Sunday, October 31, 2004

My Civic Duty

Well, my absentee ballot is anxiously awaiting me in Baghdad, but since there's no way for me to get to it, I just went to the Embassy here in Amman this morning to pick up a federal write-in ballot. I only got to vote for president/vice president (or as the ballot says, "vise" president - tell me this isn't a government operation?!) and congressional representative (I hope I got the right district), but I still got to vote. The issue may be that it won't get back to the Davidson County Election Commission in time. According to their rules, it has to be in to them by the time that the polls close on Tuesday. But it's going by diplomatic mail, so maybe it has a chance. At least I did everyting _I_ could do to get it there.

The coolest thing about picking up the write-in ballot was that I saw my friend Col. Brennan (from the IAC)! He extended his reserve term for a year and has been working at the embassy here in Amman. He happened to be coming into work as we were talking to the folks at the information desk. Small world, huh?! For those who know them, I also saw Maj. Mendez, but not Cpt. Pogge. Although since I've never met her, I wouldn't have known her if she _had_ walked by.

So after all the hassle I've gone to in order to vote in a manner which it's not likely to be counted (they only count absentee ballots if the race is so close that they could swing it...and that's just not gonna happen in TN)...all of y'all had been walk the five minutes from your house to your polling place and do your voting too. And just in case my ballot doesn't get to Nashville in time, vote in my place still too. :)

Just remember - you have no right to complain if you didn't participate in the process!

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I've been pondering over the past few months as to whether or not my blog should continue after I get home. I think I've decided that it will, at least for a little while. But, there will probably be a few changes to the format of at least the sidebar. I'm not really sure yet what that'll entail except that I'll definitely put in a spot that tells you where I currently am, since I expect to be travelling a good bit over the next few months.

I'm not sure how much there'll be to write about, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Especially right at the beginning you'll get fun stories of me re-adjusting to American life. After that, it'll be somewhat pot-luck.

Anyway, just in case any of you were worried about blog withdrawl, know that you'll be able to continue getting your "fix" for at least a little while longer. It won't be from quite as exotic locations, but it'll still be my random thoughts, which, hopefully, you enjoy.

It's the End of the World as We Know It

And I feel....ambivalent.

But seriously...I just finished reading "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (commonly known as "Revelation" or "Revelations") and I _swear_ I read something about a sign of the end times being that the Red Sox would win the World Series. I'm sure it read something to the effect of "And in that day, when the sixth seal is broken, then world will gasp, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as a silver trophy is held above the heads of many on the north-eastern coast of a continent which has yet to be discovered(eth) who wear red and who name themselves after an article of clothing, except that they spell(eth) it wrong."

Of course, Rev. 21:8 says that liars go to Hell, so maybe I should recheck that reference.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Here’s a list of my favorite things and/or moments from living in Baghdad. Some of these you’ll understand what I’m talking about, some of them you won’t. They’re in no particular order, just the order that I remember them in, so there will probably be some amount of automatic grouping. There are just so many things that I want to make sure I remember forever…so many things that I thought I’d have plenty of time to tell you about…

1) City Center hamburgers, with the French fries on the burger and their “secret sauce.”
2) During any phone conversation of more than a few minutes, _always_ having to stop the other person for a few seconds to wait for the helicopters to pass.
3) The day at Khulood’s house.
4) Being “forced” to eat three times more than I wanted anywhere I visited during a meal because I had “eaten nothing!”
5) Learning the custom of eating “Iraqi-style.”
6) Drinking gallons of Iraqi tea and Turkish coffee for politeness’ sake.
7) Sitting with my feet up on my roof that first summer, web-surfing, eating watermelon, and listening to the Chronicles of Narnia on CD or to Norah Jones.
8) Finding my piano.
9) Making Thanksgiving dinner for the WarEagle guys. Then eating again right afterwards at the DFac – they had ham!
10) Fridays with the WarEagle guys, just watching a movie or shooting the breeze while eating whatever concoction I’d put together for them. It always got eaten, no matter what “substitutions” had been made – even the “gingerbread” made with pomegranate molasses and the “pumpkin pie” made with zucchini.
11) Hearing baby Sien laugh for the first time.
12) Learning to count with Ahmed.
13) Sa’ad’s wedding.
14) Learning the difference between the red tracers and the green ones.
15) Learning the difference between a Bradley and a Tank.
16) Eating pomegranate for the first time in my life and thanking God continually each day thereafter for one of the best things I’d ever tasted.
17) Just walking down the streets in our neighborhood.
18) Watching Alias at the Winships with the whole group.
19) Watching movies at the Winships.
20) Playing volleyball in the Winships front yard in the dark.
21) Becoming the “Dish Fairy” in my house.
22) Helping to write the “Dish Fairy” children’s book one bored Friday with Jen and Jaime.
23) The night that Oday and Qusay were killed.
24) The day that they captured Saddam.
25) The night that Iraq beat Portugal in their first Olympic match.
26) Memorizing the 26-character hexadecimal number that was the wireless network’s password.
27) Getting boxes and boxes of pork products from Emmanuel.
28) Having “date night” with Zach and Noah.
29) The process of getting dressed for Sa’ad’s wedding – involving multiple changes of clothes for everyone.
30) Getting my hair and makeup “done” by Fatima, Saubrie, and Sana’a – including my first (and only) eye brow “threading.”
31) My favorite TV commercial – random Arab guy dressed in jeans and a t-shirt among a bunch of people in more traditional garb. He runs through the streets, through his house, through his school, completely stressed out…until the call to prayer begins. Then he stops running and prays. When he’s done, he’s smiling and isn’t stressed anymore.
32) Channel 2.
33) Picking out Christmas trees with Jaime, Andrew, Renata, and Nashwan.
34) Driving out in Tesa’a Nissan.
35) Dropping in at each school, greeting the teachers, students, guards, and guard families that I knew.
36) Watching Jason W. tell “Mr. Al-Quaeda” the four spiritual laws.
37) Lacie and I on our random jaunts with the SP guys.
38) “Hot Paul” (heehee…Hi Paul!).
39) Sunday mornings with the guys in the Green Zone.
40) Eating in Saddam’s main palace.
41) Eating “Chinese food” in the Green Zone.
42) Discovering the joy that is a PX/BX when living far from the US.
43) Al-Alaweia restaurant.
44) The White Palace restaurant.
45) That Italian restaurant.
46) Hanging out with Daryl, Tariq, and Chuck.
47) Getting proposed to by Dhia due to his first bite of cobbler.
48) Ice cream with Bon and her daughters.
49) Getting signatures for Creative Associates.
50) Giving New Testaments and blankets to the families of each of the guards at the schools for Christmas.
51) Scrubbing “Happy Birthday Saddam” off of Al-Abrar’s walls.
52) Touring the medical clinics with the WarEagle guys.
53) Riding in a Humvee!!
54) Caroling with the C&MA Church “youth” group in the Green Zone.
55) Our MCI phones.
56) Stopping by the “Baghdad Space Research Center.”
57) Hearing the Iraqi National Symphony play for the first time post-Saddam.
58) My “stalkers” at WarEagle.
59) Christmas Eve at WarEagle and the reaffirmation of my place.
60) Having the Christmas box from my mom arrive on Christmas Eve.
61) Hanging out with Jason B. and the guys from Dawg Troop.
62) Finding Evan.
63) The Christmas Eve bonfire at WarEagle.
64) Getting the phone call from my dad about Mara.
65) The unreality of the days following the deaths of our friends.
66) The memorial service at St. George’s.
67) The memorial service at the main palace that Paul Bremmer came to.
68) Hearing the hope in the people’s voices after Saddam had been captured.
69) Seeing the Baghdad “zoo.”
70) Learning to love BBC Prime.
71) Getting the Company Directory ready for the DBX.
72) Iftar with Eric and Haitham.
73) The day Oday’s car was stolen from in front of my house.
74) Driving in Baghdad.
75) Seeing the room where the handwriting was on the wall.
76) Seeing Ur.
77) The surrealness of life in Baghdad.
78) Being well-known at all the checkpoints because I was the American girl there because I _wanted_ to be (and not even for the money), and who was nice to and friendly with the soldiers and Iraqi ladies at each place.
79) Having people think that I am Arab.
80) Seeing the mosque in Baghdad where Jesus was born.
81) Learning the language on my own, then with Falah and Bon, then with Mahasin.
82) Mighty Mouse.
83) Buying a bike with Andrew.
84) Going to the C&MA church the day that Saddam was captured and singing “How Great Thou Art” with them.
85) The Hammurabi Palace Hotel and staff.
86) Tea time with Sandy.
87) The water tanks.
88) Getting “stoned” at Al-Haq.
89) Random thoughts with Jaime and Jen.
90) Being missed at “my” store.
91) Mexican Train.
92) Sharing my birthday with Iraq
93) Sitting with Um Dhuha after her husband's death.
94) The party with teh neighbor women at Um Dhuha's house.
95) Teaching and being taught by Mahasin.
96) The SWBTS teams, and all the other volunteer teams that came through.
97) "The fish that stands up."
98) "Translating" at the education meeting.
99) The Christmas party at the office.
100) Seeing "Abram's House."
101) The "Prayer Room."
102) Going swimming at the Babylon Hotel.
103) The take-off and landing at BIAP.
104) Bruce, Snowball, and One-Eye.
105) Neighborhood Area Council meetings.
106) The early days of finding everything by GPS.
107) Babysitting Jayden and James.
108) Dotty's deviled eggs.
109) The jacket from Haitham.
110) Seeing Geraldo Rivera at BIAP.
111) All of the people. There are too many to mention them all by name.

