Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Trump NOT the Real Face of America

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First, God bless America, where every and any citizen is free to criticize our President. Second, this man is not the “real face of America.” He became president by a statistical sleight-of-hand, winning the electoral college, but losing the popular vote by THREE MILLION votes.

 

Many people who voted for him have voters remorse – the Americans happy with his performance is 36%.

(CNN)President Donald Trump enters office facing low job approval ratings and skepticism from voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The survey found that 36% of American voters approve of Trump’s handling of his job after his first week, while 44% say they disapprove. By comparison, former President Barack Obama received a 59%-25% approval rating in the first Quinnipiac poll taken after his inauguration in 2009.
Mr. Trump, as is his habit, calls all news which is not flattering “fake news.” His staff makes things up all the time, and seem unembarrassed when caught – no wonder they see the world a making things up. When it’s what you do, that’s what you think others are doing.
There is a majority of good hearted Americans who do not see “radical Islamic terrorism” in the face of every refugee. There are Americans demonstrating for people they don’t even know, for their right to immigrate to this great nation of immigrants. There are Americans sending money to the American Civil Liberties Union, to fight the battles through the judicial system, to Planned Parenthood, to make sure our abortion rate continues to fall because unwanted children are neither conceived nor born, the International Rescue Committee, to help settle the refugee families and keep our borders open to the flows which have given us the strength of diversity.
No, Mr. Trump is not the face of America, not the America I grew up in. He has to move fast, because he knows he doesn’t have long before the next election, when his mis-deeds come home to roost.
I believe he is a smart man, in the way con-men are often smart – clever. He doesn’t do his homework, he doesn’t understand the complexities of domestic nor international politics, he offends everywhere he goes with his bad manners and bluster. He has some very outdated ideas about women. He is fascinated with celebrity. Perhaps, if there were any indication he was taking this job seriously, he would be effective, but he is lazy, and arrogant, and thinks the laws don’t apply to him because he is in some way special. Like the bully on the playground, he is fragile, insecure and vulnerable to flattery, and will go crying home when the people call “The Emperor Has No Clothes!”
No, Ayatollah Khamenei, this man Trump does not show the real face of America.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Iran, Leadership, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

The outcome of the recent election has not been a positive thing for everyone. Fuzzy headed liberal thinkers like me have some hard work to do in the next four years, feeding the hungry, making sure the homeless have a warm place on a cold night, protecting our drinking water, our drugs, protecting the air we breathe (what? you didn’t think all that regulation was for you?) and protecting against the removal of financial protections against those shenanigans by banks and financial institutions which  brought us the great recession that peaked during the last year of the second Bush administration.

We will be the guard-dogs against gerrymandering, and against the stripping of human rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, protection against child abuse, spousal abuse and animal abuse. We will insist that the laws are enforced, equally, and do our best to protect against bad legislation.

Meanwhile, this wonderful article appeared in the HuffPost, well worth a read. Successful people have some really healthy habits and attitudes.

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

(Dr. Travis Bradberry 

Author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence

Achievement rarely produces the sense of lasting happiness that you think it will. Once you finally accomplish the goal you’ve been chasing, two new goals tend to pop up unexpectedly.

We long for new achievements because we quickly habituate to what we’ve already accomplished. This habituation to success is as inevitable as it is frustrating, and it’s more powerful than you realize.

The key to beating habituation is to pursue, what researchers call, enduring accomplishments. Unlike run-of-the-mill accomplishments that produce fleeting happiness, the pleasure from enduring accomplishments lasts long after that initial buzz. Enduring accomplishments are so critical that they separate those who are successful and happy from those who are always left wanting more.

Researchers from the Harvard Business School studied this phenomenon by interviewing and assessing professionals who had attained great success. The aim was to break down what these exceptional professionals did differently to achieve both long-lasting and fulfilling success.

The researchers found that people who were both successful and happy over the long term intentionally structured their activities around four major needs:

Happiness: They pursued activities that produced pleasure and satisfaction.

Achievement: They pursued activities that got tangible results.

Significance:
 They pursued activities that made a positive impact on the people who matter most.

Legacy: They pursued activities through which they could pass their values and knowledge on to others.

