(Forgive me if I ramble a little bit; New Year’s Eve day is always something of a day of reflection for me. It’s not something I plan, it’s something I just find myself compelled to do; I do it whether I want to or not.)
I joke with my friends that the Lord kept sending me back to the Middle East until I learned that it was less my mission to share, than to learn. Once I shut up and watched and listened, I began learning, and what I learned contradicted many of my ignorant prejudices. In learning about my friends in the countries of the Middle East, I learned a lot about our Christian culture, and about myself.
When Westerners first get to the Middle East, the phrase ‘Insh’allah’ (God willing, or ‘if God wills it’) makes them want to tear their hair out. When your heat breaks down in the midst of a cold winter (and yes, there are very cold patches in many Middle Eastern countries) and the heat people tell you ‘Insh’allah’ they will be there ‘in the afternoon’ but won’t give you an exact time, it makes us want to slam the phone down. When you make plans to meet up with a friend for coffee, set a time, and then she says she will see us ‘insh’allah’, we don’t know whether she is going to show up or not.
It was only after many many years in the Middle East that we relaxed and accepted ‘insh’allah.’ Now, living back in the USA, we laugh, because life here is insh’allah, too, it’s just that people don’t know it. We’ve had several things done with our house, and whether or not the workers show up – it’s all insh’allah. When making plans with our family, a lot depends on when the baby is awake or sleeping, insh’allah. How much money our investments are worth? It’s all insh’allah. The same factor is there, it’s just cultural as to whether you acknowledge it or not.
Today’s New Testament reading from The Lectionary is all about insh’allah:
James 4:13-17, 5:7-11
13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ 14Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
7 Be patient, therefore, beloved,* until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.* 9Beloved,* do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved,* take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
And I think my New Year’s resolution is clear: Not to grumble against one another.
From today’s Bottom Line Daily Health News:
If you’ve relegated nuts to the “occasional snack” category, it’s time to get more creative. Substitute nuts for some or all of the meat in a stir-fry entrée… sprinkle sliced or chopped nuts over vegetables, rice, soup or cereal… add ground nuts to a smoothie or yogurt… dress salads with nut oils… spread nut butter on celery sticks or apple slices. Why am I pushing nuts? Because from all corners of the nutrition world, I am hearing from wellness professionals who are amazed by nuts’ health benefits. Recent research shows that eating a moderate amount of nuts on a regular basis may help…
Control weight. According to Richard D. Mattes, PhD, MPH, RD, a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University who has done extensive research on the topic, nut consumption increases your resting energy expenditure, which means that you burn more calories just sitting still than you otherwise would. Also, about 5% to 15% of the calories in nuts are excreted without being absorbed. And nuts’ unique combination of protein, fiber, fatty acids and other characteristics quells hunger quickly and for prolonged periods.
Prevent heart disease. Most of the fats in nuts are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides… increase HDL (good) cholesterol… and prevent abnormal heart rhythms. Nuts also contain vitamin E, which inhibits arterial plaque buildup… and L-arginine, an amino acid that makes arteries more flexible and less vulnerable to clots.
Fight inflammation. The soluble fiber in nuts appears to increase production of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-4. Antioxidant vitamin E also eases inflammation.
Reduce diabetes risk. A Harvard study found that women who ate five or more ounces of nuts weekly were almost 30% less likely to get type 2 diabetes than women who rarely or never ate nuts. Also: Spanish researchers found that nuts were even more effective than olive oil in combating metabolic syndrome, a condition that puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Combat cancer. Some nuts (including Brazil nuts and walnuts) are high in selenium, a mineral associated with a decreased risk for colorectal, skin and lung cancers. In animal studies, walnuts appeared to inhibit breast tumors — perhaps due to their disease-fighting omega-3s and antioxidants.
Support brain function. Evidence suggests that nuts’ omega-3s may ease depression and boost thinking and memory by improving neurotransmitter function. Nuts also provide folate — and low levels of this B-vitamin are linked to depression and poor cognition.
NUT TYPES TO TRY
Per ounce, nuts typically have 160 to 200 calories and 13 to 22 grams of fat. Eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day (a small handful) is enough to provide health-promoting benefits. Nuts naturally contain only a trace of sodium, so they won’t wreak havoc with blood pressure, especially if you choose brands with no added salt.
“All types of nuts are good for you, so there’s no such thing as a ’best’ type of nut,” Dr. Mattes emphasized. Still, each type does contain a different mix of nutrients — so for the widest range of benefits, eat a variety. Below are some excellent options and the nutrients that each is especially rich in. Consider…
Almonds for bone-building calcium… and inflammation-fighting vitamin E.
Brazil nuts for cancer-fighting selenium.