I could keep going, probably forever. Maybe I'll keep adding as more things come to me.

I'm...resigned, I guess is the best word for it. Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family at home again, but...I love Iraq and the Iraqi people. I love the people on my team here. I love the family that we've become. Part of me is glad to be going, but all of me hates to leave.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Wide Awake

Well, it's 5:30AM here in Amman. I woke up yesterday at 8AM after not sleeping well for most of the night, and not getting to bed until about 3AM the previous night, and now I haven't slept at all tonight.

With each successive bit of news, my mind has apparently been busy working out the logistics of "getting it all done" to the point that I just can't relax enough to sleep. First it was getting all the goodbyes into ~two days. Then it was the realization of the number of gifts that I needed to buy, then describing those things over email to someone who is not a native English speaker. Then it was just thinking through all of my stuff and where it is so that _I_ didn't forget anything....and now it's thinking through all of my stuff and where it is, and trying to put down on paper somehow the description of the thing and where it is (or might possibly be) in order that someone else can (hopefully) find it for me.

I'm trying to remember what books are where and which I planned on leaving and which I planned on taking home. That's pretty much a lost cause. Same with the clothes. I think I'm pretty much just going to have all of the clothes brought, then what I planned on leaving behind, I'll just leave behind here instead of there...which works except that my "left behind" clothes were going to be a gift to my family by the school. I also have no recollection whatsoever of which DVDs our household had acquired, and which among those were mine (and also which of those that are mine I was planning on taking home and which I was planning on leaving).

In any case, despite hours of playing Escape Velocity, hours of reading, and hours of attempts at sleep, no sleep will come, so I've given up and instead wrote out the first of my lists of things, locations, what to leave, what to take, packing instructions, etc.

It "probably" hasn't helped any of the past couple of nights that there is one mosquito in here that will not die. Dude's bitten me no less than fifteen times tonight, and yet he keeps coming back. Attempts at swatting have been in vain.

HA! "Hail the conq'ring hero!" or "Ding, dong, the mosquito's dead!"

Now we find out if it was really _just_ one.

The Verdict is In

Well, I was just informed that, while it's ok for my boss and his wife to go into Baghdad, it's not ok for me to go. So, if I want her to pack up my things, she'll do that for me, or they hope that I'll reconsider staying in Amman for a while.

I guess there's some improvement here. When I spoke with them on Saturday, they "selfishly wanted me to that I could finish up some work I was doing (which is hopefully still on my computer, awaiting retrieval)." Today at least they wanted me to reconsider staying because a) it might mean that in a month, the powers that be would allow me to go in to say my goodbyes, and b) I'm the only one of our team who's actually involved with an Iraqi family here in Amman (my language teacher Reghid and her family).

I've had my little cry (although I'm sure I'll have more over the course of the evening). But it's a lot easier to take "bad" news when you asked that God's will be done. That's really the difference between trusting God and not trusting Him, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about not getting my way, by any means, so don't hold me up as a shining example...but sincerely hoping that His will be done, and trusting that everything that happens is according to His plan and for the good of those who love Him...well, you can be disappointed, but you just can't really be angry, shattered, etc. with "bad" news...because He's got it all under control, even if we can't see it right now.

Those among you, my friends, who are not believers probably think I'm stupid for feeling this way and saying these things. And those among you who are believers are at this moment building up my pedestal a little higher and giving it a little more of a shine. And both sets of you are wrong (but especially the believers).

I guess I just feel that I can't exactly rage at God when I asked Him to do His will, and not mine.

Anyway, my boss and wife asked that I think about things again. I have until tomorrow around 2PM (that's morning for you east-coasters) to decide if I want my boss' wife to pack my things before it would cost the Company money to cancel her ticket.

Heh....people think I want a husband for the sex and the babies, and well...yeah, that's true....but I'm also just tired of deciding things like this on my own. If I had a husband, I could make him decide for me, then just submit to his authority.

Right now, my gut instinct is to go home and curl up in a little ball for a few weeks. If it weren't for some things (in Baghdad) that are especially precious to me, I think I'd get on a plane right now. I've got about 20 hours to decide what I ought to do.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Scratch That (well, kinda) I just was informed that we _won't_ be going into Baghdad tomorrow. The earliest we would go is Wednesday....except that we may not be allowed to go at all. Apparently it's in "Uncle Jerry's" hands right now and rumor has it that he's against the idea.

Which means that right now I'm having to consider the possibility that I may not be allowed to say goodbye at all.

So the immediate "thought for the day" is that...well...God's will be done.

It's probably quite obvious what _I_ want. _I_ want to be allowed to go back and stay........

Anyway, I'll keep y'all up-to-date on developments as they happen.


Well, here's what's happened to me over the last few days. If you remember from my dreams post, I had "laid a fleece" (basically asked for a sign from God) to show me whether or not I was supposed to return to Iraq with the Company. Their plans were that we would not return as a group until after the Iraqi Elections at the end of basically, not until at least mid-February (they would have to give it a few days to make sure that there wasn't renewed violence, etc. post-elections)...which meant that I would return about two weeks before my term ended and would spend my remaining time twiddling my thumbs in Jordan.