Lasting fulfillment comes when you pursue activities that address all four of these needs. When any one of them is missing, you get a nagging sense that you should be doing more (or something different).

The behaviors that follow are the hallmarks of people who are successful and happy because they address these four needs. Try them out and see what they do for you.

1. They are passionate.
 Jane Goodall left her home in England and moved to Tanzania at age 26 to begin studying chimpanzees. It became her life’s work, and Goodall has devoted herself fully to her cause while inspiring many others to do the same. Successful, happy people don’t just have interests; they have passions, and they devote themselves completely to them.

2. They swim against the current. There’s a reason that successful and happy people tend to be a little, well, different. To be truly successful and happy, you have to follow your passions and values no matter the costs. Just think what the world would have missed out on if Bill Gates or Richard Branson had played it safe and stayed in school or if Stephen King hadn’t spent every free second he had as teacher writing novels. To swim against the current, you have to be willing to take risks.


“To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.”
– Carl Jung

3. They finish what they start. Coming up with a great idea means absolutely nothing if you don’t execute that idea. The most successful and happy people bring their ideas to fruition, deriving just as much satisfaction from working through the complications and daily grind as they do from coming up with the initial idea. They know that a vision remains a meaningless thought until it is acted upon. Only then does it begin to grow.

4. They are resilient. To be successful and happy in the long term, you have to learn to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, all without flinching. In a recent study at the College of William and Mary, researchers interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs and found that the most successful among them tended to have two critical things in common: they were terrible at imagining failure, and they tended not to care what other people thought of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures as they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.

5. They make their health a priority. There are an absurd number of links between your health, happiness, and success. I’ve beaten them to death over the years, but the absolute essential health habits that successful and happy people practice consistently are good sleep hygiene (fights stress, improves focus, and is great for your mood), eating healthy food (helps you to focus), and exercise (great for energy levels and confidence).

6. They don’t dwell on problems. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. By fixating on your problems, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinder performance. However, by focusing on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you can create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Successful, happy people don’t dwell on problems because they know that they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They celebrate other people’s successes.
 Insecure people constantly doubt their relevance, and because of this, they try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Confident people, on the other hand, aren’t worried about their relevance because they draw their self-worth from within. Instead of insecurely focusing inward, confident people focus outward, which allows them to see all the wonderful things that other people bring to the table. Praising people for their contributions is a natural result of this.

8. They live outside the box.
 Successful and happy people haven’t arrived at where they are by thinking in the same way as everyone else. While others stay in their comfort-zone prisons and invest all their energy in reinforcing their existing beliefs, successful people are out challenging the status quo and exposing themselves to new ideas.

9. They keep an open mind. Exposing yourself to a variety of people is useless if you spend that time disagreeing with them and comforting yourself with your own opinions. Successful, happy people recognize that every perspective provides an opportunity for growth. You need to practice empathy by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes so that you can understand how their perspective makes sense (at least, to them). A great way to keep an open mind is to try to glean at least one interesting or useful thing from every conversation you have.

10. They don’t let anyone limit their joy.
 When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When successful, happy people feel good about something that they’ve done, they don’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Bringing It All Together

People who are successful and happy focus on activities that address a variety of needs, not just immediate achievements.

What other habits can make you happy and successful in the long term? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

January 17, 2017 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Viking Sea Disembarcation

Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.

We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.

We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.

As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.

We depart as the sun rises:

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Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:

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You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.

There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.

I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.

There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.

This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.

This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.

Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boys, It’s a Great Day for the Confederacy”

This is an interlude post, not a trip post. This is a social issues post, and a very personal post. Just skip over this; like I’ve said, it’s personal.

This is what we say we believe. This is what believers believe:

Matthew 25:35-40New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This is what we believe. We are told that belief/faith is nothing without actions.

We are horrified. We are stunned, of course, by another election where a candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. We are stunned by the divisions in our country. We are stunned at all the hatefulness coming out of hiding, people proudly exposing racist and sexist beliefs in superiority and joy. Good Christian people so full of hate for the Other.

What shocks me is not only that the most vicious and vulgar candidate won, but also that the winners are so jubilant and so nasty.

