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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A few observations from OT stories

One time while visiting a local book warehouse, I found a rather small book in the religious section.  Out of the Garden: Women Writers of the Bible was different from many of the others, and I immediately snatched it up as a good book to trade for.  (For two of my own books, they will give me one of theirs.)  It's a collection of essays from Jewish and Christian women who were asked to choose a theme, person or story from the Old Testament in a quest to see how contemporary women read the Bible.

I started reading it a couple days ago, and have already found some thought-provoking stuff.  I enjoyed the alternate view of Lot's wife turning to salt. Such a clever ending to that essay by Rebecca Goldstein!

During a chapter on Rachel and Leah, I decided to jot down a few observations (some pointed out in the book; some my own).  These aren't necessarily new "aha!" moments for me, but I don't believe I've mentioned them here before.

Here goes:

--- Have you ever noticed how many barren women are mentioned in the Bible? 

--- The author mentioned this one: Rachel demanding from Jacob children lest she die (Genesis 30:1). And then she died having her second son (Genesis 35:18).

Also, why would she demand children from Jacob when it was clearly her inability to conceive? (It seems women in the past were often blamed for infertility when it was not their faults, but clearly Jacob was fertile.)  So why demand children of Jacob this way?  Any ideas?  (The author has one, but I'll see what you say first.)

--- Also, ever notice this verse from Deuteronomy 21, and how often it wasn't necessarily followed before it became Law? By God's decree even?

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.

--- Read this from Genesis 30:

14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

The joys of polygyny? Jacob seems reduced to a token between his two wives who decide it's fair to exchange a night in his company for plants.

I'll see if I have more as I continue the book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Books

I don't think I'll finish another book before tomorrow, and tomorrow will be busy with Halloween so here's the list for this month.  Are you dressing up for Halloween?  Having a party? Hope you have a good one!  :)

Ciao, America!
by Beppe Severgnini  -- an Italian living in the United States for a year offers his insights to life here;  see previous post

Those Crazy Germans! by Steven Somers -- Ever wondered about the various tents at Oktoberfest, and what they offered, and how hard they were to get into?  The red light districts near the train stations? How regulated the prostitution industry is in Germany?  The names of German cities? What's up with all the nude people in parks?  The spa life? Bicycling? Politics? The love of news? The work week? Holiday customs?  If so, you may enjoy this "light-hearted guide to Germany" by a self-proclaimed Germanophile. The chapters are short, easy-to-read, and informative. I certainly learned some new things, then again, I really didn't know that much about Germany since it was never a country I adored. 

Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton -- I picked this book up at the library and read it all in just a couple of hours (and I took a Facebook break or two during those hours.)  I got it mainly because it reminded me of Andrew's trip to Kenya last year. The Maasai, the Samburu, even South Horr was mentioned at some point. I enjoyed reading of Lemasolai's growing-up years, the reason he went to school (the Kenyan government required one child per family to go and he was selected) and certain customs among his people (like the circumcision ceremonies - Andrew attended one.)

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway -- I found this book at the book warehouse and enjoyed reading about Jill's life in the outback of Australia and how they moved to the city and she went to school and university there.  Both parts were quite interesting to me as she learned to adjust to a new life - she never had a female playmate until she left the outback. Her thoughts on life fascinated me so I've already looked to see if any of her other books are available at my local library.  They are!  Yay.

My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story by Latifa -- a story that takes place in the years preceding 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.  This book reminds me again why the Taliban and any religious fundamentalists who impose their will on others are so awful.

The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul by Wayne A. Meeks -- A book from my wishlist. It was a bit more technical and deeper than I expected. That's not all bad, just maybe I would have enjoyed it if the author dumbed it down for me.  :) This book discussed the urban environment of Pauline Christianity, the social level of Pauline Christians (were they all poor, mostly rich, middle class?), the formation of the ekklesia, governance, rituals, and patterns of belief and life.

Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran by Afschineh Latifi -- I'm not sure how my library got so many memoirs of Iranian ladies who grew up in Iran, but it seems I've found a few of them the last couple of years. And they've been some of my favorite books!  This was no exception as I was moved to tears reading of the Latifi's father and the struggle of the family after his execution.  The author made everything seem so real, yet she has a marvelous sense of humor.  If you are interested in stories surrounding the Iranian revolution and families moving abroad, you may enjoy this book as well.  Without exception these families tend to be what I would give as examples of "secular Muslims."

I enjoyed reading about the Latifi sisters schooling in Vienna (especially since I was there not eight weeks ago) and Virginia. Also the author attended law school in nearby Winston-Salem, NC at Wake Forest.  Really interesting book!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain  -- I enjoyed reading about myself in this book. I'd seen this lady's TED talk so when I saw the book at the library, I grabbed it!

"Finland is a famously introverted nation.  Finnish joke: How can you tell if a Finn likes you?  He's staring at your shoes instead of his own."  (pg. 14)

"America has shifted from ... a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality."  In the former, "the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.  The word personality didn't exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of 'having a good personality' was not widespread until the twentieth.

But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.  'The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,'...'Every American was to become a performing self.'"

"By 1920, popular self-help guides had changed their focus from inner virtue to outer charm...'To create a personality is power,' advised [one]." 

Culture of Character guides emphasized: "citizenship, duty, work, golden deeds, honor, reputation, morals, manners, integrity"

Culture of Personality guides celebrated qualities: "magnetic, fascinating, stunning, attractive, glowing, dominant, forceful, energetic"

"It was no coincidence that in the 1920s and the 1930s, Americans became obsessed with movie stars."