The "fleece" that I had laid down was that He would smooth the way for my return with the Company. I had a task that I could do in the country (another co-worker has been allowed to return to do this same task), all that I needed was the ok of the Company. Well, word came down yesterday that the answer was "no." As I'd asked God for a clear sign of His will, I can't really complain that it didn't go my way, but I was obviously...well...heartbroken.

My choices at that point were to finish out my term sitting in Amman, going to the mall, eating at McDonalds, and studying the language; or to go home and probably finish my Master's degree. Well, the way I figure it, I can go to the mall, eat at McDonalds, and learn Arabic (even from Iraqis) in America _while_ finishing my Master's degree. Not only would _I_ probably make more money, but I would also be saving "Aunt Lottie's" money for...well...other things.

Anyway, my bosses and I were going to take 24 hours from when I spoke to them yesterday (3PM-ish Eastern, 6 Central, the rest of you are on your own) to decide if that was the proper course of action for me. It didn't take quite that long before I was completely freed of any feelings of regret for leaving the Company a few months early.

I will be returning to Baghdad tomorrow to take a few days to say goodbye to all the people I can, pack all my things, and try to get someone to buy all of the gifts that I was going to take a month to think about what they should be and where I should get them and who I should buy things for, etc.

Right now, I think my primary feeling is that I'm overwhelmed. I had expected to take about two months to find everyone, say goodbye, pack, buy gifts, etc. I have to somehow compress that to less than two days. Additionally, I have to get through the grieving process somehow at the same time.

I don't think I can explain how much I love Iraq and the Iraqi people. How much I was looking forward to another Thanksgiving and Christmas there. To another winter and the beginnings of another spring. There are so many people that I won't be able to say goodbye to (like my family at the school, all of the headmasters, in addition to all of the other people I know from other places). So many places I wanted to go, things I wanted to do, promises I wanted to fulfill. It breaks my heart to leave, especially so abruptly.

My heart is breaking. Please pray with me that I will be able to accomplish a year-and-a-half's worth of goodbyes in two days, in addition to packing. Pray that God will protect us according to His will while we are in Iraq. Pray that I drink enough water over the next few days that I don't get dehydrated from crying so much, because this is killing me.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Y'all be "thinking" of me especially over this next 24 hours, please. When it's over, I'll let you know why.

Friday, October 22, 2004


So last Friday began the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. That's the way you've probably seen it spelled anyway, but I take issue with it. I saw it written for the first time in Arabic the other day and was really surprised by the actual spelling due to what I'd always seen as the transliterated spelling. In Arabic, it's spelled with a "rah," a "meem," a "dha," an "alif," and a "noon." So basically, R-M-letter we have no direct English equivalent for-A-N. The short vowels between the first three letters are assumed, or are included as "breath marks" and written above (in this case, although at least one of the short vowels is written below) the letters. In Arabic, only the long vowels are actually written...usually (except in formal writing), the short vowels are just implied. This is surprisingly little trouble most of the time as you just say what comes naturally and it's usually right. But there are the occasions when you could be completely the words for king and kingdom (in the classical anyway...not sure how often they're used colloquially). Both are spelled "meem," "lam," "kaaf" (M-L-K), but king is pronounced melik, while kingom is pronounced moolouk.

Anyway, so this letter "dha" is one of the several Arabic characters for which there is no direct English equivalent sound. It's one of four sounds which somewaht correspond to our "th" sound. There's the "tha" which is like in the word "think" (aspirated "th") the "dhaal," like in the word "than" (vocalized "th"), then these two others - "dhaud" and "dha." Basically, they're both the softer, vocalized "th," but the back of the tongue is somewhat depressed making this a "fuller" sound. They're nigh-impossible to tell apart, even to native speakers...but I think that the "dhaud" is longer than the "dha," which seems to be more forceful.

Anyway, so I take issue with how the Western world transliterates the word Ramadhaun, even though I understand why they do it.

But that's all beside the point. So it's Ramadhaun now. Let me tell you a bit of the history of the month. It is a month in which Muslims celebrate, I think, the beginning of the time when the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was given the Qur'an. They celebrate it by "fasting" for 40 days. That sounds really long to us Western people and makes us think about Ghandi and folks like him....except that this isn't that kind of fast. Basically, they can't eat, drink, or smoke while it's daylight. So, during Ramadhaun, they all get up really early, eat a huge breakfast, don't eat all day, then have a huge dinner the second the Sun goes down (as marked by the call to prayer). Apparently, they also get up at like 3AM to have a light lunch-ish meal.

So, basically, the result is really crabby and tired people during the day, who end up weighing more at the end of the month of "fasting" due to the "binge" concept brought on by no food during the day. But, the good part is that good deeds done during the month of Ramadhaun count like 100xs more than good deeds done during the rest of the year, and people who pray during Ramadhaun (like they're supposed to year 'round), but who don't during the rest of the year are forgiven for not doing it the rest of the year. That's a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

So basically, people become very "religious" during the month (some women only cover during Ramadhaun)...and there are more beggars than normal since people are itching to do "good" deeds like give alms to the poor (which is one of the five pillars of Islam).

Ramadhaun is very different in Jordan than it is in Iraq (at least in Baghdad). Since Iraq was a _secular_ republic, the people there, while religious, aren't such sticklers for the law being enforced by the government. In Amman, even though it has a large Western and Christian population enforce fasting in all public places. For instance...while walking down to the nearest little shopping area the other day, maybe half an hour before Iftar (the breaking of the fast in the evening), Donna and I saw a police car driving really slowly in front of the restaurants on the street. The policemen were looking into the restaurants to make sure that no one was actually _eating_ there. It's ok for them to prepare food (and for people to buy for "take away"), but no one's allowed to actually _eat_ in public. They're also not allowed to smoke (did I mention that people get crabby during Ramadhaun? Yeah....Arabs either abstain completely from smoking or are the worst chain-smokers known to the ones who smoke have a _really_ hard time during Ramadhaun). If you're caught smoking in public (or eating or drinking, presumably), you're put in jail until 'Eid (the three-day celebration at the end of Ramadhaun).

Just in case you're concerned, even according to the Qur'an, women who are pregnant or nursing, people who are travelling, or small children are legally exempted from the fast (although the women and the travellers are encouraged to make it up at a later point...or give a certain amount of money to the poor).

Another side-effect of Ramadhaun is more traffic. Since most of the restaurants are closed, a lot of people are off of work. Also, due to the general malaise, people go into work later and leave there are lots more cars all over the place. BUT, the stores all have sales and the best movies and stuff are on TV during Ramadhaun...which makes up for some of it, I guess.

Also, here's a little tid-bit of information for you. In the Arabic language, there are two names for every month - the "number" name, and the "Islamic" name. Most people know the months as "the first month, the second month, etc." Some of the more educated people know the second names for each of the months (like "Nissan" is the name for April). Well, "Ramadhaun" is the "Islamic" name for July. There's a bridge in Baghdad called the "Jisr Arba'taush Ramadhaun" - the 14th of July bridge. No, not in celebration of Bastille Day...the 14th of July is also the old "independence" day for Iraq (possibly the day that the Ba'ath Party took over, possibly the day the the post-WWI British-installed kingdom was overthrown, possibly some other random anniversary - they celebrate everything they can here).

