Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Learn to Linger

One of the most painful criticisms I would hear of Americans as I lived overseas was that we were all happy, friendly people, but we didn’t really care about people. We didn’t maintain relationships. While painful, it was also, as I looked deeper, true. Our lives are fast-paced, and we move from place to place, person to person, job to job and rarely develop the deep relationships that come from building a long, deep friendship. Today’s lesson from Rick Warren talks about how we can do better in our relationships:

“All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV)

You’re never going to live in harmony with your wife, your husband, your friends, or anybody else without empathy. You can’t have a team without being aware of what’s happening in each other’s lives. That’s why when people work together in an office, they may do work together, but they’re not a team unless they know what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Empathy is so important because it meets two of our deepest needs: the fundamental need to be understood and a deep need to have our feelings validated.

If you’re going to build a team of friends or at work or in your small group, you have to build empathy into the structure. So how do you become an empathetic person?

Slow down. Because our culture teaches us to move fast, we end up relationally skimming. That means you’re hitting the high points and missing all kinds of details in the lives of people you care about most. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT, second edition).

Ask questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out” (GNT). Most people hold their emotions pretty close, and they don’t automatically share how they’re doing. “I’m fine” is the standard answer, but that doesn’t really tell you how they feel. If you ask, “””How are you doing?” and the other person says, “I’m fine,” here’s how you draw out a more telling response: Learn to ask the question twice. That’s how you develop empathy. Pause and say, “No. How are you really doing?” The other thing you do is learn to linger. That means don’t be afraid of silence. Just be in the moment, ask the question, and don’t be afraid to sit there and wait. Don’t immediately go into your agenda. Just listen and learn.

Show emotions. The Bible says in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NASB). Empathy is more than saying, “I’m sorry you hurt.” It’s saying, “I hurt with you.” You’re willing to cry with them, and you’re willing to rejoice with them. There’s only one way you’re going to be that empathetic — stay filled up with God. If your tank gets low on God, you’re not going to be empathetic at all. You’ve got to stay filled up with God.

“All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV).

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

“Do All Americans Worship Idols?”

We have guests in town from another country who are living with Americans and visiting many others.

One of them asked her host “Do all Americans worship idols?” and the host was flummoxed.

We have been in private houses of the most religious Muslims, and their houses look very different from ours. They have nothing on the walls, except perhaps a picture of the Kaaba in Mecca, or a beautiful calligraphy in Arabic with one of the Surahs. To us, the houses look very plain, but they are being careful to observe carefully the word of the Lord.

We don’t consider the objects in our homes idols because we don’t worship them. When I read today’s Lectionary reading from Deuteronomy, I have to rethink what God might thing idols are.

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

15 Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, 16 so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure—the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

21 The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he vowed that I should not cross the Jordan and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving for your possession. 22 For I am going to die in this land without crossing over the Jordan, but you are going to cross over to take possession of that good land. 23 So be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you, and not to make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Venice | | Leave a comment

“It’s Going to Be Painful!”


A week after the wedding, I am talking with the mother-of-the-groom, my old friend and telling her she has inspired AdventureMan and I. A friend has contacted us, someone we like, but also someone from another culture. We’ve been friends for a while, but we don’t know him well.

He asked if he and his 10 year old son can come stay with us.

AdventureMan and I looked at each other. This is a man we like and admire, but the cultural differences are profound. We agreed that it is the right thing to do, and the thing we want to do.

So I’m telling my friend, whose home has been a revolving door informal hotel as long as I have known her. She knocks herself out helping people. Lives have changed because she and her husband “welcome the stranger.”

“We want to do it,” I told her, “but we know it is going to be painful.”

“It’s going to be painful!” she enthusiastically agreed. We laughed. This is the basis of our friendship, the ability to tell each other the worst things in our lives and to laugh about it. She knows I am an introvert, and love my peaceful quiet.

“It’s also going to be worth it.” She added, and I believe her.


May 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Travel, Values | , | 5 Comments

Who Is My Neighbor?