Cashews for magnesium, which is linked to prevention of heart attacks and hypertension.
Hazelnuts for potassium, which helps normalize blood pressure.
Peanuts for folate, which lowers levels of the artery-damaging amino acid homocysteine.
Pecans for beta-sitosterol, a plant compound that combats cholesterol.
Pistachios for gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that may reduce lung cancer risk.
Walnuts for the heart- and brain-enhancing omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
Richard D. Mattes, PhD, MPH, RD, professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He has published numerous studies on nuts and appetite.
I’m hard on myself. If I’m not, I don’t get anything done. The baby in me would read or quilt or do Sudoko and the house would go to . . . dust bunnies, at the very least.
So I get things done. I have my lists. The really good thing is that today, I had checked off most of my lists. I still have things to do, but I have a plan to do them. Today, I had several hours in a row to myself.
I knew just what to do with them. It’s a sunny day, great light. Everything has come together. I have a quilt I’ve been thinking about, complicated, even problematic, and while the thoughts germinated, somehow, I solved most of the problems. Today, when I had finished my list for today (that’s the ‘check check’ part, as in ‘checking it off’) I sat down and worked on my project. I can’t show you; it’s not finished. I have a deadline, but if I don’t finish it by the deadline, I don’t care that much. Today was one of those days when I just had fun with the process. I got a significant part done. The light is gone; I have time to think about where I would like to go with it next.
Aaaaaaahhhh. It’s a great day.
Our little grandson is old enough to start spending the night with us. First, AdventureMan had to install a gate, as the Baby room is at the top of stairs, and oh, he loves stairs. We can’t take a chance on him tackling the stairs without one of us present to ‘assist’ (i.e. supervise; make sure he is safe).
Back when I first got to Kuwait, I found these gorgeous turquoise panels at the Kuwait Thursday-Friday market for a song. They are a color I think of as Tuareg Blue; the men of the mountains in Algeria and parts of Morocco wear this gorgeous deep turquoise shade, and the dye rubs off and colors their skin, so some call them The Blue Men.
I’ve carted them around for six years now, waiting for the right use. I thought about parting with them when I left Qatar . . . but didn’t. I thought about parting with then here, as I went through a spree of paring down and packing things out to the Waterfront Mission . . . but I didn’t. All of a sudden, I knew how they were meant to be used, and what a wonderful blast of color they put in ‘Baby’s Room.’
I LOVE the patterns on the panels. Every one is different; I could not find any two panels the same. The vendor was Sudanese; I am tempted to think these might be Sudanese; I have never seen anything like them before or since in the fabric souks of Kuwait or Doha. They aren’t quite enough fabric to be saris, but they might be just enough for a sefsari, the cover worn by the women in Tunisia when we lived there – maybe 4.5 – 5 meters each, sold for less than $3.00 a panel.
We needed to get black-out curtains up, as the Happy Toddler takes after me, up with first light. It’s better for all of us if he can sleep a little later But these panels attatched easily to the under curtains, and now his room is all ready for him – now he sleeps in a big boy bed and the crib has converted to a settee.
After all the wonderful days of family and friends, and eating meals back and forth, I was ready for a quiet projects day. I feel so good getting this project DONE! Don’t you love the color of these panels?
We were all meeting up at the Happy Pig; the mood was meat, specifically BBQ meat, and as it is a family gathering, all tastes had to be considered. Happy Pig is centrally located, great food and, a big plus with the Happy Toddler, family oriented.
Happy Toddler is so much more verbal these days, which is a joy, and gives us many moments of hilarity, but also can be a pain. He believes that “please” means he will be given what he wants when he wants it. He believes that “all done” means he is free not to eat meals when the rest of us are eating. Ah well – he isn’t quite two and has time to learn all these distinctions. Meanwhile, we have to hide our laughter when he exerts his will so unselfconsciously.
What we loved are the Christmas lights:
We are having a particularly good Christmas this year; AdventureMan and I are on the same continent, in the same country, in the same time zone, in the same city, and thanks be to God, in the same house celebrating Christmas. We are so thankful. We are so thankful to be near our son and his wife, and our amazing and darling little Happy Toddler.
He loves the train gifts he got, but, again, this is where almost-two can be hilarious – he got a table and chairs he loves. What he loves is to move those chairs all over the house and to line them up in different ways, often as – a train, LOL. He is so serious, as he is creating, and so focused. You can almost catch a glimpse of him as the adult he will one day be.
This just makes me ill. A new scam. Pulling on the heartstrings at Christmas time. And I don’t even know anyone by that name. I hope no one falls for this one.
