Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Philosophy in a Fortune Cooky

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So on our way home from lunch today, at the Siam Thai, AdventureMan and I are talking about his fortune cookie. (Mine said “learn Chinese” on one side and I can’t even remember what on the other side, something so non-interesting.) AdventureMan’s fortune said “Good people learn wisdom by making mistakes,” or something like that.

Off we went. So if you are not good, can you learn from making mistakes? Do you just keep making the same mistakes? Does making the same mistakes mean that you are not a good person? Can you make a mistake and not learn wisdom? Are all wise people good? Can you be evil and be wise? Like is the devil wise? He is said to be sly, and crafty, so how do those vary from being wise? Is Satan wise? Can you be evil and wise?

Segue’ to Mother Jessica’s sermon at Christ Church Pensacola yesterday, and It’s Not About the Chocolate as she explained that giving up chocolate or coffee or meat was not what Lent was really all about as we walk the path to become better worshippers of God and followers of Jesus. At the end of the service, as we exited, they passed out little chocolates. AdventureMan still had his chocolate (which he ate in front of me) and told me he had never negotiated with God. “Never??” I asked, in a tone which really meant “I call bulls#!t” and he said, no, never; never said “Please please, if you will only do this, I will do that.”

“OK,” I continued, as I can be relentless, “what about in Vietnam, was there never a time you said ‘Please, Please, Please’ about anything?”

“Yes, but I was never bargaining,” he explained, ‘I was begging. I had nothing to bargain with.”

So is begging, with no leverage, is that still negotiating? I think it is, Mother Jessica said bargaining, and isn’t begging bargaining with no leverage? We couldn’t agree. He says that is not bargaining, and we had to agree to disagree.

And the real point is, none of us have anything to bargain with. God laughs at our pathetic attempts to bargain. He likes the honest ones, like AdventureMan, who just cower in his magnificence and power and trust in his ability, and so beg, “please! Please!” We have to trust in his mercy and his compassion.

 

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The worst and most memorable Lent I ever observed was in Kuwait. I became aware that I had started swearing in the car as another car would nearly side-swipe me, or some arrogant idiot would park in four spaces (yes, yes, I promise you, one car CAN occupy four spaces) and I was giving people rides and really, really needed to not curse, not just to protect their ears, but also for my own soul. Calling people names is worse for me than it is for them. I devised a strategy of elaborate politeness. When someone was going to bump me out of the way, I would gesture “Tfadl!” (“YOU are to be preferred! or “after you”) with a grand gesture and a big smile like it was My idea. After a while, elaborate politeness became my mode, and I got a lot of pleasure out of it, and mostly, I stopped cursing at the idiot drivers. Actually, I got so good at it that I didn’t even say “Idiot!”, but I could not control it popping into my mind from time to time . . .

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And, sadly, we have some of those same . . . umm . . . idiots . . . here in Pensacola, so perhaps I need to redo my Lenten sacrifice and work on my attitude toward inattentive and /or aggressive drivers, especially those in great big trucks with bad eyesight.

Did you know the word for ‘honey’ in Arabic is ‘asel?’ 😉

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | 7 Comments

Where is Mbeere District, Kenya?

Today the church prays for the diocese in Mbeere, in Kenya. It is north of Nairobi, mountainous, farming area.

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March 3, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Lectionary Readings, Lent | | 2 Comments

Party On Pensacola!

The Sunday before Lent started, we were eating our early breakfast at the Shiny Diner when two parties came in. The first was a morning-after-the-wedding party, they grabbed one of the high tops that seat eight and more and more dragged in, and then the bride and groom arrived, still glowing from their wedding the day before.

As they were seated, another party came in, this party all in their pajamas, even the Mom! It was a morning-after-the-pajama-party party, and their fun was still continuing.

Pensacola: Party City!

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February 24, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Entertainment, Events, Lent, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Restaurant | 1 Comment

What is Lent and Why Do We Observe Lent?

