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Alcuin: Faith is an Act of Free Will

Today, from Forward Day by Day, we remember Alcuin, advisor to King Charlemagne, who, among other things, told King Charlemagne not to kill people who did not believe as he did.

 

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Today the church remembers Alcuin, Deacon, and Abbot of Tours, 804.

A breath of fresh air swept across Western Europe in what we call the Age of Charlemagne. There was relative peace, security, and prosperity. Learning and the arts revived. The leading spirit of this renaissance was Alcuin of York, the foremost teacher of his day. He revived “letters.” Indeed, he is credited with the invention of the running script we use today. He was a competent theologian, poet, and author. He was a pioneer in conceiving the idea of a university.

After serving for some years as Master of the Cathedral School in York, England, he traveled to Italy to study. There he met Charlemagne and they became fast friends. Alcuin served as royal tutor and as the great king’s chief advisor in religious and educational matters. In 796 he became abbot of the monastery at Tours, France, and there he founded a famous library and school. From there he exercised great influence in correcting misunderstandings of the Christian faith and in discouraging practices which seemed inconsistent with this faith, both in morals and in forms of worship.
We beseech you to shed upon your whole church the bright beams of your light and peace, and help us to follow the good example of your servant Alcuin. Amen.

Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wikipedia tells us that as early as 797, Alcuin told King Charlemagne not to kill people who did not believe as he did:

In this role as adviser, he tackled the emperor over his policy of forcing pagans to be baptised on pain of death, arguing, “Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act. We must appeal to the conscience, not compel it by violence. You can force people to be baptised, but you cannot force them to believe.” His arguments seem to have prevailed – Charlemagne abolished the death penalty for paganism in 797.[9]

May 20, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Political Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | | Leave a comment

“Private and Discreet”

I heard a program on NPR this weekend telling that the Nigerian scams are based on these letters appealing to the most gullible, and eliminating the skeptics. Evidently, it is a very effective technique.

Dear friend,

Your immediate reply needed please.

My name is dr.ousman diallo from the Republic of guinea conakry.

I am presently in morocco, I have a confidential transaction worth of 25 Million U.S Dollars to discuss with you. Kindly let me know if you are interested so that i can email you some more details about what i really need you to do for me and for us to organise, how and where to meet for a better discussion.

We would need to adopt one attitude “discreet” for something that is of a private and secret life.
Please send your reply only through my private email address at:

( drdiallousman@yahoo.com )

Thanks.
I await your prompt response please.

Regards,
dr.ousman diallo.
E-mail,(drdillousman@yahoo.com)
Tel: +212629618977.

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Financial Issues, Nigeria, Scams | Leave a comment

Pregnant Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death for ‘Apostasy’

She is also charged with adultery, for marrying a Christian man and (gasp) having sex with him. Now pregnant with her second child, Mariam claims she has never been a Muslim, was raised Christian, but the judge is applying new and strict Sharia laws.

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As you might guess, I do not usually use Fox News as a news source, but this is an update on a story I am following:

International outrage grows for Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy

Published May 16, 2014FoxNews.com

Meriam Ibrahim and Daniel Wani married in a formal church ceremony in 2011. The couple has an 18-month-old son, Martin, who is with Meriam in jail.
International outrage is mounting over the death sentence a Sudanese judge ordered for the pregnant wife of an American citizen — all because she refuses to renounce her Christian faith.

Meriam Ibrahim, 26, was sentenced Thursday after being convicted of apostasy. The court in Khartoum ruled that Ibrahim must give birth and nurse her baby before being executed, but must receive 100 lashes immediately after having her baby for adultery — for having relations with her Christian husband. Ibrahim, a physician and the daughter of a Christian mother and a Muslim father who abandoned the family as a child, could have spared herself death by hanging simply by renouncing her faith.

“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam,” Judge Abbas Khalifa told Ibrahim, according to AFP. “I sentence you to be hanged to death.”

But Ibrahim held firm to her beliefs.

“I was never a Muslim,” she answered. “I was raised a Christian from the start.”

