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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Books

Today is the last day of February so it's time to post the few books that I finished this month. Also, happy birthday to my "baby" brother!

Day After Night by Anita Diamant is a novel "based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for 'illegal' immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast north of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp with profoundly different stories."

Islam Made Easy by Edgar M. Feghaly, a Lebanese Christian, who attempts to explain facts about Islam and the Quran. I'd heard much of this before and much prefer books by Nabeel Jabbour and Carl Medearis. This book did have a section on where the Bible and related Quranic stories were found. This might be helpful if I ever wanted to compare the two.

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey -- a cultural study in the gospels -- see previous posts -- wonderful book!

Tea With Hezbollah
by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis -- searching for the ones willing to love their enemies as Jesus taught -- see previous posts; I read this book to Samer via Skype and posted notes on what we thought of this book

That's all, Folks! Tomorrow the March Matthew studies begin! I hope you will be involved!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

500th Post Special!

Blogger tells me this is my 500th post on this blog! I especially posted a lot last year when I uploaded so many of my pictures from Syria. Then it seemed I got a bit talkative and haven't quit yakking for very long! :-) I still plan to post notes from Matthew as I read through it, but I believe I'll start that on Monday, March 1. Do a Matthew/March thing. Today I'll just post some random quotes I've saved in drafts.


"Faith isn't a static condition. As long as we live in this world, our faith will be tested; these tests are invitations to grow in intimacy with [God]. . . . . Never underestimate the importance of believing that God's Word is truth. This is our foundation for faith. Without it, we will let circumstances determine our perception of who God is and whether He can be trusted. But if we believe that He never lies, we'll rely on His promises instead of our own plans and resources."

~ Deborah Bate on pg. 30, In Touch - March 2010

"I can't live by what I feel but by the truth your word reveals"

-- line from a song "Praise You In This Storm"

Let's see a show of hands on this....how many of you often live according to your feelings and circumstances instead of relying on the goodness and faithfulness of God?


I like this Mark Batterson post on Holy Anticipation.

Will today be my day?

I think I got this great quote from Carmen's Facebook awhile back. I liked it so much I saved it!

"God doesn't just put up with our differences, He savors them. Lets be real. We may know in our head that each Christian has a unique assignment from God. But when the assignments produce radically different lifestyles and approaches to spirituality, we have a difficult time validating both. God, help me not to take my personal preferences and make them gospel."

Keeping this in mind will cut down on legalistic tendencies. Personal preferences do not equal "thus saith the Lord," right?

Check out the quote from the article on page 24 of this magazine.

Accept each other. I truly started
enjoying time spent with all of the adult
women in my family, my grown daughters
included, when I followed Richard Foster’s
healthy rule for all Christians: “Lay down the everlasting burden of always needing to manage others.” Other people’s faults and quirks and habits and choices are, in the end, a matter between each adult individual and God. Or, as Foster goes
on to say in his classic Celebration of
Discipline, “When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.” My job, meantime, is simply to love them.

Have you ever struggled with trying to set everyone straight? *lowers head to hide her guilty face* I blame it on The Oldest Sibling Syndrome combined with my personality type and being my father's child. (Notice I did not blame it on being a sinful person which is the true reason.) Hehehehe. He's an oldest sibling as well sooooo... ;) (My mom is also, but she's not driven like my dad and me. She's much more laid-back about things.) I love the message of the above quote. I guess I like things that challenge me in areas where I struggle. That's why they are noteworthy enough for me to take the time to copy them here. I think what this lady says is applicable to not only my own life, but among people of all nationalities and religions. How often do I gripe about how some religious people want to micro-manage individuals and make them conform to their interpretations of "what God really means"? I read things on blogs that would make your hair curl! You see what they did to me*, right?

Again this so good:

Other people’s faults and quirks and habits and choices are, in the end, a matter between each adult individual and God.

And if we truly believe this, we know we cannot change people. Only God transforms lives! We are free to love them and leave the changing up to Him. He's better at it than we are anyway.

*Picture is of me in the third grade. I love laughing at that one. :) I think I'm 8 in this pic...so Michael's current age.

Also I think this post is "special" only because of how oddly it posted.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beware of that Looming, Pouncing Fear!

Did I ever tell y'all that I'm a sucker for round hay bales? I stole this from my friend Niki. She's sweet and sharing so . . . thanks, Niki! :)

Thanks for all the kind birthday wishes and sweet comments about Michael in my previous post. I love that kid! Is it obvious? :)

I'm sloooooowly reading through The History of Islam volume 1 and feel like I'm back in the Joshua days of the Old Testament with all the battles going on! Today in my reading Damascus was the target of the invading Muslim armies!

Have y'all noticed I've not said "Damascus" or "Syria" much these days outside of references to them in books? I call that progress, don't you?

I read this earlier and thought it was good:

"Lean times are God's invitation to believe Him. When we're facing financial insecurity, we realize what's always true: our only real security is in the Lord and His Word. We basically have two choices: hold on tightly to the little we have and do our best to make ends meet, or release our grip, acknowledge our helplessness, and accept His offer to supply our needs."

~Deborah Bate; pg.29 of In Touch, March 2010

I also liked this:

"Take a deep breath. Stop being so anxious. God is faithful; you can trust Him."

~ Paul Baloche

Definitely something I needed to hear. Have I ever shared how fear is often a (bad) companion of mine? My preacher says it's normal to feel fear. Really we cannot help our emotions, can we? When we hear sad news, we feel sadness. When we hear of injustices, we feel anger. And when we are in a scary situation or perceived or imagined scary situation, we often feel fear. Or at least I work that way. Maybe you are just weird. ;) You know what has been looming nearby ready to take me out in fear?

A phone call.

More specifically a bad phone call. One of those that rocks your world. I sometimes imagine getting one of those and wonder how I'll react. Will I crumple to the floor in disbelief and sadness? Will I scream or burst into tears? Will I experience the peace of God that passes all human understanding?

I hate thinking this way! Hate it! Yet it's there. Here lately more and more as if it's ready to pounce on me.

I think kittens are cute and all, but you know what trait I don't like about them? They pounce! And I just don't like pouncing things. I don't like to think of this bad phone call pouncing on me and making me miserable and sad.

Is there any wonder I don't like the phone very well?

Is there any wonder that I needed this quote? For some reason the Fear of the Bad Phone Call has been haunting me lately. I've even been praying, "Please, God, no bad phone calls tonight. I am so tired," as I've stayed up too late watching the Olympics. I needed this reminder.

"Take a deep breath. Stop being so anxious. God is faithful; you can trust Him."

What is your struggle right now or past ones that you've overcome? Anything you want to share?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy 8th Birthday, Michael!

I'm thankful to God for this precious little guy who brought so much joy into our lives on February 25, 2002! How can you resist this sweetness?