Of course, _now_ Iraqi independence day is June 28th - my birthday, because God loves me (and the Iraqis). :)

Anyway, that's my discourse on Ramadhaun, both in general, and on surviving it in Amman. Escape Velocity is now downloaded, so I'm going to play that for a few hours. I hope y'all have enjoyed your Friday reading! That's one advantage of having "weekends" that don't overlap. My "weekend" gives you an excuse to blow off work for a while on a Friday! Enjoy!

Skin the Rabbit

So I told you about Simon and Bruno, right?

Well, first off, update on Bruno. A day or so after I told you about him, he stopped coming around. He didn't write, he didn't call, he didn't send flowers, there was no explanation...he just never came back (heh...sounds vaguely familiar - I guess it's true...deep down, all (or at least many) men are dogs). But in any case, the doggy spot in my life is again empty. :( Alas, poor Bruno...I knew him, Horatio...

Secondly, Simon is still around. He alternates between being deathly afraid of me and running to me for protection. But in any case, apparently he really loves me and Jen and showed that love to us last night by showering us with a gift that we could only have imagined....that's right....a dead bunny. Pure white, no blood (broken neck apparently), maybe a foot long, stretched out...left right at our doorstep. I figured we might as well leave it there since it was already dead, but the other ladies alternated between telling Simon he was a bad kitty (which he wasn't...he just loves us and wanted to show us), and attempting to remove the rabbit. I thought that was silly as was might as well let the cat(s) eat it. But for some reason, it was decided that tossing the rabbit on top of the local grape vine trellis would be a good idea. That sounded like a really crappy idea to me since then it'd be harder for the cats to get to and eat (which would mean a smelly, rotting bunny for longer)...but the rabbit was so "tossed." I tried to show Simon where it was, but he didn't understand.

But then, for some reason, Jen decided that she just really wanted to skin the it was duly retrieved from the grape vines and brought into our kitchen to be butchered. After a few false starts, he was eventually cut open. The back half of the fur was pulled off pretty successfully, but we never quite got the rabbit to "skin the rabbit" and ended up cutting off its head. Jen didn't even save the fur, so I'm really not sure what the purpose of butchering the rabbit was...other than to kill some time and say that we'd done it.

For a little while, there was talk about cooking the rabbit prior to returning it (skinless) to the cats...but that talk was eventually silenced. But of course, by this time, Simon was nowhere to be we had this skinless bunny, just waiting to be eaten....but no cat to eat it. We left it out in the back driveway on a plastic bag ( I'm gonna touch a dead, skinless rabbit with my know...barring starvation out in the boonies where all there is to eat is dead, skinless rabbits) in the hopes that Simon would find it prior to all the other cats.

Well, he didn't find it...but he did come back before any of the other cats did, so I brought him to it and he went to town. I haven't been down there this morning to view the carnage, but with as many cats as there are around, I doubt that there's much left.

So...who knew that there were white rabbits in Jordan? Someone tell the Queen of Hearts that her White Rabbit is going to be _very_ late.

You know? I've never read those books either...but Lewis Carroll was supposed to be high on opium when he wrote them, so they could possibly prove rather entertaining, depending on my mood. I wasn't a big fan of Disney's version though. Alice was stupid and annoying. Although, to this day, I covet her "frock." But I could just as easily say that I covet Dorothy's dress in the movie version of the "Wizard of Oz," so we'll say that instead so that I can go back to finding very little redeeming in the movie of "Alice." Although, I must admit that the "unbirthday" is an inspired idea.

Roughing It

So I finished Mark Twain's "Roughing It" last night. That was just a _fun_ book. It was weird made me laugh out loud almost every chapter, and the story was entertaining, but I could hardly ever make it through more than about a chapter (none of which were long) before falling asleep. But all the same, I really enjoyed the book. I never got into Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, although I liked MT's short stories that we were forced to read...but this book is making me contemplate re-reading Tom and Huck, and finding more MT books. Go figure that one of the most famous American writers, of whose work we're all forced to read in grade actually an entertaining writer.

It's an interesting perspective though. It was apparently written later in his life, but is somewhat (although not completely) auto-biographical about his travels out west when he was younger. It makes me want to go to all those places that I've never seen (like Lake Tahoe and Hawaii)...except that I'm almost afraid to now because with "modernization" such as it is, those places won't be anything close to how he's described them. But who knows...the Dead Sea could still surprise me with its clarity...maybe Tahoe can too. But I doubt that native Hawaiians still ride around town on old horses, even if some do still give lip service to the old gods. And now that volcanoes are national parks, I doubt you'd be allowed to wander around inside the crater after dark.

I should have been a cowboy. Back in the 1800s.

Anyway, now I'm stumped as to what to read next. Frankly...I'm just tired of reading. But it's not like there are a thousand other things pressing my I can work some more on Plato, and/or I can start on one of the following three books:

"Mayada: Daughter of Iraq" by Jean Sasson - about a woman who lived in Iraq under Saddam and was tortured for some reason (probably trumped-up charge of printing anti-government propaganda). It's a true I'm not sure why I'm reticent....maybe it's all too close right now...

"Shutter Island" by Denis Lehane - it's a crime/suspense/mystery novel by the guy who wrote "Mystic River." Not having seen that movie, and never a big one for the suspense/horror genre, not sure I'm that into it...although it came highly recommended by a co-worker that I trust in terms of literary quality, but not necessarily in terms of knowing what _I_ would like.

"Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty" by Gerd Gigerenzer - It's a non-fiction book about uncertainty (in terms of probabilities, not "I don't know the future") and basically, our understanding of risk. Given my work background, it seemed interesting...not sure my brain is up to a philosophical/technical work at the moment.

"The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchiking the Galaxy One Last Time" by Douglas Adams - Douglas Adams is one of my very most favorite authors due to his having written the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy" of at least five books. When he died suddenly a few years back at only like 40 years old, my friends and I had a memorial party and watched the (very bad) BBC version of the books. Anyway, these are short stories and other things salvaged from his computer at the time of his death. One of them is the unfinished book he was working on...but it's about his other well-known character (Dirk Gently)...none of whose stories have I read. I hate coming in in the middle of a story...but it'd be easy enough just to skip that one and read all the others....

So really, I think I'm just burnt out on reading at the moment. The problem is that when the choice comes down to poking out my eyes from boredom or reading, I'm gonna pick reading every time (well, hopefully). If it weren't Ramadhan, I could at least go to a cafe and read....but it's Ramadhan, so nothing's open until dark....which means that I've got six more hours to fill.

I've learned how to play a bunch of songs on the guitar, for lack of anything better to do.

Hrm....well, I can think of two more things to post about that'll at least fill the time until Escape Velocity finishes downloading on Jen's conveniently Mac-ish computer. Let me tell you how psyched I am that Ambrosia SW has finally started porting their newer games to PC!!! I'm PSYCHED!!

Although, if I go back to grad school and work at the Lab again, I'll probably have a Mac there...but assuming that Henry is ever revived (which he will be, the question is just whether or not I retain my files), I'll want to play on PC too.

So, anyway, y'all vote on which book you want to hear about next...or something.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen!!!!