This had to come in a hurry and it has left me and my family in a devastating state.. I’m contacting you as I need your urgent financial assistance, my family and I made a trip to London,United Kingdom just for a short vacation tour but, it all ended ugly. our belongings such as credit card, cell phone, jewelery and cash all stolen from us, as we got mugged by some unknown gun men. My credit card, can’t be charged by the hotel as I already reported it as a stolen card,and the card company had canceled it, so i can only get a new one when we make it back home safely.
We’ve reported the incident to the embassy and the Police but to my dismay they seem not bothered…their response was just too casual.Our flight leaves in few hours but We’ve got to settle our bills before We’re allowed to leave..I was wondering if you could loan me Money I’ll refund it to you as soon as we arrive home just need to clear our Hotel bills and get the next plane home, As soon as we get home I’ll refund it immediately.
Let me know what you can do so I can tell you how to get the money to me.
In Damascus, in one of the most famous mosques, in the very center of the ancient city, is a special area of worship devoted to John the Baptist (in Arabic, Yahyah). As I was reading the readings for today in The Lectionary, I wondered, once again, why such reverence from our Islamic brothers and sisters?
I went looking, and found this in the SoundVision website, a religious website for English speaking Moslems:
John: A Prophet of Islam
Amongst the 25 Prophets mentioned by God in the Quran, one name is Prophet John (peace be upon him). In Arabic, his name is Yahya. He is also a Prophet who figures prominently in Christianity, where he is known as John the Baptist. His story in the Christian tradition is described in Bible Luke 1:5-22.
In Islam, belief in all of Allah’s Prophets is a fundamental article of faith. A person who denies belief in any of the Prophets, be it Jesus (peace be upon him) Moses (peace be upon him), or any of the others leaves the fold of Islam.
His miraculous birth
Prophet Jesus was not the only Prophet who was born miraculously. By miraculous, we mean outside of the normal process of human reproduction Allah has ordained which requires a man and a woman to conceive a child. In the case of Jesus, this meant being born of a mother but no father.
But Prophet Adam (peace be upon him)’s birth was even more miraculous in this sense since he was created with no mother or father. Similarly, Hawwa or Eve (may Allah be pleased with her) was created from a man, her husband, and no parents.
The birth of Prophet John is miraculous because he is the offspring of a barren mother and an elderly father. His father, it should be noted, was also a Prophet named Zecheriah.
“‘Zecheriah, We bring you the good news of the birth of a son whose name shall be John, one whose namesake We never created before.’ He said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a boy when my wife is barren and I have reached an extremely old age?’ He answered: ‘So shall it be.’ Your Lord says: ‘It is easy for Me’, and then added: ‘For beyond doubt, I created you earlier when you were nothing’ (Quran 19:7-9).
“Zecheriah exclaimed: ‘My Lord! How shall I have a son when old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?’ He said: ‘Thus shall it be; Allah does what He wills’”(Quran 3:40).
With the birth of John, Allah granted Zecheriah his desire for an heir.
“And We bestowed favor upon Zecheriah, when he cried to his Lord: ‘Lord! Leave me not solitary [without any issue]. You are the best Inheritor.’ So We accepted his prayer and bestowed upon him John, and We made his wife fit (to bear a child). Verily they hastened in doing good works and called upon Us with longing and fear, and humbled themselves to Us” (Quran 21:89-90).
The beautiful qualities of John
Allah did not just miraculously grant Zecheriah a son. He made this child a blessing for his parents and beautiful in character. Prophet John is described in the Quran as chaste and righteous.
“Then Zecheriah prayed to his Lord: ‘O Lord! Grant me from Yourself out of Your grace the gift of a goodly offspring, for indeed You alone heed all Prayers. As he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out to him: ‘Allah gives you good tidings of John, who shall confirm a command of Allah, shall be outstanding among men, utterly chaste, and a Prophet from among the righteous” (Quran 3:38-39).
“‘O John! Hold fast the Book with all your strength. We had bestowed wisdom upon him while he was still a child; and We also endowed him with tenderness and purity; and he was exceedingly pious and cherishing to his parents. Never was he insolent or rebellious. Peace be upon him, the day he was born, and the day he will die, and the day he will be raised up alive. (Quran 19: 12-15).
Part of a line of honored Prophets
Finally, as mentioned above, Prophet John is one of the Prophets Muslims must believe in. He is one of the 25 mentioned in the Quran.
“And We bestowed upon Abraham (offspring) Isaac and Jacob and each of them did We guide to the right way as We had earlier guided Noah to the right way; and (of his descendants We guided) David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward those who do good. (And of his descendants We guided) Zecheriah, John, Jesus and Elias: each one of them was of the righteous.” (Quran 6:84-85).