JTMEE Notes 2 of 2

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey --These are things that didn't make it to individual posts, but short notes from various chapters that I wanted to record nonetheless. I compiled these in a Gmail draft as I read through this book. This is part 2 of 2.

"The Parable of the Unjust Steward" -- "There is all the difference in the world between 'I applaud the dishonest steward because he acted cleverly,' and 'I applaud the clever steward because he acted dishonestly.'" -- T.W. Manson pg. 341

Did ya catch the difference there? :)

"The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man" -- I enjoyed pages 385-6 which talked about the dogs who licked Lazarus' sores and how even a generally disliked animal in ME culture was more sympathetic to Lazarus' plight. Also the author included an interesting tidbit about dog saliva having antibiotic properties!

Page 387 describes what "reclining in 'Abraham's bosom'" meant in this story. It refers to sitting at the right hand - the place of honor - in the triclinium (the U-shaped couch where the people reclined to eat).

Pages 389-90 describe two kinds of patience one of which has to do with "'putting one's anger far away.' This is the patience of the powerful who are able to wreck vengeance on their enemies but choose to be patient and refrain from doing so." The author says the Greek and Arabic (halim) have an exact word for this which American English does not.

This chapter inspired a post about loving money and learning from experiences. (click here)

"The Parable of the Pounds" -- I enjoyed the discussion of the Greek word diepragmateusanto and how this words primary and secondary meanings play into the parable depending on your point of view (e.g. capitalistic view vs. loyalty). Is success dependent on how much was acquired or accomplished or by faithfulness and loyalty to the Master? (pg. 402)

I liked this so much I almost did a separate post about it.

"The Parable of the Noble Vineyard Owner and His Son" -- "What is to be done with the anger generated by injustice? Will he allow his enemies to dictate the nature of his response? He is in a position of power. Retaliation is possible and expected. But is further violence the only answer?" (pg. 417) Will the vineyard owner choose costly grace?

Thus concludes all posts from this book. At least I think so. ;)

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will start posting thoughts from the Gospel of Matthew. Now off to watch the Olympics some more.

Matthew & JTMEE Notes

I think I will start recording some thoughts from the Gospel According to Matthew - things that stand out to me from those chapters. I recently finished John and used teachings that I recalled from that book while commenting on other blogs, but I've gotten the impression that John doesn't count since it's different from the synoptic gospels and "is the only one that says Jesus is God." So Matthew it is ... a good place to start since it begins the New Testament as compiled in the Bible.

So those notes will follow shortly.

However, I wanted to record a few more things from Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey. I've written a number of posts inspired by this wonderful book. It's 426 pages of rich cultural studies of Jesus' life and teachings. I am so glad Amazon.com suggested it for me! :-)

These are things that didn't make it to individual posts, but short notes from various chapters that I wanted to record nonetheless. I compiled these in a Gmail draft as I read through this book.
This is part 1 of 2.

From the chapter ...

"The Blind Man and Zacchaeus" -- "costly grace" and reaching out to both the oppressed and oppressor; Zacchaeus was considered unclean so for Jesus to stay at his house meant eating Z's defiled food and sleeping in Z's defiled guest bed yet for Jesus defilement came from within and He reached out in love towards this man who had oppressed his community and Jesus took upon the crowd's anger by doing so -- and Zacchaeus was changed!

I love how Jesus' willingness to show grace and love changed Zacchaeus' life!

"The Call of Peter" -- Jesus needed Peter to help Him, needed Peter's skill as a experienced fisherman; also note that "this account does not take place in a synagogue with a hushed crowd listening to an eloquent exposition of a favorite psalm. Instead, the crowd presses around Jesus on a smelly landing with tired fishermen nearby cleaning their empty nets after a long, fruitless night. Jesus enters the world of the people rather than expecting them to step out of that world and come to him." (pg. 139)

I love that last line. It's so true of Jesus. He was both in the synagogues and out among the people meeting them where they were.

"The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry" -- Jesus "refused to endorse the narrow nationalism of his own community," "the universality of the message is affirmed" (both Jews and Gentiles are recipients of grace), "equality between women and men in the kingdom is clearly affirmed" and more. This is based on Jesus' speech recorded in Luke 4:16-31.

Just plain good stuff!

"The Woman in the House of Simon the Pharisee" -- I enjoyed the notes on feet and women's hair in that culture. How feet were considered defiled (see footnote on pg. 246) and how women's hair was viewed. It made me appreciate what this lady did by washing Jesus' feet with her tears and hair and touching him. It also made me appreciate the compassion of Jesus who could have further made her into an outcast by reprimanding her for such appalling behavior. Pages 248-250 speak of women's hair and how it was viewed and continues to be viewed in conservative societies. Wonderful chapter!

I remember enjoying this chapter incredibly much!

"The Parable of the Great Banquet" -- "The obedient servant becomes a witness for his master and takes the invitation to the outcasts. This action on his part widens his vision and excites him. In the process he notes the empty tables and starts to fill them. His participation as a messenger of the generous invitation creates its own new vision and the will to participate in fulfilling it." pg. 320

I love the reminder of how the one giving the banquet "reprocesses his anger into grace." pg.417

If you have any comments, questions or thoughts concerning anything shared, please let me hear them!

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Tea With Hezbollah" - final pages

February 21 -- Notes from pages 175 - 216

Today we continued in Jerusalem and read a brief transcript of Ted and Carl's meeting with Abu Joudea, the keeper of the key of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He said Saladin had given to the key to the Muslims 840 years prior and it was the original key!

Next the men visited Sheik Ekrima Sa'id Sabri the former mufti of Jerusalem whose pulpit is the Al-Aqsa mosque atop the Temple Mount. There is a transcript from their visit.

The next chapter continued the story of Nicole and a Good Samaritan in Lebanon.

Chapter 15 was one of my favorites as the men spoke with two men in the West Bank. One, Chrisitian Palestinian Sami Awad greatly impressed me by his story of nonviolence and how he worked for his countrymen by peaceful protests and talking directly with Israeli soldiers. He truly is an example of one who loves his enemies and his neighbors. I told Samer that Sami Awad was one of few true followers of Christ who were living out the Spirit's teachings! Sami Awad believes "when Jesus talks about loving the enemy, he is talking about working to create something new. Creating a new identity through unity. When you have this new identity, the concept of 'the other' is completely eliminated. There is no Palestinian and there is no Israeli in this love." (pg. 195)

Later the men met a Hamas leader they called Mohammad in order to protect his identity. His interview was highly interesting as well and much more human-like than Sami Awad's. He answered questions about whether Jesus' teaching was valid and mentioned how "if the other part is not human, you will be forced to act as not a human being." (pg. 208) For sure I could relate to what he said. I am human.