Ibrahim was raised in the Christian faith by her mother, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia. She is married to Daniel Wani, a Christian from southern Sudan who has U.S. citizenship, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I was never a Muslim. I was raised a Christian from the start.”
– Meriam Ibrahim
The cruel sentence drew condemnation from Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department and U.S. lawmakers.

“The refusal of the government of Sudan to allow religious freedom was one of the reasons for Sudan’s long civil war,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy in Africa, said in a statement. “The U.S. and the rest of the international community must demand Sudan reverse this sentence immediately.”

Amnesty International called the sentence a “flagrant breach” of international human rights law and the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the ruling, which will be appealed.

Khalifa refused to hear key testimony and ignored Sudan’s constitutional provisions on freedom of worship and equality among citizens, according to Ibrahim’s attorney Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed.

“The judge has exceeded his mandate when he ruled that Meriam’s marriage was void because her husband was out of her faith,” Mohammed told The Associated Press. “He was thinking more of Islamic Shariah laws than of the country’s laws and its constitution.”

Ibrahim and Wani married in a formal ceremony in 2011 and have an 18-month-old son, Martin, who is with her in jail. The couple operate several businesses, including a farm, south of Khartoum, the country’s capital. Wani fled to the United States as a child to escape the civil war in southern Sudan, but later returned. He is not permitted to have custody of the little boy, because the boy is considered Muslim and cannot be raised by a Christian man.

Sudan’s penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims into other religions, which is punishable by death. Muslim women in Sudan are further prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, although Muslim men are permitted to marry outside their faith. Children, by law, must follow their father’s religion.

Islamic Shariah laws were introduced in Sudan in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, whose decision led to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. An earlier round of civil war lasted 17 years, ending in 1972. In 2011, the south seceded to become the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an Islamist who seized power during a 1989 military coup, said his county will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone. A number of Sudanese have been convicted of apostasy in recent years, but they have all escaped execution by recanting their faith. Religious thinker and politican Mahmoud Mohammed Taha — a vocal critic of Nimeiri — was sentenced to death after his conviction of apostasy and was executed at the age of 76 in 1985.

Ibrahim’s case first came to the attention of authorities in August, when members of her father’s family complained that she was born a Muslim but married a Christian man. They claimed her birth name was “Afdal” before she changed it to Meriam. The document produced by relatives to indicate she was given a Muslim name at birth was a fake, Mohammed said.

Ibrahim refused to answer the judge when he referred to her as “Afdal” during Thursday’s hearing.

Ibrahim was initially charged with having illegitimate sex last year, but she remained free pending trial. She was later charged with apostasy and jailed in February after she declared in court that Christianity was the only religion she knew.

The US-based Center for Inquiry is demanding that all charges against Ibrahim be dropped, saying the death sentence is a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which forbids persecution or coercion of religious beliefs and the right to marry.

“Religious belief must never be coerced and free expression must never be punished, through threat of imprisonment, violence, or any other means,” the group wrote in a letter to Sudan’s UN ambassador, H.E. Hassan Hamid Hassan. “This cannot go unanswered, and the world will not stand for it.”

Fox News’ Joshua Rhett Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, South Sudan, Sudan, Values, Women's Issues | | 4 Comments

On A Day Like This . . .

I can move mountains! Today it dawned cool! I walked in the garden with my coffee, I turned off the A/C and opened all the doors and windows to get all the stuffiness out AND I re-organized our pantry.

Sounds easy? LOL. It is easy when you move every couple years, or every six months. You get rid of a lot of stuff. Once you settle, you really have to watch out, STUFF begins to accumulate. Like for some reason, I ran out of mustard once, and then every time I was grocery shopping for a while I would buy another mustard so I would be sure not to run out, and now I have like 11 mustards, no two the same, German mustards, Chinese mustards, French mustards, no, no, I won’t be running out any time soon.

AdventureMan had made a list for me at the commissary yesterday, including Penne for a Pasta Putanesca he was making to celebrate my return, he’s not so hot on anchovies, but he did a bang-up job on one of my all-time favorite pastas ever. As I cleaned out today, I found two more boxes of penne.