AdventureMan had just listened to a National Public Radio article about Francis Ford Coppola and his famous movie “The Godfather;” he was in the mood for Italian food. We headed to our favorite place, and were seated before we realized we were sitting next to a table of true Southern Good Old Boys, and they didn’t care who heard what they had to say. We hadn’t been there long, when another entered and came to their table to be welcomed with “Boy, this is a great day for the Confederacy!” They found the safety pin movement hilarious. They had a lot to say about liberal thinking, about race, and about women. They talked about the spread of red on the map, the pockets of blue and the heavy blue of the cities and coastlines, implying it was racial.

What we should have done is ask to have our table changed. As it was, we listened to opinions that made us feel tarnished and dirty. We had the rest of our lunch packed up and got out as soon as we could.

I had my own moment of joy yesterday as I learned that Planned Parenthood is getting record-setting donations, and that many people are donating in the name of Mike Pence, notorious for his anti-women positions on reproductive rights. For each donation, he gets a thank-you note. That just tickles my heart.

Those of us who stand with The Other, we have our work cut out for us. Who will protect the food we eat? Who will insure we don’t have another housing meltdown, thanks to unregulated banks and loan associations? Who will protect the health of the poor? Who will measure pollution in our rivers and seas, and regulate emissions from factories and sewage plants? Who will protect us from chemicals in the air, and make sure our railways are safe?

Who will work to bring female salaries into full parity with men? Who will enforce laws in a way that every United States citizen is equal before the law, and that they are not differentiated by skin color or religion? Who will protect us from greedy pharmaceutical companies marketing their drugs to people who don’t need them, or using harmful components?

Who will give the poor and middle class the opportunities they need to climb the economic ladder?

Those of us who can, are identifying the NGO’s that are holding the line against corruption and the exploitation of the weakest members of our society, and budgeting so we can continue to fight the good fight. When you have a government of thugs, that is no easy task.

The saddest prayer of all “Lord, who is my neighbor?”

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Peaceful Transfer of Power: It’s What We Do

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President Obama acted with his customary graciousness, quick to invite the new President-Elect to the White House to discuss the transition. Once the election is over, we do the right thing. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are, or the words spoken in the heat of the election, the vote has been taken, and the winner becomes President. We pride ourselves in an orderly transition.

It is not, however, a mandate, no matter how many times the Republicans say it. In most states where Trump won, it was by one tenth of one percent – or less. He lost the popular vote; Hillary Clinton won that by about 200,000 votes. So while more people voted for Hillary overall (this has happened before, with the George Bush v Al Gore election), Trump won the electoral college. No one expected this, not even Trump supporters. A mandate requires a substantial victory. This was a squeaky victory.

But a victory. On. On. Those of us who did not support Trump have a lot of work to do in the following months, shoring up agencies who support immigrants, reproductive rights, gender issues, regulations of air quality, water quality, food quality and restraint of corrupt financial practices by banks and lending organizations. We will need to truly be Stronger Together to combat the onslaught against the common citizen.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Cross Culture at the Y: Hawaiian Heart

For a year now, I have taken this class next to Leilani, who stands just a little shallower in the pool than I. Today, as we were warming up, one topic led to another. We were talking about getting rid of “things” and she told me a niece had asked for her lighthouse collection, and how was she going to mail them all to her, some of them were almost two feet high?

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“Easy-peasy,” I said, “You know those storage tubs people buy at Target? You can use bubble wrap and ship them in those containers. They give fragile items a lot of protection.”

Leilani laughed and said how funny it was she didn’t know that because her husband had been a postman after his retirement from the military.

“Nice!” I said. “Two pensions!”

“Not really,” she said, “The day he retired he came home and handed me divorce papers. He’d been planning this for a long time. ”

“Another girl?” I asked.

“No,” she laughed sadly, “He was greedy. He said ‘You’ll never see a penny of my money.”

“I hope you got a good lawyer” I said.

“I did.” She didn’t look happy. “I had raised the four children, so I got parts of both pensions AND alimony. I don’t need a lot. I was happy.”

I asked if he had been the kind of man who had planned to walk out on her and leave her with nothing, if he had also been mean and stingy during their marriage, and if a part of her found peace when he left. She said because of the four children she would never have left him, but that yes, her life was better when he was no longer there.