The next chapter concluded the story they shared about Nicole and her "good Samaritan." We found out later why this story raised a number of cultural "red flags" with Samer. It was explained in the last chapter and Samer and I laughed at the reason why things that struck us odd, were in fact. For one thing, the Middle East is known to have some chivalry concerning women so what is reported happening to Nicole made even me wonder. Samer admitted he woke up thinking about some of Nicole's story particularly her mom's coming to America without seeming to have much thought of her family left at the refugee camp. He said no Middle Easterner would act like this. Indeed I recall times while reading that I would look at him and see him shaking his head in disbelief or appearing visibly shocked as the story unfolded.

February 22 -- Notes from pages 217 - 233

The final chapter found Carl and Ted traveling with an Orthodox Jew they referred to as Micah. Although an Israeli, this man realized Arabs acted as they did oftentimes because they were treated as animals. He often was criticized by his own people for being an "Arab lover," but this Jew really embodied the teachings of Jesus in a way that, honestly, quite impressed me.

I love what Ted concluded about his own self and how so many of us "use religion to serve their preferences rather than challenge them to do the right thing." (pg. 218)

"Micah" took them to visit one of the 700 Samaritans remaining and the book concludes with Carl and Ted sitting on a beach waiting to fly home to Denver. They were discussing what to share in the book and finally settled on "the truth."

So we finished the book and mostly enjoyed it. Samer said the one thing he did not like was Ted's constant mentioning of his fear. I totally agreed. I remember thinking while reading the book that Ted was an awfully fearful guy. Maybe his imagination makes him this way. But I have to say that Ted did not act on his fear and that is important. He walked by faith and had an exciting message to convey to the world. Samer spent some of the evening looking up reviews on Amazon and seemed pleased to see that many of those who wrote shared how reading this book gave them better understanding of Middle Easterners and a greater love for their "enemies." I believe God brought Ted and Carl together and gave them the idea to make this trip and report what they found. I am eager to see how He uses this book to reach a group of people who likely believed no westerner could survive having Tea With Hezbollah.


See notes from previous pages here

And "The Eds" Have Returned!

You thought I'd forgotten about these things, huh? Maybe I was inspired to resurrect this from Shell's Maybes Monday last week. Ya never know. :)

Two birthday parties this weekend. One at Kidsport for Michael's 8th birthday and one for the family February birthdays (my brother, sister, brother in law and nephew.)

Listed: partly because I'm a name nerd, all the young boys at Michael's party this weekend: brothers Malik & Mason; twin friends from church, Olin and Louin; other church friends, Blake, Mason G., Brycen, Austin and John; Classical Conversations friends, Stephen, Michael B., Tony and Christopher. They could have 15 boys and only Jacob from CC was unable to attend.

Chuckled: when Michael would be handed a card and he'd say "Oh, a letter!" and then proceed to read every word on the card

Laughed: with the family as we watched video from 2003 where we saw cutie pie 16 month old Michael & his darling family on a visit to Greenville, SC

Finished: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey -- this "cultural studies in the gospels" was an excellent read; chapter by chapter the author took parables, teachings of Jesus, interactions of Jesus with others and explained them through culturally-appropriate lenses

Picked: up the History of Islam and started reading from volume one of the set given to us in Damascus; the chapter on Muhammad was 168 pages and I'm so happy to report I'm finally on the next chapter, "The Rightly-Guided Caliphate" which is a mere 120 pages. Can you tell I'm not used to chapters being quite that long? ;-)

Continued: reading Tea With Hezbollah with Samer; only one chapter left

Impressed: by Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian who is truly following the teachings of Jesus by loving his enemies while working peacefully for his people's rights; I read about him on the chapter from the West Bank in Tea With Hezbollah

Visited: McDonald's last week for the first time in ages; though it wasn't "my" McDonald's. I've not been to "my" McDonald's since last June or July except for a brief winter night when we -- Steph, Will, Michael, Andrew & I -- stopped by near closing time after Christmas shopping

Tired: from staying up late watching the Olympics Winter Games from Vancouver

Amazed: that the US hockey team defeated Canada last night

Liked: this quote from my current The Voice of the Martyrs publication:

"These dictators just can't reconcile that their people can have freedom in Christ." (pg. 9) -- after sharing how the former president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, would persecute Christians, ban Bibles, raid the homes of preachers and bulldoze churches

Thus concludes this edition of "The Eds." What have you been "edding" about lately?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jewish Culture in the Days of Christ

Off and on throughout the last few weeks I've been reading this book, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ by Alfred Edersheim. It's my dad's. Occasionally I would record a few notes of interest and I thought I'd copy them now from the first six chapters. Some of the things shared made me think of the Arab/Muslim culture of today. See if you agree.

The chapter on "Jews and Gentiles in 'the Land'" was especially interesting as the author described the attitudes of the Jews towards the foreigners among them and then how these foreigners looked with amused contempt on the conquered "especially when the latter presume[d] to look down upon them and hate them." (pg. 28) Jesus coming to break down this wall, not making Gentiles into Jews, but "of both alike children of one Heavenly Father" was "the most unexpected and unprepared-for revelation." (pg. 29) Loved that!

From page 5 I learned these thoughts on Palestine by the Rabbis -- "The very air of Palestine makes one wise," "to live in Palestine was equal to the observance of all the commandments," "He that hath his permanent abode in Palestine ... is sure of the life to come" (Talmud). Even in the third and fourth centuries of our era they still taught, "He that dwelleth in Palestine is without sin." Ummm, no wonder the Jews want it, huh?

The pages talking about the taxation system (pgs. 52+) and publicans (tax collectors working for the occupiers) was interesting. Makes you see further why the tax collectors were not well-liked.

Speaking of Jewish towns and villages -- "On every side there was evidence that religion here was not merely a creed, nor a set of observances, but that it pervaded every relationship, and dominated every phase of life." (p.86) Reminds me of how Muslims often say Islam is a way of life. Many Christians believe similarly.

Jewish people would greet each other either with "an acknowledgment of the God of Israel, or a brotherly wish of peace" (pg. 89) Salam 'alaykom, anyone?

Page 99 was interesting because it talked how a dutiful son was "bound to feed his father, to give him drink, to clothe him, to protect him, to lead him in, and to conduct him out, and to wash his face, his hands, and his feet." It says, "such things as undutifulness, or want of loving consideration for parents, would have wakened a thrill of horror in Jewish society." No need for nursing homes in that culture.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Tea With Hezbollah" - pages 107 - 175

We are reading through this book pretty quickly. I want to get it read before Samer returns to Damascus next week. We are on track to do that as we only have about 60 pages left!

From Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis ... our notes

February 18 -- Notes from pages 107 - 145

Today our reading started with the continuing story of Nicole and of her meeting with a Maronite priest, Father Stephen, who had an exciting story to tell of his kidnapping, captivity and escape and how he met someone very close to Nicole.