We changed over to a tankless water system last week, it just seems like a good idea. When we bought the house, one thing made me nervous, the hot water tank was in the pantry, right in the middle of the house. Hot water heaters fail, they all do, eventually, and when it goes, it can leak all over everywhere. The first time it happened to me, we were out of town and it took a week to get all the carpeting and walls dried out. So I traded worrying about a leaking hot water tank for worrying about a gas explosion, aarrgh. Actually, it’s pretty safe. We used tankless systems all the years we lived in Germany, and I really liked them. It feels right, just heating the water when you use it, not holding it – and heating it – when you are not.

So now the big water tank is gone, and I brought in new shelving, and put that together, it was almost idiot-proof, almost . . .

That took most of the day, putting the new shelving in, clearing the shelves, sorting out the items, labeling the shelves so AdventureMan can find what he needs, although to me, it all SEEMS very logical, signs saying “Condiments” “Oriental Condiments” “Back-up Baking Supplies” “Tomato things” “Soups” and “Canned Sea Food”, etc. I did not label the pasta and rice; they just seemed so obvious.

All this with doors and windows open and the most heavenly breeze blowing through; give me the right climate and I can move a mountain! I got the laundry all done as I was re-organizing the pantry, I even cleaned out one of the spice drawers (getting rid of spices kept from Kuwait and Qatar because I couldn’t bear to part with them, but four years . . .) it’s time, and they aren’t really good any more.

AdventureMan brought our adorable four year old grandson over to play, and we got to chat a little. There is nothing like a four year old snuggle, and conversations with him are always so interesting and so direct, it’s so refreshing 🙂

And at the end of the day, there is even time to sit outside in the bright, cool, breezy sunlight sipping a glass of tea and watching all the birds come in for one last bite before bed time.

A heavenly day.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Home Improvements, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Umm Al Tawaman

My sweet niece, Little Diamond (Professor Little Diamond 🙂 ) has given birth to two of the most perfectly beautiful little babies, ever. These are the quilts I made for them, and lastly is one of the sweet babies on his quilt. Congratulations, Umm Al Tawaman, God is good and full of mercy and compassion.

00Finn This one is called Interconnected.

00Annie This one is called Desert Rose.

Finn&BabyQuilt
Isn’t that a beautiful little baby? 🙂

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Mating Behavior, Parenting | 2 Comments

If You Have Eyes To See

Today is a blessing, clear and simple, today the winds are from the north, blowing away all the heat and humidity and the dismal rains of yesterday. Today I got my first cup of coffee, fed the Qatari Cat and went outside for a walk in the garden.

We have a miracle or two out there. I had two avocado trees, trees I had grown from pits of avocados we have eaten, trees taller than I am. In the lengthy cold spell we had, they lost all their leaves. We kept waiting to see if the leaves would come back, but none did. We trimmed them back; sometimes trimming can help. No leaves. We kept talking about maybe its time to use the pots for the next generation of avocado trees but did nothing. Then, one morning, AdventureMan came running in saying “You have to come look!” From the base of each trunk, each tree has new avocado trees coming up. Woooo HOOOOOOO, God is good!

Our roses all made it and all the roses in the yard are in full flower, thanks to the deluge(s) we have received. The guara is coming back – even spreading, which is good, I love guara. Given the harshness of the winter and the 29″ of rain we received in one night, we are so blessed to have come out of it so well.

Best of all, just being able to walk out into 58°F with a little shiver, walk freely, no mosquitos, turn off the A/C for a few hours and open doors and windows to get all the stuffiness out – sheer heaven.

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Faith, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | | Leave a comment

Return to Islam, or You’re Dead, Sudanese Woman Told

From the Kuwait Times:

Sudanese woman may face death for choosing Christianity over Islam

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese court gave a 27- year-old woman until today to abandon her newly adopted Christian faith and return to Islam or face a death sentence, judicial sources said on Monday. Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was charged with apostasy as well as adultery for marrying a Christian man, something prohibited for Muslim women to do and which makes the marriage void. The final ruling will be announced today.