That's right, people. I'm gloating because the New York Yankees have _LOST_ the American League Championship!!!!!! It's nice and all that the Red Sox won, but the important thing is that the Yankees _LOST!!!_ Did I mention that they _LOST?_ 'Cause they did!

Sorry, Moose, I love ya' man since you were my favorite O for so long, but my hate of the Yankees goes deeper even than my admiration for the quality of workmanship of God in you.

WooHoo!!!! Ding, dong, the Yankees LOST!!!

(Did I mention that they LOST?!!!!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


I hardly ever dream anything that I remember even vaguely the next day. In fact, there are maybe three instances in my life in which I can look back and actually remember my dreams or that I dreamed enough to mention it to someone...two were nightmares/panic attacks (these I actually remember), and one was during a period of serious turmoil in my life (this series of dreams I only remember in that I mentioned them to someone else)...

Anyway, so this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, I had another series of dreams. Here are summaries of them in order of appearance:

Friday night: I had just returned to America and was helping my dad out by chaperoning a youth retreat at which Chris Rice (famous CCM artist who did a retreat for us before he was famous about twelve years ago when I was in high school and who I spoke to for a few moments about six years ago following a Michael W. Smith concert) was the main speaker/worship leader. In addition to my duties for this camp (I never saw a youth in my dream, so they couldn't have been enormous), I was helping Aunt Mom and Ellen (former office manager at FBCL) to bring in a load of boxed citrus fruit which needed to be sorted and then handed out to the people that ordered it (similar to what we did for band to raise money when I was in high school, except that this was at someone's house and Aunt Mom and Ellen are both "MD people" while my dad is definitely a "TN people"). Anyway, prior to helping out Aunt Mom with the fruit, I was talking to Chris and he was gonna go to a driving range or something with a buddy and suggested that I be the one to take him there. He didn't say this outright, but I knew that it was because he "like liked" me and wanted to spend time with me. Despite the fact that he's like 15 years older than me, I was amenable to that idea and agreed to pick him up at 2. Anyway, so then I went to "help" with the fruit, but it just wasn't working and Aunt Mom's dad was trying to help too, but everyone tried to keep that from happening because he's like 80-something. But before we were finished, I had to go to work. Apparently I was in the Army at Ft. Meade and my job was to help land helicopters with this remote control thing. So anyway, somewhere in the battle that was taking place on post at Ft. Meade, someone was wounded, so a MASH helicopter needed to fly in to pick the guy up, but without the enemy shooting them down. Well, Prince Charles (the helicopter pilot) started to land with my aid, but like halfway between where the guy was (and where it was apparently "safe" to land), and where the enemy was. I tried to help him, but I didn't know how to work my little helicopter landing box, so it was a pretty hard landing (and possibly my fault that he was so far away from where he was supposed to be), so after getting shot at a bit by the enemy, he took off again and we tried another landing in the right spot - similarly hard. Anyway, by then it was 3PM and I was supposed to have picked up Chris at 2 for our non-date, so I rushed off to the parking lot for my car...but I couldn't find it because I'd just come back from overseas and was still staying with my parents (although it seems like I had a place in the barracks too) and I didn't know which car to even _look_for_ in the parking lot. So I was getting pretty frantic, and tried getting in touch with my dad via cell phone so that he could explain to Chris why I hadn't shown up...but I couldn't find the right number apparently...then one number finally went through, but it wasn't Daddy that answered - it was Chris. He understood and was ok with meeting me later instead for dinner or something (that Chris Rice - he's a sly one, he is), and that was the end of the dream.

Saturday night: Saturday night, I was newly married and at the honeymoon hotel (don't worry - this isn't even PG-rated), which kinda surprisingly had the exact same floorplan as FBCL. So our "honeymoon suite" was room 221, and apparently I had married an American Indian because there was like, not a teepee, but an indian-esque tent in the room for our living quarters (over in the corner opposite the door by the playground and the front windows). Anyway, for some reason, I had to go looking for someone or something. I remember going downstairs to the toddler rooms (where there were kids and workers watching them) and when I got back upstairs (never having found whoever or whatever I was searching for), they'd changed around "our" room to allow for a press conference. Apparently they'd killed Al-Zarqawi (the Jordanian guy leading the resistance in Fallujah). I was ecstatic at this news and was all ready to rush outside to witness (and possibly take part in) the "fireworks" as a result of the news...when I realized that I wasn't in Baghdad, I was in Amman, so there probably wouldn't _be_ any celebration and I was going to miss out on sharing the moment with the Iraqis. Then I woke up.

Sunday night: Our Iraqi team was moving into a new building (which seems to happen every few months or so) except that this building was this huge Victorian-era mansion just like the one I'd seen the two guys on BBC Prime renovating earlier that evening. So we each got settled into our beds and go off to do something when it came to my attention that someone else would be bringing in and unpacking some of our stuff...they of course got everything wrong which put me in a panic/temper I was talking with my mom (who tried to tell me to get over myself)...but before that got really sorted out, we had to change rooms within the house. We moved up to like the top attic room which was huge and there were gonna be boys staying on the other side of the room, so we were gonna set up this elaborate sheet to separate girls and boys. Well, Ahmed (the youngest son of the family at the school in Baghdad) was our "boy" (i.e., he was the one that did all of our little crap jobs for us), so he was helping with the hanging of the separator. For some reason, he had a handgun. I tried to convince everyone that he shouldn't have one since he had no training, but no one else seemed to care. But then this older couple who used to be in Baghdad with us were leaving, so we went to see them off then went through everything to see what they'd left and I was exploring the oddly modern-looking front-ish room where I was very pleased to see they'd left boxes and boxes of Sprees and hot dogs in a freezer. There were also boxes and boxes of Topps baseball cards too and that made me kinda happy too, but I was _really_ excited about the Sprees and hot dogs. Also, all around the room were stacks of chocolate candy (KitKats, Snickers, etc.), but since I don't eat chocolate, this wasn't so exciting. Then the dream ended.

For those among you who now think I'm crazy...well, you may be right, but keep in mind that these are "just" dreams...and I've told them as truthfully as I could - I didn't make any of them up. Not even the part about Prince Charles. :)

Anyway, after the first dream, I thought my sub-conscious was tackling my issues with failure since everything I tried to do in that dream failed miserably (I didn't get the fruit sorted, it seems like I was late-ish to work, I brough Prince Charles down in the wrong spot, got him shot at, and gave him two really rough landings, I couldn't find my car, I couldn't get in touch wtih Daddy to talk to Chris for me, and I couldn't get to Chris...although that one apparently turned out alright). But after the other two dreams, I think it was more my issues with change.

I've now been in Amman (post-training) for a month. All this time I thought I'd done well with the musical apartments and continual disappointments with regards to returning to Baghdad and other things...but in reality, I think I've just been in shock...and now the shock's starting to wear off.