Chapter 9 found us with Ted and Carl as they headed further south to have tea with a couple of Hezbollah fighters. Some transcript of this meeting is included and I enjoyed reading the discussion. One thing I found interesting was that the younger fighter attends the American University in Beirut. After having tea with these guys, Ted and Carl had tea with Sheik Nabil Quouk, the number two guy in Hezbollah. I enjoyed the transcript of their meeting as well. (I stupidly asked Samer if he were familiar with Sheik Quouk and he immediately and emphatically replied, "of course!")

This chapter included Ted's thoughts on Hezbollah and an explanation of how Hezbollah tends to be thought of in the region. He told how - to him - they differed from Hamas and Al Qaeda. At this point Samer questioned why Ted did not mention Israel's terrorism on his people and argued that this showed how his people were not as valued to many. We discussed his thoughts at length and finally came up with a satisfactory - if not speculative - answer. Ted let the Hezbollah leaders and others speak for themselves so readers can draw their own conclusions as to the true state of things. Instead of coming out and alienating his western readers by saying, "Israel is a terrorist state," he allows the attentive reader to draw his or her own conclusions based on material he provides. In the end, Samer and I both agreed that this was a clever way to get the message across. A typical evangelical reading this book and seeing "Israel is a terrorist state" would dismiss the book outright as being "too liberal" so Ted's way is wiser. At least this is our opinion thus far.

The next chapter picked up Nicole's story and the story of Naum Sareel one of very few Jews left in Lebanon. Despite his sons urging him to move to Israel, he refused as Lebanon was where his family had lived for two thousand years. His son Saul urged his father to move because he - a Mossad agent - could not guarantee his father's safety so close to the Shatila refugee camp.

Chapter 11 began with Ted and Carl heading to Syria! I especially enjoyed reading about Straight Street though Ted's eyes. I could picture the journey since I made it not so long ago. It was a great memory as they went through the souk, saw the Ummayyad mosque, Kissan Gate and the church dedicated to Paul and Bab Sharqi!

February 19 -- Notes from pages 145 - 175

We continued on in Syria with Ted mentioning the government there. Ted and Carl went to the office of the mufti of Damascus, Abdul Fattah Al Bizem. Samer provided me with a better understanding of the mufti from their perspective. While the Syrian mufti is appointed by the government and therefore a product of it, many people "ignore" this person. However the local muftis are appointed by a committee - I'm guessing of respected religious leaders - and, therefore, he is more respected by the ordinary people. The muftis are generally the ones who issue fatwas and they "must be someone well-grounded in Islamic law and granted the authority to issue formal rulings on matters concerning that law." (pg. 145) So they talk to Mufti Bizem and a transcript including some of the conversation is given. I especially like what he said: "I think it is important to reach the heart to affect people." (pg. 148)

Mufti Al Bizem agrees that dialogue is important among people who are unfamiliar with one another. He believes Jesus' teachings have been changed so the command to love your neighbor and our enemies is likely wrong. At least that's my impression since he said "This a beautiful teaching. But the original has been changed by the Christians, so we should look to Muhammad." My own thoughts, Seriously! With the history of Christianity being what it is do you really think Christians are the ones who wanted to make the Bible say that Jesus told us to love our enemies??

After leaving the meeting with the mufti, the men were on their way to Jordan so they could visit the West Bank. Carl shared a story from his past along that same border and when he met "a Saudi Samaritan." I enjoyed his retelling of this adventure.

The next chapter picked up the story of Nicole and the beginning of a conflict in Lebanon when the hookah bar was secured by two Druze brothers who made the patrons stay inside by threatening to shoot them. It also told of a bicycle ride gone bad for Nicole. Must say that Nicole's story is quite exciting! I believe Samer is enjoying it as well.

Chapter 13 describes Ted and Carl's trip to Jerusalem. Ted tries to explain some of the history behind the city and why it remains so important to Jews, Christians and Muslims. He tried to answer the question of whose land it really was. Somewhere in this chapter Samer and I again discussed why Israel was not called terrorist state since they have killed more people than other nations in the region. I think this came up again when Ted said that no one they talked to throughout their two-week trip had answers to the political problems facing the Israelis and Palestinians. Samer said the answer was found in Washington, D.C. so Ted and Carl were asking the wrong people. He said the powerful (those in the US government) had the answers because basically our propping up terrorist state, Israel, is the root of the problem.

We haven't finished this chapter yet....more to come.

See notes on previous pages here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Tea With Hezbollah" - pages 45 to 106

The other day I started writing notes from my reading Tea With Hezbollah to Samer via Skype. It's enjoyable having a genuine Arab to discuss this book with. If I were reading it alone, I would never know the history behind certain things or know that this or that person is pretty famous throughout the region. Instead I can say "do you know this person?" or "have you heard of that?" and 80% of the time Samer has. Also I can hear if he agrees with what author Ted Dekker (along with fellow traveler Carl Medearis) have to say in this book.

Notes from the first pages are here.

And these are things I wrote from the next pages.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the co-authors are on a mission to meet with people and ask what they think of Jesus' teaching of the Good Samaritan and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. They ask most everyone they meet including cab drivers and the people interviewed.

February 16 -- Notes from pages 45 -75

Samer mentioned that although this book says Cairo comes up with Islamic law and Saudi implements it, he said there were two forms with Egyptian law being more moderate/liberal. He said his people followed more of the Egyptian school of thought on Islamic law. Saudi is known for being a bit extreme on the conservative side for most. I think much of this has to do with culture influencing interpretation moreso than true Islamic teaching.

Ted discussed their meeting in Saudi Arabia with the bin Laden brothers who think their brother Osama is a "jerk"

They also talked to Sheik Muhammad Yamani who got his Ph.D. at Cornell -- this guy lives in a 28,000-square-foot palace in Jeddah and has another in Riyadh

We were introduced to the story of Nicole Wagner which includes 7 chapters in the book - quite an intriguing story of how she ended up leaving Iowa and visiting the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon to look for her biological father

Next they left for Beirut and Ted gave a good lesson on the history of the Samaritans trying to explain how the great animosity between them and the Jews began.

February 17 -- Notes from pages 75 - 106

Ted discussed their meeting with the famous ayatollah, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. I was impressed with many things in the transcript from the talk with him especially when he talked about God's unconditional love and how much he loved God. Also interesting was his answer to whether or not he loved his enemies as Jesus instructed his followers. Fadlallah's assistant had provided background on the many times the CIA, Saudis, Saddam Hussein or Israel had tried to assassinate this man for his ties with Hezbollah. -- Samer was very familiar with this man and was able to give his impressions of Fadlallah as an admirable, seemingly peaceful person. Samer said he was the ayatollah (like a spiritual leader/adviser) to the Shia Muslims in Lebanon and Syria.