We just finished our year in EfM, Education for Ministry, and the overall theme was a multi-cultural world, where we confront our own assumptions and prejudices. It has been a grand journey.

We have friends, friends whose son is our son’s best friend for lo, these many years, and they know how to be good neighbors. They are the soul of hospitality. They take in immigrants, fresh-off-the-boat, and teach them how to survive, help them find furniture, apartments, and a living. They welcome visitors, and care for them and their children. They are helpful. They do all this because it is the right thing to do, and they do it tirelessly. I am in awe of these friends; they are the essence of the Good Samaritan.

This is Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of The Good Samaritan

THURSDAY, May 21 (from Forward Day by Day)

Luke 10:29 And who is my neighbor?

This beloved parable is about more than being kind to our neighbor. It’s about the grace that is shared and the miracle that is manifested each time we help each other, and each time we allow ourselves to be helped. Both of the main characters in this story, the man who is beaten and left for dead and the man who rescues him and has him cared for, had to humble themselves in order to be in relationship.
Mutual distrust and mutual prejudice could have cost the injured man his life, either by the Samaritan refusing to stop, or in the injured man refusing help from such a suspicious source. Jesus asks us to look past the natural lines of religious creed, racial and ethnic identities, socioeconomic status, and all the other words we use to separate “us” from “them,” and to see his face in the man in the ditch. Jesus is asking us to look up and see his face in the man who is saving someone who cannot save himself.

We are invited to see the face of Jesus on each of these men—to realize that when we reach out in love or when we are being helped, Jesus is always present. Are you willing to be humbled in that way? Who or what can you help, today? Who or what can help you?

PRAY for the Diocese of North West Australia (Western Australia, Australia)

Ps 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32; Hebrews 7:18-28; Luke 10:25-37

When I think of the Good Samaritan, I think too of a very pregnant friend, pregnant with triplets, a Jewish woman working in Qatar, whose car broke down. In this day of cell phones, she called her husband for help, but in the time she waited for him to arrive with help, many many Qatari men and families stopped to offer assistance, insisted on giving her bottles of cold water, stopped and waited with her until her husband came and she was safe. They saw a stranger in distress, and they didn’t hesitate, they stopped. Good neighbors :-)

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Navajoland Diocese

Today the church prays for the Navajolands Diocese:

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April 17, 2015 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Geography / Maps, Lectionary Readings, Relationships | | Leave a comment

Homeland Security: Your Tax Dollars At Work

This is a difficult post to write. I’m a patriot. We served our country many years, Cold Warriors. We believe in the United States of America.

What I saw on our southernmost border on the Rio Grande makes me uncomfortable. We have put a lot of money into making sure illegal aliens don’t get through.

I can see a lot of good reasons for good border security. And having said that, what I saw stepped right over the line of “good border security” and teetered precariously on “oppressive.”

One of the Benson-Rio Grande Valley Park employees told us that if we want to see the Rio Grande, go to (some restaurant that has a view of the Rio Grande) or to this County Park called Anzalduas Park, and he told us how to get there. We drove and drove, couldn’t find it, but there was a cop parked on the road, so we asked him and he told us we were almost there.

As we reached Anzalduas Park (which is right under the Anzalduas Bridge, which goes over into Mexico; no, we didn’t have our passports, so we didn’t cross, maybe next time) and approached the park, it was a very odd park. It’s all excavated out, with a very very bare landscape, and some steep climbs. At the gate are some really heavy duty sliding guard gates. It’s not a very welcoming park.

We got down into the park, drove down to the boat landing, and there were about twenty cars parked there, and they were all security vehicles. There was a big party going on, it was a Friday and some families and children were playing and the loudspeaker was all in Spanish. I couldn’t see any Homeland Security guards, only the cars, maybe the guards were sitting inside. Maybe they were at the party :-)


00NotTheSignsThe HeavyGate

The Park employee at Benson – Rio GRande Valley Park had told us that on weekends, across the Rio Grande, is a swim club, and the Mexicans are swimming all the time, just feet away from the American side, but there are all these signs saying the waters are dangerous. The waters seemed very calm, but sometimes there are dangers that are not so obvious.