I've told a few people already, but I guess now I'm telling "the world" that rather than sitting here in Amman and only allowed to return to Baghdad a few days before my term ends...basically, I'd rather be in in America than Amman if that's going to be the case. For a while I've thought and passed my desire to be in Baghdad off as His calling in my life...but now I wonder if it's not just because that's the place in my life right now that involves the least amount of change. I might not be living in my same house or doing my same non-job, but I'd be returning to a house that I knew and to an actual job that I've had some experience in a few months ago. It'd be people that I know and situations that I know. Whereas here, I'm starting basically from scratch (i.e., LOTS of new things and situations and changes to every aspect of my life), and in America, the changes will abound (new job, possibly a return to school, living with my family for a while, lots of travel visiting friends, torn between MD and TN ties, new car, new apartment, no Mara, reintegration into American and possibly FBCL life, my family's even at a new church).

So now I've come to the point where I've "laid a fleece" to use a church-y phrase - for those of you out there who don't know the story of Gideon (it's in Judges somewhere), that basically translates to "I've asked for a sign from God," although in my case, it's to show me direction, not prove that He Is Who He Is. My sign is this - if I'm supposed to be in Baghdad, then He'll smooth the way for that (right now there are parties who are dragging their feet over discussing the issue, parties who are adamantly against it, parties who aren't exactly happy about it, and other people who are thrilled with the idea...heh...maybe I should suspect the latter people the most ;p ). And if I'm not, then I've asked Him to show me what I'm supposed to do - either go home early, quit the Company and strike out on my own for my last five months, stay in Amman and go out of my mind with boredom (not a long trip at this point), or do something completely different that He'd have to show me.

But I guess the good news is that I didn't have another dream last night, so maybe I've gotten the point that He (through my sub-conscious) has been trying to tell me.

And who knows...maybe Friday night's dream was somewhat prophetical. Chris Rice, if you're out there reading my blog and are otherwise unattached...drop me an email. Maybe for our honeymoon we can set up a teepee in my church. ;p

Friday, October 15, 2004

Books Never Written

So does anyone else remember the "books never written" section of the jokes page in Boys' Life Magazine?

Well, today while driving back from the Dead Sea, I thought of a couple of possible sequels to "Gorillas in the Mist" - "Donkeys in the Bush," and "Camels in the Desert."

Maybe you had to be there.

Dead Sea, Part II

So we went to the Dead Sea again today (Friday is our "weekend"). It's also the first day of Ramadaan, incidentally.

Each time I've been to the Dead Sea, I've been stuck by the viscosity of the water. It's just _thicker_ than "regular" water. They recommend that you float on your back, but it's also fun to try to float on your tummy. It's imperative though that you keep the water from your nose, mouth, and eyes. After I'd mudded myself this time (which just seems wrong for some reason), I tried to splash to get it off of my neck...and ended up with like two drops in each eye...the worst thing to do would be to try to wipe my eyes with my muddy and very salty hands, so I just had to sit there, while I continued de-mudding with excruciating pain in my eyes. Eventually I blinked the pain away, but it hurt for a while.

Anyway, you can definitely tell where the fat is in your body as you float on the Dead Sea. Either your legs pop up, or your bottom (at least on me). It's _really_ hard to get your feet under you when you want to stand up. And then when you do, the bottom is an incredibly random mixture of rock, soft sand, and mud (into which you sink deeper than your ankles), which makes you stumble around foolishly. :) The oddest thing by far though is the clarity of the water. Far after you can touch bottom, you can still _see_ the bottom. And it's _really_ shallow for a long way from the shore, then drops off suddenly.

One of the cool things though is that there's absolutely no fear of drowning. You just _can't_ sink. There's too much salt.

And even though I mudded myself the last time, I just had to do it again. It seems wrong when you do it...I mean, I liked playing in the mud as much as the next tomboy, but it's just weird to wipe mud all over your body on purpose.

But when you get home, you're nicely exfoliated. :)

Vote Early, Vote Often

So I went to a lot of trouble a few months ago to get an absentee ballot sent to me in Baghdad. It maybe wasn't going to arrive before the people who were letting me share their APO left. But it's there now, waiting for me. I just hope _I_ get there in time to get it and mail it back in. Granted, absentee ballots are only counted in close races, and I don't expect it to get terribly close in Tennessee (where I'm currently registered to vote), but it's the principle of the thing. I actually put in a lot of effort to make sure I was properly registered and got an absentee ballot sent all the way across the globe...and now I might not get to use it.

So I'd like to ask one of you who weren't planning on voting to vote in my place. You can probably guess who I'd vote for. Obviously, I'm mostly worried about the presidential election, so it doesn't matter if you're in Maryland or elsewhere. Don't worry if you think someone else might do this for me - go ahead and you vote too, just in case they don't. own version of "get out the vote." :)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The International Language

One of the many books I've been reading "on the side" since I've been here is one entitled "The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time," Edited by David H. Lowenherz. I've still got 8 more to go, but I wanted to share my two favorite ones (so far) with you. Maybe it's just that these are two of the most recent, so the sentiments are more what I'm used to hearing and appreciating, maybe it's that I know more about these authors (and recipients) than I do about most of the others, but I think it's because these are the two sweetest. Anyway, my two favorites are letters from former presidents George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to their respective wives Barbara and Nancy (although in Pres. Bush's case, they weren't married yet).

First, from Fmr. Pres. Bush:

Dec. 12, 1943

My darling Bar,

This should be a very easy letter to write - words should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement, but somehow I can't possibly say all in a letter I should like to.

I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often have I thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day. How lucky our childen will be to have a mother like you -

As the days go by the time of our departure [to fight in WWII] draws nearer. For a long time I had anxiously looked forward to the day when we would go aboard and set to sea. It seemed that obtaining that goal would be all I could desire for some time, but, Bar, you have changed all that. I cannot say that I do not want to go - for that would be a lie. We have been working for a long time with a single purpose in mind, to be so equipped that we could meet and defeat our enemy. I do want to go because it is my part, but now leaving presents itself not as an adventure but as a job which I hope will be over before long. Even now, with a good while between us and the sea, I am thinking of getting back. This may sound melodramatic, but if it does it is only my inadequacy to say what I mean. Bar, you have made my life full of everything I could ever dream of - my complete happiness should be a token of my love for you.

Wednesday is definitely the commissioning and I do hope you'll be there. I'll call Mum tomorrow about my plan. A lot of fellows put down their parents or wives and they aren't going so you could pass as a Mrs. - Just say you lost the invite and give your name. They'll check the list and you'll be in. How proud I'll be if you can come.

I'll tell you about the latest flying developments later. We have so much to do and so little time to do it in. It is frightening at times. The seriousness of this thing is beignning to strike home. I have been made asst. gunnery officer and when Lt. Houle leaves I will be gunnery officer. I'm afraid I know very little about it but I am excited at having such a job. I'll tell you all about this later too.

The wind of late has been blowing like mad and our flying has been cut to a minimum. My plane, #2 now, is up at Quonset, having a camera installed. It is Bar #2 but purely in spirit since the Atlantic fleet won't let us have names on our planes.

Goodnite, my beautiful. Everytime I say beautiful you about kill me but you'll have to accept it -

I hope I get Thursday off - there's still a chance. All my love darling -

public fiance as of 12/12/43

And now from Fmr. Pres. Reagan:

March 4, 1981

Dear First Lady

As Pres. of the U.S., it is my honor & privilege to cite you for service above and beyond the call of duty in that you have made one man (me) the most happy man in the world for 29 years.