The next chapter continued Nicole's story and discussed Walid's hookah bar and how secret meetings had taken place there and how he knew much of the happenings around the refugee camp. This chapter lead to a discussion of the Druze since Walid expressed his great hatred for them. Samer and I discussed why people disliked the Druze and I found out they are Arab, but they side more with the Israelis against their own people. They are hated by Muslims and Christians alike in the Middle East.

Next Ted and Carl were on their way to Baalbek - "Baal's place" - which is now the home of Hezbollah. Ted said the place was spectacular, even more impressive than the Greek ruins at the Parthenon. Ted gave an interesting description of the history of this region going all the way back to Cain and Nimrod and future idol worship of Baal. He recounted the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel as recorded in the Old Testament and shared how Romans, Christians and Muslims had all built places of worship in the area.

Ted said in Baalbek and other places in the Middle East you see their heroes. Their superstars are not the same as ours, but you will see photos of Hezbollah or Hamas leaders because these are the ones they admire. Indeed I noticed this during our trip to Syria last year. I saw Hassan Nasrallah's photo around town and even one of the guys we met had Nasrallah as his laptop wallpaper. By that time I was used to these leaders being heroes (freedom fighters!) there and just smiled thinking,"Yup, I'm in the Middle East all right."

Ted and Carl enjoyed tea and an interview with a Bedouin prince in the south of Lebanon. The next day would be tea with Hezbollah.

Stay tuned.

Thoughts on Money, Faith & Meaning in Life

Chapter: "The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man" found in Luke 16

"'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof' (Ps 24:1). This basic biblical principle is foreign to the contemporary capitalist West. The car in the driveway, the house I live in, the pen in my pocket, the watch on my wrist, the computer I use to compose these reflections -- all belong to God. I am merely a steward of them." (pg. 380)

Actually I think if you asked many Christians in the West they would agree to this statement in theory, however, I don't believe most of us live it. Do most of us ask, "God, how would you like for me to spend this bonus that you blessed me with? Should we forego a new car so we can help this needy family?" I doubt it. I generally do not. Do you?

"The events of our lives have meaning. We access or fail to access that meaning by the way in which we respond to those events. What we do with the good gifts and the pain of life is what matters. The rich man responded to the good things given to him with self-indulgence, indifference to the needs of others, arrogance and class pride. Lazarus responded to his pain with patience, longsuffering, gentleness and implied forgiveness." (pg. 394)

The part about accessing meaning struck a chord for me. Have I responded wisely to events in my life? What have I done with life's good gifts and pain? Have I learned from those times? Grown in someway? Changed for the better?

The corrupting potential of wealth

Wealth, be it little or much, is not condemned in Scripture. What is criticized is the failure to see that all material possessions belong to God. We are merely stewards of his treasures. The parable reflects the corrupting, blinding potential of wealth and is critical of the social irresponsible wealthy. The rich man used his resources for his own self-indulgent living. He cared nothing about his God, his staff or the needy in his community. Even in hell he remained unrepentant and continued to see Lazarus as an inferior who should serve him as a waiter or an errand boy. Mammon had become his master. (pg. 395)

"Historical proof of resurrection does not necessarily create faith. The rich man saw a resurrected Lazarus and failed to repent. To demand proof for great mysteries is to cheapen faith." (pg. 396)

I included this here because I really liked that last sentence. I think I'll make it bold. I know the Bible teaches how important faith is to God. In fact Hebrews 11 tells us without faith it is impossible to please God. I think the hard part for most is wondering if we can trust God and His goodness. Blind faith seems silly at best so where's the balance between accepting any ol' thing and having a rich faith which pleases God?

"The focus of the parable is not on a form of justice that evens the score, but is found in discovering the ways in which meaning is created by our responses to the good gifts and the suffering that life brings to everyone." (pg. 396)

God blesses us so we can bless others. Not so we can grow fat and lazy and uncaring about needy people while we enjoy the pleasures of life. I like what Jesus said about storing up treasures in heaven instead of trying to do the same on earth. One hundred years from now will it matter how many gadgets, cars, houses or changes of clothing we had?

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul? - Mark 8:36


Quotes from Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Tea With Hezbollah" - first pages

I went out with Michael yesterday and we went by the Christian bookstore since I had a 33% off coupon due to it being President's Day. I purchased "Tea With Hezbollah" which recounts Ted Dekker's and Carl Medearis' journey through parts of the Middle East. Late last month I watched a webcast featuring these men along with former SC governor David Beasley. They held a Q&A session in Colorado. Samer and Andrew saw it as well and urged me to buy the book. "So you can read it to me," Samer explained. Sooooo that's what happened yesterday. I bought the book and read the first 44 pages to him.

I thought I might jot down a few things that either stood out to me, to him or things we discussed briefly while I was reading.

Ted mentioned a lovely place - a private resort area - in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia where one would never know they were in KSA. He said you could find about anything and listed some examples. "Women in bikinis in Saudi Arabia?" Samer questioned with surprise. I was suspect of Ted's assessment that women truly ruled in that country. He said while men seemed to rule the streets since women were not seen there as much, he stated that most things were done inside and that's where women ruled. My opinion is that Ted met some powerful women in KSA, but I don't know that they represent the vast majority. Perhaps, but I've read quite a bit on blogs and never got that impression. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. It often is.

When Ted talked about going through security at the airport in Saudi Arabia, he wondered why the guard wouldn't allow him through. Finally Carl translated the gesture and said the man wanted money. So Ted gave him some and the man wanted more so Ted gave him all that he had in his wallet. Ted wondered if he looked the part of the naive rich Westerner. Samer shook his head at this although it was familiar with him as his hometown friends had also had to pay bribes when traveling to KSA for various reasons. Samer said there is hadith about paying bribes and asking for them and neither is good. I think people believe Saudis should not be so anti-Islam since some of them often hold themselves higher than others because KSA is the land of the holy mosques and such things.

While they were in Egypt, Ted mentioned meeting a boat captain who longed to marry, but even at age fifty he wasn't rich enough to build/buy a house which seemed to be the requirement for marrying. Ted felt sad for him and the overwhelming poverty in Cairo. By contrast the places he visited in Saudi Arabia were niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

Mohammed the Egyptian mentioned above was asked his impression of America and Ted said this was the sentiments of nearly every layperson they spoke with during their trip. Mohammed said, "America is controlling the whole world. They treat no one fairly, and if I told you anything else, I would be lying." (pg. 20) Samer agreed that this was truly the average thought in the Arab world about the United States.