“Money doesn’t make a person happy,” she said. “Things don’t make a person happy. You know he went and got a beautiful luxury apartment, and died just a few years later. He had emphysema from smoking all the time. No one to help him. So I went there every day, took him a meal because he couldn’t do for himself. I sat with him at night. I was there when he took his final breath.”

“And you know what he would do while I was out of the room? He would take out his money and count it. It never brought him any happiness.”

My pool friend is one of the sweetest hearted women I have ever met. In all this time, she has never said a bad word about her husband, and she was there by his side as he died. There is no bitterness in her, no anger; she didn’t resent him, she let all those feelings go and did the kind thing for a dying man.

I call this cross-cultural, because she is Hawaiian, and I have seen this kind of serenity in my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances. They are willing to let go of grudges, they are willing to move on. They have generous hearts. I feel like I learned something from her today.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cross Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Saint Ephraim, the Syrian

Today the church remembers St. Ephraim, a very good man, a solid contributor to the early church. At a time when many seem to be in fear that Syrians are coming to our shore, I think a reading about Saint Ephraim is timely. He wrote some of the earliest church hymns. He very likely contributed some of the verbiage in our Nicene creed.

I also smile; I remember my Arabic instructors at the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam, truly gentle women who knew the bible better than I did, and inspired me to know it better in self defense. While they didn’t expect me to cover, i.e. to wear a scarf over my hair, or to wear an abaya, they could point out to me verses in the bible where women are instructed to cover, and they could show me biblical pictures in which the women were cloaked and their hair covered.

They also pointed out the many places in the Bible where praying was done by prostrating oneself face down before God, as Ephraim instructs in the prayer at the bottom of the reading.

I never felt pressured. They were like my Mormon sisters, my Baptist sisters; they only wanted me to have what they had found, the best way to worship.

 

EPHREM OF EDESSA

DEACON AND HYMN-WRITER (10 JUNE 373)

  
Icon of Ephrem of EdessaEphrem (or Ephren or Ephraim or Ephrain) of Edessa was a teacher, poet, orator, and defender of the Faith. (To English-speakers, the most familiar form of his name will be “Ephraim.” It is the name of the younger son of Joseph, son of Jacob (see Genesis 41:52), and is thus the name of one of the largest of the twelve tribes of Israel.) Edessa (now Urfa), a city in modern Turkey about 100 kilometers from Antioch (now Antakya), was a an early center for the spread of Christian teaching in the East. It is said that in 325 he accompanied his bishop, James of Nisibis, to the Council of Nicea. Certainly his writings are an eloquent defense of the Nicene faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ.  He countered the Gnostics’ practice of spreading their message through popular songs by composing Christian songs and hymns of his own, with great effect.  He is known to the Syrian church as “the harp of the Holy Spirit.” 

Ephrem retired to a cave outside Edessa, where he lived in great simplicity and devoted himself to writing. He frequently went into the city to preach. During a famine in 372-3 he worked distributing food to the hungry, and organizing a sort of ambulance service for the sick. He worked long hours at this, and became exhausted and sick, and so died.

Of his writings there remain 72 hymns, commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, and numerous sermons. 

Several hymns are available at: 
 http://www.voskrese.info/spl/XefremSyria.html
  

Among Orthodox he is best known for a fasting prayer:

THE PRAYER OF ST EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN

     O Lord and Master of my life, do not give me the spirit of laziness, meddling, self-importance and idle talk. (prostration) 
     Instead, grace me, Your servant, with the spirit of modesty, humility, patience, and love. (prostration) 
     Indeed, my Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults, and not condemn my brothers and sisters, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. (prostration) 
     (Twelve deep bows, saying each time:  O God, be gracious to me, a sinner.) 
     [Translation by Fr James Silver, Drew University; posted on the Orthodox list] 

by James Kiefer

June 10, 2016 Posted by | Character, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Qatar, Relationships | Leave a comment

“You Go Into Southern Belle Mode”

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I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple:  Stranger in a Strange Land.

Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.

Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.

I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.

I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.

The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.

“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”

I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.

“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”

She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.

 

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Local Lore, Pensacola, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | 2 Comments