

*Quote from page 33; In Touch magazine, October 2009 edition