Ted mentioned their meeting the vice president of the University of Al-Azhar and how that university was "the world's undisputed think tank for Islamic theology, particularly among the Sunni, who account for roughly 85 percent of all Muslims." He said, "when Al-Azhar speaks, the world of Islam listens...with rapt attention." (pg. 14) The thing is, Samer disputed this. He said Al-Azhar has in recent years become more influenced by the corrupt Egyptian government so a lot of people didn't give the university the attention they enjoyed in the past. Apparently Egypt is building a wall between them and the Gazans and while most imams and Arabs dispute this, Al-Azhar came out in favor of it so that even an Egyptian imam in Germany recently mentioned this horrible Al-Azhar ruling in his Friday sermon. So maybe Ted over-estimated the importance of Al-Azhar these days and maybe this university isn't the bastion of admirable Islamic thought as they once were.

Other things of note to me -- how the price of wheat in the US was blamed for the starvation in Egypt, Samir's laughing comment about there is little planning in the Middle East, how the Arabs believed Americans thought of them.

If anyone has any questions or comments about these notes, feel free to ask.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Uncleansed Love"

Since it's Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to talk about love.

But, this post will not discuss the kind of love most celebrate on this holiday. Instead I wanted to share a quote from a publication I read the other day. In it, the author writes, "An uncleansed love ... is a love that takes the place in one's heart that rightfully belongs to God alone."

The article concludes with this thought-provoking statement by Tim Keller:

Why is getting your heart's desire so often a disaster? In the book of Romans, Saint Paul wrote that one of the worst things God can do to someone is to "give them over to the desires of their hearts" (Romans 1:24). Why would the greatest punishment imaginable be to allow someone to achieve their fondest dream? It is because our hearts fashion these desires into idols. In that same chapter, Paul summarized the history of the human race in one sentence: "They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart's most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.

I think we all can think of times we followed our desires and wished desperately we could go back and redo some things we did. Or maybe we - along with Garth Brooks - thank God for unanswered prayers because we realized those things we wanted would have been disastrous!

This post also goes along with Finally Letting the Dream Die from yesterday.

It shouldn't even need to be mentioned, but in case someone read my post thinking "wow, this is a hard life? Not having friends to talk with face-to-face is worth complaining about?", let me just say...I know compared to 95% of the world my life is a piece of cake so I shouldn't even be complaining to God about such things. Alas, I am still an immature, spoiled person in many ways so I at times struggle with discontentment despite all the many blessings I have in life. And, yes, when I read about the children of Israel complaining to Moses about things I often see myself as one of those dreaded murmurers. Blah.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally Letting the Dream Die

I remember several months ago when I'd been home from Syria for about six months, I dropped off Michael and was talking briefly with my sister before heading home. Likely I said something about "Wow, it's been ___ months since we left for Syria" since I am prone to do such things.


Probably I also told again how kind and welcoming the people were to us and how much I missed them because my sister summed up my own thoughts by admitting if she went on a trip like that she'd have a hard time coming home! Precisely!

So this week - February 11 to be exact - marked a year since we got home from Syria. I've missed that place so many times since last February when we took that long flight home on Turkish Airlines. Secretly - or not - I have dreamed of going back and maybe living in Damascus for a while. Seriously, wouldn't it be exciting to live among the people, learn more about their culture, their thoughts on world events, family, politics, religion and enjoy the camaraderie, food, smells, sounds and experiences of this different culture? I've certainly thought so!

So that was my dream last year and, believe me, God knew it!

This year I finally decided to be a bit more mature about it. Instead of constantly longing for something I could not have, I have been slowly, but surely, trying to change my attitude to one of gratefulness that I was blessed by God with the ability to take this awesome trip!

Here are a few things I've read recently that have helped me along the way. Soon after the new year, Mark Batterson posted this gem: "Is Your Dream Your Idol?"

I'd thought for a while now that God wanted me to be content with HIM and not so much longing for everything else in life. I'd been complaining to Him about not really having much of a purpose and how He'd been really hard on me by taking away most of the areas where I'd had interaction with people (e.g. the women's gym closed and I loved the classes there and had friendly relationships with many people there; Angie got a job out of town so she was no longer in my area to visit at McDonald's as we did in years past). Don't get me wrong; I like my alone time and I don't really get bored since I enjoy reading books, looking on the computer and writing things. But I did on occasion enjoy something else that actually involves seeing humans face-to-face. And I felt stripped of that and was mad!

Anyway, I've lodged this complaint against God especially more post-Syria and often felt the impression of these lyrics from By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North.

Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run

Yeah, so why am I searching as if God isn't enough to fill this void in my life? Back to the above-mentioned post by Mark Batterson. In it he writes,

"I realize that many of our dreams never happen for one simple reason. We want it more than we want God. God becomes a means to an end. And our dream, which was meant to be a form of worship to God, becomes our god."

Um, ouch! Then he questions:

"Is your dream your god? Or is God your God? God will not be used. God will not be manipulated. God will not be played."

So I read that over a month ago and saved it to consider later which I am now doing. Actually I believe God used this post to get my attention and it's been since then that I've realized I let my dream become more important to me than God. As if living in Syria or finding some noble purpose in life would fill the space that only a relationship with God can fill.

Within this last month God has used other posts and magazine articles to confirm the same message. Like another one from Mark's blog in which he asks if we are ministering FOR God or TO God. He concludes this short post with a thought-provoking statement:

"I think one of the greatest dangers leaders face is this: we get focused on what God wants to do THROUGH us instead of what God wants to do IN us."

Maybe I'd been thinking "God, how can you work through me to do something for you" instead of thinking, "Lord, what do you want to do in my life. How do you want to transform me?

Then earlier this week I read an article about envy and although I don't think envy is necessarily my struggle, I could strongly relate to challenges in this article about being content because discontentment is my struggle! There were many things in this article that I highlighted including:

  • Brooding over unrealized expectations may lead to depression.
  • Abraham, Moses and Daniel were patient and practiced contentment.
  • Any other pursuit but satisfaction in Christ leads to a breach of character and loss of joy in serving Jesus.
  • What God has given you is more than enough.
  • Dwelling on what God has not given can draw away the heart to idolatry.
  • Find your fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone.

Good stuff, eh? It was like looking in a mirror and quite the challenge to "practice contentment" that I needed.

As the song from Tenth Avenue North goes to chorus, I'll end this post:

Cause I'll be by your side, wherever you fall
In dead of night, whenever you fall
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Infuriating Grace!

"Grace is not only amazing, it is also -- for certain types -- infuriating!"

Kenneth Bailey made this observation in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes while discussing the reaction of the vineyard workers in the parable of the compassionate employer. Although some workers had labored all day, some part of the day and some only for an hour, the employer chose to pay all of them the full day's wage.

Those who had worked all day thought they should be paid more although they agreed to the wage given when the employer hired them at daybreak. They were outraged that those who only worked an hour were paid the same as they.

"No one is underpaid in this parable. The complaint is from the justly paid who cannot tolerate grace."