The following section is from Wikipedia:
John is also honored as a prophet in Islam as Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā (Arabic: يحيى بن زكريا), translated literally as “John, son of Zechariah”. He is believed by Muslims to have been a witness to the word of God, and a prophet who would herald the coming of Jesus. His father Zechariah was also an Islamic prophet. Islamic tradition maintains that John was one of the prophets that Muhammad met on the night of the Mi’raj, his ascension through the Seven Heavens. It is said that he met John and Jesus in the second heaven, where Muhammad greeted his two ‘brothers’ before ascending with archangel Gabriel to the third heaven. John’s story was also told to the Abyssinian king during the Muslim refugees’ Migration to Abyssinia. According to the Qur’an, John was one on whom God sent peace on the day that he was born and the day that he died.
John’s name in Arabic, Yahya, was present in Arabia before the Qur’an was revealed.Muslim exegetes frequently connected the name with the meaning of “to quicken” or “to make alive” in reference to John’s mother’s barrenness, which was cured by God, as well as John’s preaching, which, as Muslims believe, “made alive” the faith of Israel. The Qur’an accords the significance of John’s name to the fact that it was a new name for mankind, in that no one previously had been named “John”. Other scholars hold that John’s name, which they state connects with the meaning of “He shall live”, referred to his legacy, in that his memory will remain in the mind of the faithful for the generations to come.
John in the Qur’an
In the Qur’an, God frequently mentions Zechariah’s continuous praying for the birth of son. Zechariah’s wife, mentioned in the New Testament as Elizabeth, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible. As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of “John”, a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zechariah’s prayer, God made John and Jesus, who according to exegesis was born six months later, renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and lost by the Israelites. As the Qur’an says:
(His prayer was answered): “O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya: on none by that name have We conferred distinction before.”
He said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from old age?”
He said: “So (it will be) thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: I did indeed create thee before, when thou hadst been nothing!’”
(Zakariya) said: “O my Lord! give me a Sign.” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three nights.”
—Qur’an, sura 19 (Maryam), verse 7
John was exhorted to hold fast to the Scripture and was given wisdom by God while still a child. He was pure and devout, and walked well in the presence of God. He was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious. John’s reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time. Muslim exegesis narrates that Jesus sent John out with twelve disciples, who preached the message before Jesus called his own disciples. The Qur’an says of John:
(To Zachariah’s son came the command): “O John! take hold of the Book with might”: and We gave him Wisdom even as a youth,
—Qur’an, sura 19 (Maryam), ayah 12
John was a classical prophet, who was exalted high by God, for his bold denouncing of all things sinful. Furthermore, the Qur’an speaks of John’s gentle pity and love for all creatures and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the Purity of Life:
And piety (for all creatures) as from Us, and purity: He was devout,
And kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious.
So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!
—Qur’an, sura 19 (Maryam), ayah 13-15
John is also honored highly in Sufism as well as Islamic mysticism, primarily because of the Qur’an’s description of John’s chastity and kindness. Sufis have frequently applied commentaries on John’s passages on the Qur’an, primarily concerning God-given gift of “Wisdom” which he acquired in youth as well as his parallels with Jesus. Although several phrases used to describe John and Jesus are virtually identical in the Qur’an, the manner in which they are expressed is different.
“This is what happens when you live in a state where every other person is carrying a handgun,” AdventureMan grumbled as we left the Apple Market.
We had been to see the new Sherlock Holmes Movie, Game of Shadows, (really action packed, by the way, and entertaining) when we remembered we needed milk. The Publix parking lot, shared with Toys R Us, is totally gridlocked on this Wednesday night before Christmas, and we figure the Winn Dixie, shared with Target, Michaels, etc. will be another gridlock. Although the Apple is out of the way, we always love to stop at the Apple Market.
As we are heading into a light, we hear sirens. We pull over (it’s the LAW) and two police cars go wailing past.
“I hope it’s not the Apple Market,” I say.
The fog is thick as pea soup, and we drive a lot more slowly than usual. As we near the Apple market, we can see lots of lights – but they are at the CVS next door, four squad cars with their lights twinkling blue.
“Think it’s OK to go into the Apple Market?” I ask AdventureMan.
“Yeh – I see customers going in and out; I think it must be OK.”
We go in, make our purchases. As we are checking out, we overhear one customer telling another that “someone saw a guy breaking into a car and started yelling at him to stop. He got into his car and tried to run down the other guy but the guy SHOT at him!”
At this point, I don’t know who shot at whom. I don’t know if the situation was under control. There was a part of me that wished we weren’t at the Apple Market, because if there are people shooting guns (and did I mention it is really foggy?) some innocent bystander-customer could get hurt . . .