From today’s AOL News:

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Ash Wednesday 2014: History, Dates, Traditions Of Lent’s First Day Of Fasting

Ash Wednesday is observed on March 5, in 2014. The Christian holy day marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting that is considered preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.

Although there is no Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, scholars of Christianity date the tradition of a 40-day fasting period back to 325 A.D.

Lent mirrors Jesus’ own 40-day period of fasting, described in the book of Matthew. Observers have ash placed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross as the words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Fasting requirements for Catholics are outlined by the Code of Canon Law, and include eating no meat on the Fridays during Lent, as well as fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (Fasting in this case refers to eating just one full meal a day.)

Many Christians will make personal vows of abstinence during Lent, which could include anything from refraining from eating candy, meat, vowing not to gossip, or being less selfish. Others will make a vow to do more for others including volunteering and working for social justice. All are expected to spend more time in prayer and reflection as Lent is considered by many to be an opportunity for spiritual transformation.

The Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister writes:

Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not…Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now… Lent is a summons to live anew…Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again. Then, as Joel (2:12-18) promises, God will have pity on us and pour into our hearts the life we know down deep that we are lacking.

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Easter, Faith, Lent, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

The Prophet Jeremiah Ponders the Ways of the Wicked

Today the prophet Jeremiah sounds like a modern man – asking why, when we know what is good and what is bad, that some choose bad, and seem to do just fine – even better than the rest of us?

From the Holy Week readings in The Lectionary:

Jeremiah 12:1-16

12You will be in the right, O Lord,
when I lay charges against you;
but let me put my case to you.
Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
2 You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and bring forth fruit;
you are near in their mouths
yet far from their hearts.
3 But you, O Lord, know me;
You see me and test me—my heart is with you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
4 How long will the land mourn,
and the grass of every field wither?
For the wickedness of those who live in it
the animals and the birds are swept away,
and because people said, ‘He is blind to our ways.’*

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

A Night of Booming Thunder

As I opened my Lectionary this morning, the first Psalm is Psalm 57 which begins:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.

I just had to laugh.

The lightning and thundering started last night around 10:00. Electrical storms are nothing new to the Pensacola area, but this one went on ALL NIGHT. It was like a front rolled in and got stuck over Pensacola. I woke up later this morning, having been awake around four for a couple hours, just listening. These were close, “BOOM – boom – booom – BOOM!” and loud. Even with the window coverings, you could see flashes of light in the bedroom.

As I lay awake, I thought about how the voice of God must have that deep, resonant, authoritative BOOM of thunder and I wondered what that voice might be trying to say to Pensacola or – oops! – to me.

This morning, that voice is still rumbling off in the distance, with no guarantee it won’t be back to scold us thunderously.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Environment, Lent, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 5 Comments

Stitching Together A Move?

I had a troubling dream which woke me early this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I dreamed I was working on a very large quilt, and I had promised to hand quilt it. I remember seeing it was not made as a usual quilt is made, with a top and a bottom, and a layer of batting (wadding) in between, but of 12 – 13 layers of cotton cloth, a very difficult quilting challenge, and it seems to me that the quilt was like 15 feet by 15 feet, a huge quilt, a size I have never even seen done. I remember having accepted to quilt a very complicated pattern, and as I awoke, I was stitching and stitching and stitching, hand stitch after hand stitch, but feeling utterly defeated and overwhelmed at the task I was facing.

I am confounded. In terms of quilting, I will never be caught up, but it doesn’t bother me, I just keep on. I finish most quilts; I do just fine. I don’t have any project deadlines, I don’t have any feeling of urgency on completing any of my quilts. I very rarely do any hand quilting; machine quilting gets the job done and hand quilting is hard on my hands and fingers.

My life, too, in this so-called retirement, is orderly. I take on what I can take on and complete the task. I don’t feel like I am behind in anything. I keep up with things. I feel no urgency.

So where did this dream come from?