For another example of infuriating grace, see the reaction of the older son in the story of the prodigal son.

Does grace ever infuriate you? Or are you mostly amazed and joyful at God's generosity to those not deserving His kindness? And on a secular level such as the one mentioned above with the compassionate employer, does grace ever make you angry?

Quotes from page 361

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Relationship & Good Works

Last month I discussed righteousness and from reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes found out "a righteous person is not the one who observes a particular code of ethics but rather a person or community granted a special relationship of acceptance in the presence of God. That relationship is maintained by acting in loyalty to the giver of the unearned status."

So righteousness has more to do with relationship than any set of rules or traditions that I should follow. However, it seems we maintain this relationship by doing something.

At times I've been questioned about good works and if they are necessary for salvation. I've always thought our good works do not save us, they don't earn us a spot in heaven, however, we do good works because we are saved. Perhaps a better way to phrase "we are saved" is to say we do good works because we have been made righteous, we have been given this "special
relationship of acceptance" by God. Therefore good works which please God are a result of being in relationship. It's not something we do so He will notice us and say, "Hmmm, that one right there seems to be trying hard. I think I'll accept her." According to author Kenneth Bailey this relationship with God is an "unearned status."

God declares in the Old Testament that Israel was not chosen because it consisted of good people. He didn't look down and see this holy and loving nation and choose them to work through because of their upright qualities. Nope, He chose Israel in spite of themselves. I read through the Old Testament last year and was reminded again how far short the children of Israel fell in obeying the Law and pleasing God. In fact they often caused Him grief and stirred His anger! (Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and so forth were sent for a reason!)

One other thing the author says about this subject. This is in reference to the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and to whom this parable was addressed according to Luke 18:

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.

Of these, Mr. Bailey writes, "Such types, in any age, feel that they have earned God's grace through meritorious works. Their 'self-righteousness' naturally leads them to despise others who do not put forth such efforts." He claims the focus on this parable is not so much humility in prayer, but how we are made right before God.

Now I have to read the rest of this chapter to see what he means! But the above-mentioned things were enough to make me stop and jot a few notes here.


Quotes from pgs. 345 & 346

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fighting for Rights

Recently I was talking to a friend and realized that I often have a hard time empathizing with minority groups because I have never had to fight for my rights. In some parts of the world women are treated badly, but here in the US, I've never felt shamed for not being a man. Actually men are more often portrayed as clueless idiots in American movies and TV comedies with the wise women keeping them straight. OK, there are some wacky women portrayed, but I think mostly men hold this distinction.

Where I live I've felt I just belong. The only "fights" I've fought are for political candidates in mostly local races. But I didn't feel I was fighting for my rights.

So, yeah, I often have a hard time fully understanding the thoughts of those who feel held back because they are not a certain ethnicity or gender or religion.

I think this also came to mind while reading author Kenneth Bailey's thoughts on some writings about women by Ben Sirach. Maybe they were taken out of context in the book I was reading. I've read some of his writings and found them lovely. Not so much what Kenneth Bailey shared. I wonder if having living sixty years in the Middle East and seeing how women were often relegated to lower status colored Mr. Bailey's views. Perhaps he thought Ben Sirach's views were much like some tribal and Islamic/cultural views that made women seem deficient somehow. And his dislike of these practices made him misrepresent Sirach's writings. Just speculating.

I never had to fight for women's rights because someone else fought that fight for me. I never had to fight for much of anything. How about you? Do you have any current battles you are fighting?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

Is Jesus thereby saying that salvation can be earned? Indeed, anyone who can meet such a standard does not need grace. But the standard is to love God unfailingly with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength, and consistently love the neighbor as much as the self. As Paul enunciates, the problem is not the law, the problem is that we cannot keep it (Rom 7:13-20). Here the standard set by Jesus eludes our finest efforts. To put it another way, the lawyer asks, "What must I do in order to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replies, "You must jump over this ten foot fence!" The lawyer should be able to see that he cannot jump that high and that he has thereby asked the wrong question. But he fails this expectation.

Instead, he repeats his question in a different form. He apparently says to himself, "So, I must love God and my neighbor to earn my salvation. Fine, what I need now is a few definitions. To love God is to keep the law. I already know that. What I need is some clarification of exactly who is and who is not my neighbor. Once I have clarification on this point I can proceed.

29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

The lawyer's question, "Who is my neighbor?" is the wrong query. He is challenged to ask, "To whom must I become a neighbor?" The parable replies, "Your neighbor is anyone in need, regardless of language, religion or ethnicity." Here compassion for the outsider has its finest expression in all Scripture. The ethical demands of this vision are limitless.

quotes from pgs. 287,288 & 297 of Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

A Few Random Things

A year ago right now I was at Krac des Chevaliers, but since today I am not so busy exploring and taking pictures, I will write down a few random things from the last couple of days.

A friend who shall remain anonymous surprised me last evening. I laughed and laughed when I saw the hero of this two-minute clip. I was expecting Barack Obama! Certainly not this person!!

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints on their win last night over the Indianapolis Colts! It was great to have an exciting Super Bowl as some of them tend to be rather boring blowouts. Andrew, here is the interview you wanted about Drew Brees speaking of his faith. I loved seeing Drew and his little boy together after the Saints' win.

So did you watch the Super Bowl? Any favorite and/or memorable commercials? Andrew kept commenting on how many Hyundai commercials there were. I didn't see the controversial Tim Tebow commercial until this morning. I don't know if it was worth all the hype. As TMZ says under their showing of it, "If you want to be upset about anything that went on during the Super Bowl -- take your anger out on whoever booked The Who for the halftime show." Ha! Andrew said after Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" a few years ago, they've only had old, ugly men for the halftime show. :-)

Michael spent Friday night with us. He and Andrew stayed up 'til midnight watching movies. The one that kept them up so late? Tom and Jerry!

I went on to bed around 11:15. I got the whole bed to myself because Andrew spent the night on the air mattress in the living room while Michael slept on the couch. The next day I made pancakes for them before Andrew took Michael with him to his parents' house. There they fed the bulldog, Abby, and the horse, Levi, and built a fire in the woodstove. Andrew's parents were out of town on a church couples retreat. After doing these chores they watched cartoons before going to Burger King for a cheeseburger.