Beginning in 1951, Nancy Davis, seeing the plight of a lonely man who didn't know how lonely he really was, determined to rescue him from a completely empty life. Refusing to be rebuffed by a certain amount of stupidity on his part she ignored his somewhat slow response. With patience & tenderness she gradually brought the light of understanding to his darkened obtuse mind and he discovered the joy of loving someone, with all his heart.

Nancy Davis then went on to bring him happiness for the next 29 years as Nancy Davis Reagan for which she has received & will continue to receive his undying devotion forever & ever.

She has done this in spite of the fact that he still can't find the words to tell her how lost he woud be without her. He sits in the Oval office from which he can see (if he scrooches down) her window and feels warm all over just knowing she is there.

The above is the statement of the man who benefited from her act of heroism.

The below is his signature.

Ronald Reagan - Pres. of the U.S.

P.S. He - I mean, I love and adore you.

Leia talking again:

I guess my hope is that someday (preferably soon), I'll find a guy who feels that way about me. times, I'd settle for about a quarter of that....and sometimes I think I've gotten hard-boiled enough to go through with "settling," but really, in my heart of hearts, I don't think I ever actually could. Dude's gotta be crazy about me or it's not worth the trouble. might also help for him to simply be crazy.

Monday, October 11, 2004

New Men in My Life

I just wanted to tell y'all about the new men in my life. The primary one is named Simon. He's a kitten who hangs out by our apartments. There are a lot of stray cats around, but he's not at all afraid of people and is realy loving. He reminds me a lot of my cat back home named Monkey. Her mom disappeared about two weeks after she and her littermates were born, so I bottle-fed them and raised them by hand. The result was a bunch of very people-oriented cats, Monkey especially. Well, Simon doesn't really look like Monkey at all (she's grey all over with a white belly while he's white with black splotches), but they're both medium-haired and really soft.

And then today, a new boy showed up in town. I've named him Bruno. He's probably one of the ugliest dogs I've ever seen, but the neighborhood cats have obviously told him that we're suckers for stray animals, so he follows me around now. He's definitely got some terrier in him because of his small stature, but his face and teeth are like a bull dog's, just with white, fluffy hair. The others, while they like the cats, aren't too thrilled about the dog, but Bruno and I seem to have a connection. We'll see how long he hangs out in my life.

Christian Pick-up Line

This is taken from the book "Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman" written by Anne Ortlund and published in 1977. Firstly, let me tell you that the book itself was fun read, but my favorite line was what her now husband used when he proposed:

"Oh, magnify the Lord with me! Let us exalt His Name together!"


Let me warn you that if any guy seriously ever uses that on me, I'm gonna laugh in his face.

On similar lines, these are the books I've read lately and my basic impressions of them:

Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) - more interesting than I expected since her sister Charlotte's book (Jane Eyre) was a snoozer back in middle/high school when I was required to read it. Still, the ending seemed a little pat...but all in all, enjoyable, if more dark than I like.

Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (Anne Ortlund) - about what I expected...mostly fluff, but with the occasional nugget of truth (and all truth is God's truth). All the same, I still don't think that in order to be the most beautiful, Godly woman, that I can be that I need to keep a tidy desk.

Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) - my biggest impression is that I am inordinately thankful that I was not required to read this book in middle/high school. Granted, the writing itself is probably on that level, but there are far too may "adult" themes and situations, in my opinion, for a teen-aged mind. It's an interesting idea though and a quick read (I started and finished it yesterday, although I did stay up late to do so). My favorite character, by far, is definitely Algernon - the lab mouse. The rest aren't quite to the level of charicatures, but they verge on it.

I'm still working on Plato's "The Republic." It's not difficult reading in terms of words, etc., but all they do is talk and it's hard to keep up with the stream of consciousness sometimes, especially when their whole point is the search for the definition of justice and I think I already know what their conclusion will (or should) be.

Sorry I'm not keeping the sidebar up-to-date. Henry (my computer) is still not resurrected, so I only steal a few moments here and there on others' computers.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

It's Been a While

I just realized that it's been over a week since I've blogged anything. Sorry about that. The days run together here probably even moreso than they were in Baghdad before we came out here.

A lot has happened over the past week, but not too much that's really worth sharing. One thing of note is that I stopped by the Iraqi Universities and College Graduates Club Saturday a week ago with Rob as my protector. It's a good thing he came along since it was just a bunch of men, none of whom spoke any English. That would have been rather uncomfortable for me to be there by myself.

Anyway, as a result of stopping by there, I got hooked up with the wife (I think, possibly the sister) of two brothers who were there and she and I have been meeting just about daily ever since then. We're doing the same thing that Mahasin and I were doing in Iraq - going through this childrens' Bible and translating it from Classical Arabic to Colloquial Iraqi Arabic. We're focusing more on the reading aspect than Mahasin and I were, in that, Mahasin wanted me to memorize the stories while Reghid is just having me read them back to her. Another difference with Reghid is that she's "only" 20, and doesn't have a college education. She's intelligent and literate, but she didn't go to University, so I'm getting more of the "poor man's" colloquial rather than the "educated" colloquial that I've often suspected Mahasin of teaching me (since she teases when I use words I learned from my family at the school).

Reghid has a five-month-old baby boy who plays with us as we work, when he's not being taken care of by his uncles. Mostly we work at the Club, but once I went over to her house here in Amman. Her brother/husband (I'm leaning toward husband at this point) travels between Baghdad and Amman, looking for work. He spent 10-15 years in the Iraqi Army and has had enough of that life. The day I visited her house, his half-sister Besma was there too. Interestingly, they share the same mother and had different fathers - hers Christian, his Muslim. This is especially interesting considering that women, barring their husband's death or divorce, are only allowed one spouse, while men are allowed up to four (although there are cases of more). So, it's common for half-siblings to share a father with different mothers, but rare for them to share a mother with different fathers.

Anyway, at their explanation of their parentage and resultant religions, they asked what I was. I responded that I was Christian, but that I was studying all of the Holy Books - and pulled out the Chronological Qur'an that I'm working through now. Khalid asked which of the Holy Books (meaning the Towrat (the Law), the Zabour (the Psalms), the Injeel (the Gospels), and the Qur'an) Christians followed. I explained that the Jews followed the Towrat and the Zabour, and that Christians followed the Injeel, but that the Injeel said to study the books that come before it (which it does in using the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets as its basis). Then I said that the Qur'an says the same thing - to study the Scriptures that came before it (many times in the Qur'an are "believers" told to study all of the Holy Books and to ask the people "of the Book" (i.e., Jews and Christians) if they are confused about anything). He didn't disagree with that statement at all, but said "I don't know the T, Z, N." So I said, "Well, would you like to?"

The next day, we didn't manage to meet for language study, but I was able to drop off a Bible in Arabic for them and they were very grateful for it when I saw them yesterday.

What's really fun about all of this is that this family basically doesn't speak a lick of English, so all of these conversations have been completely in Arabic, although occasionally with the aid of a dictionary.

Speaking of them though, I'm late in getting ready to go meet them, so I should get going. I'll try to arrange some time later today or tomorrow with someone's computer and write some more about this past week then.

But in the meantime, be hoping with me that my chain of command will have open hearts and minds. More explanation on that later.