I believe God calls to us in many ways (“Let he who has ears listen!”), through his word, through the voices and actions of Godly people, through a book one might be reading, through a friend, or a homeless person, or even through a dream. Being who I am, I prefer a clear message; interpretation is so fraught with personal prejudices, so filtered by what we know, by our particular dogma or belief system. I am praying now for clarity, and for the meaning of this dream to be made understandable so that I might know what I am needed to do . . . If I am meant to keep chipping away at something, please, let me do it with a joyful attitude, not this feeling of being faced with an overwhelming task.

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And as I go through the categories,getting ready to post this entry, choosing those words that best apply, I see “Moving” and I have to laugh; moving is that huge quilt, that elephant that one can only eat one bite at a time, that many layered monstrosity, and it has been three years since I have moved. Three years living in one country, one city, in one house. It may be that the dream is one of those anxiety dreams like your college exam dreams, a dream that is no longer relevant but a hangover from another time, another life. My subconscious is getting ready for a move, feeling overdue, LOL.

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Aging, ExPat Life, Faith, Lent, Movie, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment

The Church Remembers Absalom Jones

Imagine the difference that diligence and persistence and cheerful good humor made in the life of Absalom Jones, imagine all the lives he touched, imagine the obstacles and brutal life he experienced and overcame on his life’s journey. It is truly humbling to see what this saint achieved:

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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818.

Pastor Absalom Jones was reared a domestic slave on a plantation in Delaware. His charm, wit, and sincerity gained for him the affection of all who knew him. He was able to save enough pennies, given to him as tips, to purchase for himself a primer, a spelling book, and a New Testament. This was the beginning of an insatiable quest for knowledge which was to occupy much of his life.

When he was sixteen years old his mother, five brothers, and one sister were sold, and he was taken to Philadelphia with his master. The more stimulating environment of the city, added to a desire to correspond with his mother, resulted in an intensified effort to learn. He went to night school and also studied theology under Bishop William White (see July 17), from whom he eventually received holy orders. He married, bought a house and land, and finally, at age thirty-seven,he was granted his freedom. Finding that Philadelphia’s “white” churches were not truly open to him or his people, he founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

He was an exemplary pastor and an able student of Holy Scripture and human nature. He had found Our Lord and in his Name had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Jones bore witness, with his life, to the truth that all people are bearers of God’s image.

Give us strength to overcome those things that separate us, Lord Christ, that we may see your likeness in all people. Amen.

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Biography, Character, Cultural, Faith, Lent, Social Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

All Who Exalt Themselves Will be Humbled . . .

Today’s Ash Wednesday reading the Lectionary is a great reading for a season of introspection and meditation:

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Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Pharisee and Tax-collector
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February 13, 2013 Posted by | Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Spiritual | Leave a comment

International Intrigue, Electoral Ethics

Holy Smokes, advisor to the potential president of Ghana . . . and free money! (Yeh, right.) Another candidate in my fraud file:

Do accept my apologies if my message does not meet your personal ethics. I want
to introduce myself and this business opportunity to you. I am John
Mahama, Ghanaian Presidential aspirant. I wish to know if you can assist me, I
made a lots of deposit with a security company in the UK and Beguim during my
Business trip to United Kingdom.

I am considering running for the presidency in Ghana, I deposited Ј6, 500, 000,
00 GBP. (Six Million Five Hundred Thousand British Pounds Sterling).With
Security Company in London and Beguim.

What do you think if you assist me in transferring these fund to your country
and use it to support me during my Presidential campaigns and you become the
adviser to the potential president of Ghana?

I can’t transfer these funds to my personal or relatives account as it may
invoke the interest of the Government and lead to impeachment.

Upon your acceptance to assist me in repatriating these funds to your country, I
will give you letter to the security company authorizing you to conduct Banking
activities on my behalf and 30% of this total funds will be given to you for
your assistance.

Kindly respond to me so that I can give you comprehensive details on what you
are to do next.

If you are willing to assist me and want to be my advicer in the fucture,kindly
contact me on my private mailbox (johnmahama@ovi.com)

Regards,
John Dramani Mahama

September 30, 2012 Posted by | Communication, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Lent, Scams | | Leave a comment