(pg 21-24)

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui -- a story about a young Yemeni woman's life and how she fought for a divorce

Walking the Trail: One Man's Journey Along the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Jerry Ellis -- I found this at the local library; the author traveled from Oklahoma back home to Alabama all the while talking to people he met along the trail

Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas and Micah Sparks -- I thought this was going to be more of a journal of a trip, and it had that of course, but it was so much more.  In between telling of his adventure to Easter Island, the Outback, the Taj Mahal, Norway and various other places, this book is a memoir of Nicholas' growing up mostly in California. It was quite interesting to me, and made me very sad at times. I love the devotion of these brothers to each other - very inspirational.  I loved Micah's sense of devotion to his family, the way he took care of them in typical older-child fashion. I admired the optimism of Dana, the youngest member of the family and the only sister.  A really emotional books for me - both awe and wonder and laughter and disbelief to hurting for them.

And so odd to me, what are the chances that my AAA Carolinas magazine this month focused on a couple of the places mentioned in this book?  I read both within a day of each other, and the timing was weird. But I notice that a LOT lately... too much.  Is there something in the air? Hmmm  :)

Monday, October 8, 2012


Just think five years ago right now, I didn't even know how my life would change the next day when I opened a private message "From Damascus" that was sent to me on a MySpace account I'd had all of three months.  I mentioned the Middle East on my profile, and something must have prompted Samer to contact me.  His note was a slight challenge, albeit very polite.

On October 9, 2007 I read the message, wrote him back, and he wrote me back within an hour. It was during Ramadan so he was up despite the seven hour time difference.  I remember wondering if he were legit. What are the odds that some Muslim Arab guy in Syria would write me?  Was he one of those internet weirdos they warn you about on the news?

Maybe so, but we became fast friends. Family really. And I'm thankful for three times we've met in real life. Once in Syria (where we met his mom, brothers and sister, and friends) and twice now in Germany.

I'm thankful to God for what he has taught me - and where He has taken me - through knowing Samer!

Eagle's Nest - August 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Foreign Impressions

I often find it interesting to hear of people's experiences in other countries.***  A friend told me of two German coworkers who visited the US (San Mateo, CA) for the first time recently.  Their impressions:

Americans are louder, much more open and friendlier. A waiter or waitress thinks nothing of telling you about his day or her family. (Apparently small talk amongst strangers doesn't happen much in Germany!)  Also the younger guy said no one smokes. In fact when he did light up in a parking lot, someone threatened to call the police!  He noted our love of ice - we 'overwhelm' them with the stuff. And they were surprised by the huge amount of Coke served with their meals.  (In Austria and Germany on our recent trip it was about 3 euros for a small bottle - cold, but no ice, no free refills.) And also the people here are fatter.  Maybe because we drink too much Coke and don't smoke..hmmm?

I was reading Ciao, America! by Beppe Severgnini and he made many similar observations. He lived with his wife in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. for a year.  He noted the ice (he really felt strongly about it. Why are ice cubes so offensive? Because they crunch?), the frigid air conditioning, the differences in Mass, the bureaucracy involved in getting services (piece of cake compared to Italy), and the talkativeness of random strangers.  I was especially laughing at the bit about waiters and waitresses telling about their lives and running to serve when they (Beppe's family) just wanted to be left in peace to eat.  It wasn't all negative. In fact it was mostly just observations and reactions to life here.  I found it amusing. And these I shared on Facebook as a sample.

"Relationships are good with the rest of the neighbors and conversation comes easily. Americans tell you more about themselves in an hour than the British do in ten years. The main thing is not to mistake this cordiality for friendship. It's more a sort of cosmetic to perk up everyday life, and should be treated as such." (pg. 98)

"There's always a note of alarm in American weather forecasts. TV weatherpeople have glassily inexpressive eyes. Even when they're making one of their little jokes, they give the impression that they're keeping back some tragic piece of news. There's an entire channel (the Weather Channel) that deals exclusively with the subject.  In fact, it ferrets out disasters in every corner of the Union. Hurricanes, floods, storms, downpours, eclipses, landslides - any calamity will do.  It's the meteorological version of a horror film, and we foreigners are unaccustomed to the concept. ... During the summer it is not sufficient to communicate infernal temperatures. There's also a comfort index, calculated from the combination of heat and humidity.  And winter is not just a question of bitter cold. There is also the windchill factor, ... Knowing the exact quantity of discomfort - being able to say exactly how badly you feel and why - is the first step toward the goal of every U.S. citizen: to feel good."
  (pg. 64-65)

Earlier today I was in downtown Graham running errands. Walking them really. And a little girl saw me.

"Where's your car?" 

Me:  "Around the corner and up the street.  I parked at the library."

"Ohhhh. I like your blue bag"  (I was carrying some things I'd found for Zach at Little Blessings, and the bags *are* a pretty color.)

Me:  "Thank you. I hope you have a good day, sweetie" I said as I smiled and started to walk away.

I hear floating after me:  "I looooove you" 

Sweet Stranger Moments.

And, yes, I did wonder what Beppe would have thought if he'd encountered such an outgoing little girl during his time in the United States.   :)

My apologies to those who are Facebook friends and have already read much of this. 

***  This is why one of my favorite places on the web is Malik's blog. He's from Jordan and lives in Missouri.  I love when he writes posts dealing with differences in Arab and American culture or what he finds picture-worthy.  Sadly, Samer doesn't blog because he has some good stories of life in Germany, and I enjoy hearing what he has to say about the differences in his experiences in Germany and Damascus.  Thankfully he gives me full permission to share them. I got the German coworker impressions from him. Bet you never would have guessed that, huh?