This should be a no-brainer, buttttttttttttttttttt....maybe sometimes we forget these things when we expect people of other cultures to understand us and see things the same ways we do. This was written pertaining to Jesus' parables and how they should be interpreted since they were given to people long, long ago in another culture. "The interpreter is not a 'disembodied eye,' ... looking down on the world from 100,000 miles in space. Rather, every interpreter is influenced by his or her country's language, culture, history, economics, politics and military." -- pg. 285 in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

Oddly enough, these few verses from Revelation 3

7"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

were the same ones used by both my pastor on Wednesday night and the special speaker, Edgar Feghaly, whom I heard at a church yesterday. I was invited to a friend's church to hear this man from Lebanon since she knew of my interest in the Middle East. I found it neat that I'd just favorably commented on someone's Facebook status who shared that he was coming to her church and then about 15 minutes later the pastor's wife called to invite us to hear Mr. Feghaly. Then for him to use this same passage - out of the thousands of Bible verses - was eerily cool. Coincidence? A message from God? *shrug* Anyway, I thought it was pretty neat for the same verses to be used in back-to-back messages.

I'm planning to pick up Michael in about an hour so I'll stop now. Plus this post has gotten longer than I thought it would.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

7 Things About Me

Dear Wafa' tagged me so I'm telling you 7 things about myself. For the record, her seven things turned to nineteen, but I greatly loved reading those 19 things and getting to better know this lovely Saudi lady.

So here's my list . . .

1. I enjoy Hershey's Special Dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips waaaay more than their milk chocolate counterparts. When my dad has one of those bags of Hershey's miniatures, I skip all the other stuff and head straight for the Special Dark. (Hmmm, I think I need some chocolate now...be right back.)

Can you find the ones I like best?

*licking the chocolate off my fingers* OK, I'm back!

2. I am amazed at how interested I've become in the Middle East since late 2007. I'd always had a general interest in that region basically because of its connection to the Bible, but now it's not just an interest based on religious things, but it's based on having actual friends living there!

Sweet! :-)

3. I never thought some of my best friends in life would be people I met online. There is one group of about 12 ladies whom I met on Babycenter.com nearly seven years ago on a baby name poll. And we've kept in touch to this day. One of them teases me about looking like Little Orphan Annie.

4. I've always liked talking names with people. When I was a teen, I'd ask my friends what their favorite names were for their future children. (Btw, I don't think any of them used the names they liked in high school!) My liking of names is how I ended up on Babycenter.com and met the friends I mentioned above. I remember my brother teasing me about spending time writing name combinations. Kind of ironic that I never had children so I could use one or two of them, huh? Maybe it's a good thing though. Andrew tends to like boring names like "Bob" and, wellllllllllllll, I'm not so keen on Bob.

5. On the subject of names, my real name is Susanna, but I've always gone by Susanne. Kind of funny to say Susanne is short for Susanna, but syllable-wise it is - at least for those of us who speak English! My friend met a Susanne (same spelling) in Germany recently, but it's said more like "sue sah nay." According to most sites and books, Susanna is from a Hebrew word which means lily.

Behindthename.com reports this about my name. Maybe you can look up information on yours and post it ... if you are name nerdish like that. :)


Gender: Feminine

Usage: Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Dutch, English, Biblical, Biblical Latin, Old Church Slavic

Other Scripts: Сусанна (Russian), Сѹсанна (Church Slavic)

Pronounced: soo-ZAN-ə (English) [key]

From Σουσαννα (Sousanna), the Greek form of the Hebrew name שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (Shoshannah). This was derived from the Hebrew word שׁוֹשָׁן (shoshan) meaning "lily" (in modern Hebrew this also means "rose"), perhaps ultimately from Egyptian sšn "lotus". In the Old Testament Apocrypha this is the name of a woman falsely accused of adultery. The prophet Daniel clears her name by tricking her accusers, who end up being condemned themselves. It also occurs in the New Testament belonging to a woman who ministered to Christ.

As an English name, it was occasionally used during the Middle Ages in honour of the Old Testament heroine. It did not become common until after the Protestant Reformation, at which time it was often spelled Susan.

6. Since getting married, I've come to enjoy having a football game on TV. Not that I always watch, but from time to time I'll catch parts of it and find it exciting. I don't really have a favorite team. I tend to like players though and Kurt Warner was one of my favorites. I say "was" because he recently announced that he is retiring from the NFL.

7. I like one or two snows per season and after that, I'm ready for spring! Snows do make for good pictures, don't you think?

Michael & Will at night in the snow
This was 2010 despite the date on the picture.

I won't tag anyone, but if you read this and want to do it, please do. I'd love to know more about you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Connecting Emotionally With God"

Can you imagine how dull life would be if emotions were absent? We couldn't see a child singing and smile with delight. We couldn't feel heartache when someone abandoned or betrayed us. No awe for the glorious sunrise and no anger for the injustice we see. Life would be more logical and factual and intellectual, but we might as well be robots for all the fun that would be.

Jesus said we are to love God with all of our being, and face it, God made us emotional creatures. We feel joy and pain and zeal and anger and sadness. Sometimes I think we celebrate logic and poo-pooh emotions -- maybe because expressing emotions makes us seem weak. Even some religious people of the past have thought women were deficient somehow because we are generally more emotional than our male counterparts.

But are emotions really that bad? Aren't we glad for people who can understand us because of our shared emotions? It's hard to share our hurts and fears and joys with people who are interested only in the facts. On the other hand, bonds are formed by sharing the deepest parts of us.

I love that God made us for relationship and that we can experience Him through our minds, wills and our emotions! I read this great article recently. Here is just part of it. The link to the full article is at the end.

God designed us for relationship, and relationships consist of emotional bonds. We know that by the ways we connect closely with other people. This doesn’t happen simply through shared information or shared experiences. You can sit in a long class or business meeting sharing a lot of information with a lot of other people, but your relationship with them may not be any deeper after the meeting is over. You can watch a movie with a group of friends but have a completely different reaction to it than they do, and not feel any closer.

The key isn’t the facts you’re exposed to with others or the situations you encounter together. Closeness is created by the shared emotional responses to that information and those experiences. When our feelings line up with someone else’s, we feel a connection. When they don’t, we don’t. That’s how we bond in a relationship.

It’s the same way with God. He doesn’t tell us just to learn His attributes and be able to describe what He is like, or even just to obey Him. He calls us into a relationship—one that is deep and intimate. We’re supposed to grow continually closer to Him throughout our lives. That simply can’t be done apart from our emotions. When we eliminate feelings from the discipleship process, we’re bypassing the one component that creates closeness in a relationship. If we don’t learn to feel the way He feels, we don’t connect; we never really know Him.

. . .

But we can’t grow closer to God without connecting to Him through our emotions. Just as a married couple doesn’t develop a deeper bond by hanging their marriage certificate on the wall and staring at it together, we don’t connect with the Lord simply by memorizing truth and agreeing with it. We grow closer to Him as we go through experiences with Him and learn to feel His heartbeat.

When we ask, His indwelling Spirit will help cultivate in us the emotions He already has. Instead of saying our feelings don’t matter, we bring our heart into alignment with His and embrace the feelings that we share. Why? Because real relationships were designed to flourish at a heart level. And God desires nothing less from us than a real relationship.

Full article by Chris Tiegreen