That’s just a lot of cars providing border security in this park.




You can see the Mexican side swimming club; just yards across a very narrow Rio Grande:


Here is another view of those heavy gates that bar the park in off hours.


We had been told this is a very popular park, full of people all the time. I am glad to hear it, glad that people are not intimidated, and use this beautiful little park for parties and celebrations, just as we use parks all over the USA.

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Best Group Ever!

Sometimes, out of nowhere, comes a wallop, even a good wallop. Yesterday came such a startling change. The itinerary looked ordinary, do-able, nothing inspirational, but all get-the-job-done.

My group had a great weekend. They got to sleep, they got to walk on the beach, they got to eat a great meal or two. They had fabulous weather, a chance to chill and to integrate all the information we are piling on them, and a chance to walk away for a little while. They love Pensacola. Who wouldn’t, when the weather hits around 70° and the beach is white and the sky is blue?

First, we hit our volunteer experience, working at Manna to sort donations, making sure all the items were within acceptable expiration dates. At first, I wasn’t sure this group was going to “get” volunteering, but in a very short time, they were all focused and working hard, and working efficiently. As they sorted, other volunteers drove up in SUV’s, in big cars, in vans and we all helped unload. By the end of their experience, the warehouse manager said “You have processed enough food for over 1,000 people!” and complimented them. They glowed. None of them are from countries with a tradition of volunteerism, and this was a new – and thrilling – experience for them. It always gives me a thrill to see that light go on, to see oneself as part of something larger, organic, to see how connected we all are and to love being a part of something good, sharing. It thrilled my heart.

We ate lunch together downtown, and talked about events going on in each country, about the weekend, about their experiences. We bought coffee – oh! the universal need for caffein! – and headed on to our next appointment, which featured environmental issues and complex ways governments interact to combat the problems and enforce the regulations. It was a tough slog. These relationships are so complex that most of us don’t even think about it. These delegates have work to do; they are here to solve problems in their own countries, and they are persistent and dogged about getting solutions that they can apply in their own bureaucracies. It is a delight to see people so committed to solving problems that seem . . . almost unsolvable.

It is also inspiring, to me, to learn so much about Pensacola, in this job. When I was working on my Masters, I studied heroism, among other things. What I am loving about these office and field visits is that my education continues, and I see heroes at every level of bureaucracy, holding back the evil forces of laziness, corruption, and cronyism. And, sustaining my initial findings about heroes, heroines and heroism, they don’t even see themselves as heroes. They say, as all heroes do, “I am/was just doing my job.” They think anybody would do it. (They are wrong.)

At our very last appointment, I was thinking I would probably cut the day short. The speaker had given out information, the delegates had bags to pack, and all of a sudden, a spark, and an explosion! The good kind!

One delegate could not believe the head of this agency could maintain an important list with integrity. He kept drilling down on the structure, the details of how things worked (all the delegates were keen on the details of how the structures of organizations and bureaucracies worked to accomplish their missions) and where there were openings for corruption.

She was explaining how her employees were constantly trained, and how the agency was monitored to ensure fairness and an adherence to procedure. The delegates, all from countries where bureaucracies function differently, kept pressing her. Is there never anyone taken out of turn? Never?

“If I did that, I would lose my job,” she replied.

What followed was one of the most exciting hours of discussion I have ever experienced, as delegates from five different countries frankly compared their own challenges and experiences, and with great intensity tried to figure out how bureaucracies could function without corruption.

We tried to explain that we, also, are not immune from corruption, and cronyism, but that the combination of training and monitoring helps keep agencies within the boundaries, as best it can. Transparency doesn’t come overnight; we are still trying to achieve it.

As I listened, I could not stop grinning. These are young leaders, and the leaders of tomorrow. They admire what they see in our country. They want to bring trust into their own governments, but how do you create trust? How do you build trust? How do you maintain trust?

I don’t know those answers. And yet the process is working; the discussion was so inspiring, so heartfelt, and they had built enough trust in one another to share their challenges, without having to maintain that artificial facade that lack-of-trust builds.