Ibrahim’s case was the first of its kind to be heard in Sudan. Young Sudanese university students have mounted a series of protests near Khartoum University in recent weeks asking for an end to human rights abuses, more freedoms and better social and economic conditions.

The authorities decided on Sunday to close the university indefinitely. Western embassies and Sudanese activists sharply condemned the accusations and called on the Sudanese Islamist-led government to respect freedom of faith. “The details of this case expose the regime’s blatant interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens,” Sudan Change Now Movement, a youth group, said in a statement.

President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir’s government is facing a huge economic and political challenge after the 2011 secession of South Sudan, which was Sudan’s main source of oil. A decision by Bashir last year to cut subsidies and impose austerity measures prompted violent protests in which dozens were killed and hundreds were injured. — Reuters

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Community, Faith, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Political Issues, Sudan, Values, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Leaving Civil Seattle

Seattle_Skyline_Referral_Postcard

No, I didn’t take that photo, but it was exactly that kind of day. It was beautiful when I got to Seattle, it rained buckets one of the days I took my Mom shopping; she was such a good sport as we raced across the parking lot to the restaurant, both getting soaked, and then it was beautiful again for Mother’s Day and departure day.

Had juicy, laughing, crying visits with two very long time friends, feasted my eyes on all the rhododendrons growing so luxuriously, dancing with their intense colors in the Seattle gardens, watched the ferries coming in and out of little Edmonds. It was heaven.

Chihuly This is really a Chihuly rhododendron 🙂

On the way to the airport KUOW, the local National Public Radio station, mentioned, very politely, that there was a huge accident on I-5 going South, blocking all lanes of the freeway, and would I please consider taking an alternate route south, and gave a couple of suggestions.

So so Seattle. So civil.

Rarely do I hear a car beep in Seattle. People actually do the “after you” gesture – all the time. It takes some getting used to. 🙂

As soon as I got there, I opened the window where I was staying and just breathed the fresh sweet air. It always smells like fresh mown grass when I drive into Edmonds, and then the salt air. It is cool and refreshing. When the birds settle in for the night, there are the sounds of a thousand bird voices, loudest of all the seagulls, squawking at one another while the others are all doing sorter nestling sorts of sounds.

There are trains that go through in the middle of the night, but you learn to just wake up a little and say “oh, the train” and you go right back to sleep.

I took highway 99, which at one time was the major north south road, and while it was a little crowded, due to cars like me taking the alternate routes, it was peaceful and steady, with no delays. I haven’t taken the route for a long time, and got to see an old truck-stop my youngest sister mentioned, and I got to see all the things that are no longer there – the teepee pancake house, the elephant car wash sign. Things change. Taking 99 South took me a little longer than normal, but sometimes it can take a long time on the interstate, too, even without a major accident. Seattle, like Kuwait, has outgrown its infrastructure.

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It seems to be the story around the United States. Who is paying attention to the decaying bridges, the once smooth and now potholed highways? Who is checking the buildings in the abandoned city centers and malls?

When I turned in my rental car, the little girl checking me in was in hijab and looked Sudanese. She asked me where I was from, and I told her, and I asked where she was from and she told me Cleveland. LOL.

The Seattle Airport is a gem, full of art works, you just have to take the time to look. Off in corners, they also have free wi-fi, free power plugs, Chinese take away and quiet areas where people can read or use the internet. For some reason, I am TSA PreCheck. Someone said it is age related, but AdventureMan looked it up online and there doesn’t seem to be a connection. I love the shorter line, and not taking off my shoes.

I have plane karma. Just before the plane was loaded and ready to go, the two inside passengers for my row arrived – a basketball player and his also-tall Mom. Behind us arrived a Mom and her two babies – in two seats. The doors closed. There were only three empty seats in the plane, and they were across from me. The basketball player jumped into the window seat and the woman sitting in the aisle seat behind me jumped into the aisle seat across from me, and the Mom and her babies had all three seats to themselves, while the rest of us had room for knees and elbows and room to breathe . . . it makes all the difference.