Friday, October 01, 2004

2001: A Space Oddessy

So among the books I found downstairs was the book "2001: A Space Oddessy." As I'd never read it before, I figured I'd give it a try. Actually, I've only even seen the movie once in my life. On New Year's Eve right before it became 2002, I figured I ought to see it, so I forced my friends Lee and Tim to watch it with me. I wasn't that impressed. But it's a "classic" for sci-fi, so I figured I should read it at some point.

The movie makes _SOOOOOOO_ much more sense now! And did you know that the movie and the book were written concurrently? I thought that was interesting.

Anyway, my critique of the book is that it's an easy read, the technical details are pretty good (although, obviously, the timetable was "a little" off - the author blames that on the cost of the Vietnam War), and the story's good. Overall, a really good read. I don't even remember any cursing or sex, so it's clean too. Of course, it has to do with extra-terrestrial life, which may or may not be a theological impossibility (C.S. Lewis imagined other races on other planets, but they had never "fallen" and were therefore not in need of reconcilliation with God...or, if they _did_ fall, they had their Aslan just like we have our Jesus, providing them with that reconcilliation - otherwise, did Jesus die to pay the price for their sins too? How does that jive with the idea that the need for Jesus' death came as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve? Other races on other planets (unless they are from Adam and Eve post-fall also) would not fall under that condemnation...), but that's why it's called sci-fi.

I actually read a very interesting short story recently about a couple who are sent out on a survey mission. They're the first people to go to extra-solar planets and search for life. Each place they go, they leave a portal making the trip for those to come after them much shorter...but each place they go, they find nothing but barren rock - not only did they not find any sentient life, they found _NO_ life - no bacteria, no plants, no animals...nothing. Eventually the wife dies, and even the cats which they brought with them and their descendants die, leaving the man alone, and too far away from Earth to return in his lifetime. He's left with the thought that maybe life doesn't exist anywhere else in the universe. That, naturally, leads him to believe that maybe we didn't arise by chance...or else that same chance would have occurred elsewhere. Just maybe we were put on the Earth by special design.

Interesting thought, huh?

Anyway, so now I'm looking forward to the eve of 2011 so that I can watch 2010 and then read that book too. :)

The Role of the Evangelist

The Gospel According to Mark begins with John the Baptist, also called John the Evangelist.

Actually, that's not true. The Gospel According to Mark starts off with: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The word "gospel" is said to mean "good news," so this could also say "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark seems to be saying here that what is to follow is simply the beginning of the message brought by Jesus (which means Savior) Christ (meaning the annointed one - the only ones who were annointed were kings and priests and until Jesus, no one other than Melchezidek had been allowed to be both - in fact it was because Saul attempted to do both that the kingdom was taken from him and given to David), who was also the Son of God.

The term "Son of God" is a major hang-up for many Muslims. They see it as abhorrent to think that God came to Earth, had sex with Mary, and Jesus was the result. You know what? I find that idea abhorrent too.

Anyway, next, Mark begins a scholarly discourse citing the prophets. Now remember Mark's audience - he was writing primarily to the Jews - people who knew the law and the prophets and had a great deal of respect and possibly fear for both. So to give his message authority and credibility, he begins by citing the prophets Malachi and Isaiah. The Malachi passage says, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You." The Isaiah passage says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'"

Both passages talk about preparing the way for the one who would come. This is the role of the evangelist. It's not to "win people to Christ" or to convert people in large numbers. The status of a man's soul is the responsibility of that man. Nothing that another person says or does can change another person's way of thinking. Only the Spirit of God can do that. Sometimes He uses us to help others along, but it is always Him, never us. We take responsibilty for (and later on pride in) something which does not belong to us.

Our job is to remove the obstacles in the way of the Holy Spirit. The role of the evangelist isn't to convert the masses, it's to get them to drop their fists.


Since I've been here, we've been talking a lot about our identities in Him. I've come to see that we often put ourselves into little "bins" and assume that we can never be anything different. Or maybe someone in our lives has told us that we are a certain thing and we believe that, even though it's not the identity that God gave us Himself.

For instance. The last quarter of first grade and the first quarter of second grade, my teachers gave me excellent grades, but they checked the box that said that I lacked self-control. I didn't know then, and still don't know now what I was doing that caused that marking...but since then, I've spent a great deal of energy in trying to stay in control of myself. For over 20 years, I have taken as my identity that of one who lacks self-control. What I've learned from some of my co-workers here is that I shouldn't look to other people to find out who and what I am - I should look to the One who created me with a purpose in mind.

So I've asked Him who I am in regards to this particular issue of self-control and I've come to see that He has made me to be precise. I like to say what I mean and mean what I say, and I like to hold others to the same standard. Denotation has always been more important than connotation. Being technically accurate in a musical piece has always been more important than instilling any emotion or dynamic to it. And while, as I grow older, I see the benefit to giving the grace that comes with connotation and with dynamic and emotion, I still feel very strongly about ensuring precision in discussions. When I get into a discussion, I often feel like there's something that I _need_ to say, but for various reasons, I usually try to keep it to myself. Part of it is a fear that I'll cry, which I do when moved by any strong emotion, but especially anger or frustration (common emotions in discussions). Part of it is a fear that I'll be the only one standing up for what I see to be is right. A lot of it is the fear that I'm completely wrong and will make a fool of myself. So I try to control my tongue...and by that I mean, I try not to say anything. But what usually ends up happening is that eventually I burst and say all that I'd bottled up inside of myself...but instead of saying it in a loving, tactful, and controlled manner, it spills out in anger or frustration. That spilling over only reinforces the idea that I need to better control my tongue and just not say anything....when in reality, I just need to trust that He's giving me these words to say, and I need to learn to say them in a loving and tactful manner.

What I thought of as a flaw, and what the Accuser has been having a field day with for most of my life, is really a strength that He has given me to be used for His purposes in truth telling.

I honestly don't know where the idea was introduced into my mind that I'm clumsy, but it's there. It has been for as long as I can remember. That's one of the main reasons that I gave up on my dream of being a ballerina at six years old (the other reason being that Maria Tallchief (a famous prima donna) had started at three and here I was at the advanced age of six so obviously I could never be great, and therefore, why even try?). It doesn't seeem to matter how often people tell me that I have great poise...I still think of myself as clumsy. I'm still asking God about that one.

How many times has some well-meaning person told you, "you're just not very good at that, are you?" And you've believed it about yourself? Maybe they said that you just weren't as smart as the other kids, or you just don't have any athletic talent, or that you're tone deaf, two left feet, black thumb, rotten cook, you're a screw up or a failure, you're too fat/thin, ugly, have a big nose, bad hair, sickly....I could go on for a long time...and you've been weighed down by that thing (or those things) for your whole life.

It's very liberating to just ask Him, "I've believed for a long time that I am this way and that there's nothing I can do about it. But who do _You_ say that I am? Who and/or what did _You_ make me to be?" And then just wait for the answer and _accept_ it when it comes (that's usually the hardest part).

And if you go away singing "Who am I? Can I condemn this man to slavery? Pretend I do not see his agony - this innocent who bears my face who goes to judgement in my place? Who am I? Can I conceal myself forevermore? Pretend I'm not the man I was before. My soul belongs to God, I know. I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone, He gave me strength to journey on....who am I? I'm Jean Valjean! And so Javert, you see it's true - that man bears no more guilt than you! Who am I? 2-4-6-0-1!!!" Well, then you've listened to or watched Les Mis too many times too. ;p