Their liaison said “You will each have to find your own path; it won’t look exactly like the US path because it has to be a fit with your own culture.”

When I left the group, I told them “You are the best group I have worked with, ever.” There is a part of me that wanted to be a part of that discussion, because they were still deep in that discussion as we parted. My role had ended; I had done what I do.

And today, I am still grinning. I love this job, I love the people it brings me into contact with, international and local. I feel so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Tanzania, Values | , , , | 3 Comments

Zambia: “What is it like where you live?”

Today the church prays for the diocese of Lusaka, and I smile as I pray for my Zambian friends. We have stayed in Lusaka several times, and visited schools and clinics in remote parts of Zambia. Zambia is an amazing country – something like 70 different peoples and languages, and training in all the schools to help them learn how to live together.


One young Zambian told us that when they come into contact, it is normal to feel strange; the “other” doesn’t speak the same dialect, may be a traditional enemy, is just different, uncomfortable. They are trained to ask “What is it like where you live?” and to listen to the response.


I have used that phrase so many times; it is so useful. When you listen to an “other” talk about his or her life, you connect. You find similarities, and differences, and you learn the joys and challenges of this different life. It is a wonderful question. I used it the first time in Zambia, at a dinner with a lot of people we didn’t know. The woman next to me seemed stuffy, but sometimes that can be shy, so I asked “What is it like where you are from?” and she looked at me with concern and said, very sharply, “What do you mean?”  I said “what is your life like, tell me about what you do in a day?” and she said “That is a very odd question!” but she went on to tell me about her life, her country house and her passion for riding. By the end, we were having a great conversation.

May God bless you richly, Zambia. May your peoples live together in God’s peace!


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January 31, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel, Values, Zambia | Leave a comment

From Whom Every Tribe in Heaven and On Earth Takes Its Name

I’ve been looking for this line forever, but it is no wonder that I couldn’t find it, I remembered it wrong, or I was using a different translation. When Father Ian at Church of the Epiphany in Doha would begin the prayers, he began with that invocation, reminding us that we, too, are tribal in our passions and affiliations. He used that word, tribal, instead of family. It is probably more true to the original intent.

Once people start drawing and adhering to lines between them and us, things get ugly in a hurry. I liked what Pope Francis said about Freedom of Speech being fine but it had to include respect for the religions of others, and self restraint. We all need to remember that it is the one true God who is the father of us all, and he will be the only one to judge us in the end.

We all get a lot of things wrong. Let’s hope He is truly the all-merciful and all-compassionate.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,* 15 from whom every family* in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Qatar, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Freedom of Speech: Je Suis Charlie

In our country, in the West, open discussion is a part of life. Your point of view may be ignorant, or repugnant to me, but I will defend to the death your right to express your opinion. One of the great weapons of freedom of speech is humor. It’s hard to maintain a dignified moral high-ground when one of the cartoonists piques with a cartoon showing the emperor has no clothes. Or at least the emperor has flaws, as do we all.


Pensacola is blessed with such an editorial cartoonist, Andy Marlette. Andy Marlette is controversial, and in a state with lax gun laws and pistol-packin-mamas, he risks his life daily, skewering the pomposity of us all. Occasionally, he is outrageous. Occasionally, he is offensive. That’s OK. If an editorial cartoonist isn’t skewering someone, or all of us at once, he isn’t doing his job. His job is to elicit discussion.







I have lived for so long in Moslem world that I take a risk now, offending my Moslem friends, by printing the cartoon of Mohammed weeping. It’s the cartoon that touched me to the bone. I have listened and learned in the Moslem world, and I have never met with hatred. The Mohammed I have read about in the Qu’ran and in hadith, and heard about in legend and stories from my Moslem friends portrayed a prophet who, like Jesus, was all about loving and serving the one true God. He would weep at what has been done in his name, as Jesus weeps for us, when we kill others in his service.


January 8, 2015 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Humor, Interconnected, Kuwait, Language, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , , | 2 Comments


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