I like Pensacola, and I like our life here. I am already missing the beauty and coolness of Pensacola winter, dreaming of the beauty and coolness of Seattle summer, LOL.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Road Trips, Safety, Seattle, Travel | | 4 Comments

Pensacola Tough @ Grafitti Bridge

00GrafittiBridge

 

On my way home from a great Algerian pastry treat at SoGourmet, I passed Grafitti Bridge. Grafitti Bridge is one of Pensacola’s quirks. Every month – sometimes every week, even sometimes daily – the bridge is repainted. Sometimes it is that BubbleGum pink of Breast Cancer Awareness, with names of the fallen and names of survivors, sometimes it is Gay Pride, sometimes it is who loves who, or who is a first class jerk, sometimes it is Class of TwoThousandWhatever – it can be whatever someone feels passionate enough about to buy the paint and make it happen. No one gets too bent out of shape about it. Occasionally profanity will show up, but very shortly someone else will spray paint out the offensive word, or, which I love, alter it to have an entirely new meaning.

 

As I drove past today, I saw a lightning storm, well done, I couldn’t imagine how they had captured what it was like seeing so many strikes at once, and then I saw “Pensacola Tough.” By that time, I was through the bridge, so I had to circle and go back. I had to park, and take a closer look. And then I had to photograph it, and post it here.

00PensacolaTough

Pensacola Tough. Pensacola got an award as the Toughest City in the USA, based on a criteria that measured percentage of felons in the population (it’s OK, it keeps us humble), sports heros, the number of military personnel, violent crime statistics, etc. It isn’t an award cities run for.

And yet, as the raging water abates, tales of heroism and helpfulness abound. While there have been bands of looters at an apartment complex housing the low-income workers in Pensacola, there have also been bands of volunteers scouring the county, helping clean out houses, pull out sodden carpeting, moving soaked furniture to the curbs for pickup, pulling out drywall and ceilings to prevent black mold. In today’s Pensacola News Journal, there is a story of a man who worked just above where the Escambia County Jail exploded and fell through the floor, breaking legs, ribs and assorted bones. He was paralyzed. His co-worker, also hurt, saw him with his head under water and pulled his head out, and held his head out for over an hour while waiting for help to arrive. She got tired, but the alternative was letting him die. She didn’t let go.

Pensacola Tough.

 

“When Things Get Rough . . . We’re Pensacola Tough.

You gotta love this place

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Values, Weather | Leave a comment

“Water is Life: SAVE it!”

Today’s meditation from Forward Day by Day deals with precious water. I think about how innocent we were, all of us in Pensacola, going about our daily lives as if every tomorrow would be so lovely, buying and planting new plants in our gardens, sweeping, cleaning, painting, all the things we do in Spring. And then – the deluge. And after the deluge, the “Boil water” warning (now lifted) because the water sources had been contaminated.

We have two cases of water set aside in case of hurricane. Two cases . . . really isn’t very much. We also have large containers which we fill – for hurricanes – so we can flush toilets (assuming the water mains have not broken) and keep a little clean. Those containers have not yet been filled for the upcoming season . . .  Too much water – and then, too little.

After hearing the haunting strains of Nkosi Sekelel iAfrica just last weekend, I hear it again as I read the meditation:

 

SATURDAY, May 3

Exodus 17:1. But there was no water for the people to drink.

“Water is life—SAVE it!”

It was just a small sign on the wall next to the lavatory in a bed and breakfast, but it made a big impact. The word “SAVE” was written boldly in red block letters. Each time I approached the lavatory, my eye was drawn toward that sign. Each time, before I turned on the water, I asked myself, “Is this really necessary?”

South Africa is a water-challenged nation, and it shows. From small signs in bathrooms to national conservation campaigns to the removal of nonindigenous plants that use too much water, the country is trying to meet the challenge.

 

The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights guarantees access to clean water for every citizen. After apartheid, the government extended water lines to all townships so residents without running water could at least get clean water from communal taps.

Our faith calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation. That includes the water we drink. Help us, Lord, to live out our faith by conserving, protecting, and sharing this life-giving resource that you have given us. Because water is life. Amen.

 

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, Faith, Florida, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Values, Weather | | Leave a comment