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Expat wanderer

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:

abs jones 300px

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:


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

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 (

John Dramani Mahama

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

Good Friday for the Non-Christian

When I saw this on AOL News it struck me that if I post Ramadan for Non-Muslims, then it also makes sense to publish Good Friday for Non-Christians.

Different Christian groups have varying traditions on Good Friday. In our church, Good Friday starts on the evening before, Maundy Thursday, with a stripping of the altar. In some churches, there is also a gathering where the priests of the parish wash the feet of members of the congregation, as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, as a demonstration of the humble spirit required, that we are to serve one another.

Good Friday: Origins, Observances And Fasting Rules
by Neha Prakash

Good Friday is the Christian commemoration of Jesus’ Passion story; specifically his betrayal, trial and crucifixion that are described in the Christian gospels. In the sequence of Holy Week, it follows the rituals marking the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday and precedes the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Since Jewish tradition dictates that Friday begins at sundown on Thursday, the events of Good Friday traditionally begin with the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas in the garden of Gethsemane. He is subsequently brought before the Sanhedrin council, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and King Herod of Galilee with the ultimate outcome being his condemnation to death by crucifixion.

The trial of Jesus and his crucifixion are described in varying detail by all four canonical Gospels, the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman writer Tacitus. While the specific events and theological implications are widely disputed, the historicity of the occasion is widely accepted.

Good Friday church services generally revolve around the reading of the Gospel accounts of the Passion story. The Catholic liturgy for Good Friday also includes the distribution of the Eucharist that was consecrated during the Mass on Maundy Thursday and special veneration of the cross by inviting individuals to approach the altar and kiss the wood of the crucifix.

Many Christians also mark Good Friday by participating in or watching processions meant to replicate the journey that Jesus took through the streets of Jerusalem while carrying his cross to the site of his crucifixion at Calvary. Two of the largest and most famous of these occasions are Rome’s Way of the Cross that leads to the Colosseum and is presided over by the Pope and the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem — a procession along the traditionally marked route of Jesus that is attended by thousands of pilgrims each year.

Good Friday is also a day of strict fasting for Catholics and some other Christians. As with all the Fridays of Lent, Catholics are instructed to abstain from eating meat. As with Ash Wednesday, the fasting rules for Good Friday dictate that adherents should eat only one full meal with two smaller meals being permitted as long as no other food is consumed in the interim. The use of other meat-based products such as lard, chicken broth or dairy is not traditionally forbidden, although many individuals elect to make their Good Friday meals entirely vegetarian or vegan.

In many countries with strong Christian traditions such as those in Latin America, Good Friday is observed as a national holiday. Good Friday is not a federal holiday in the United States, but several states observe it as an official state holiday by closing government offices, courts and banks. Many private businesses also choose to close on Good Friday in addition to financial markets.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Cultural, Easter, Events, Lent, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Ash Wednesday in Pensacola 2011

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.’

(From the Lectionary readings for today)

“I forgot to set my alarm” AdventureMan said, coming down the stairs, “we missed the first service.”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day Lent begins for Christians. We go to church, the priest puts a cross on our forehead in ash, to remind us “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, that our life here on earth is only temporary, and that our true home is heaven.

It’s easier to believe that in your gut when you are an expat.

My cousin wrote to me, and in his email, he wrote that I write about my own culture the same way I wrote about Germany, about Qatar, about Kuwait – as an expat, as an outside observer. Pensacola is like my foreign assignments; I could live here for twenty years (God willing) and I will never be a native, I will always be from somewhere else, the kind of person about whom others will say “she must not be from around here.” I am guessing I will get more comfortable, more confident, but I will always be not-quite-right among the natives.

And that is how we are supposed to be living here on earth – as people not-quite-right, as people eager to return to our true heavenly home.

Lent in my own country is odd to me, now. In a foreign country, you are accustomed to thinking of yourself as a minority; your differentness makes you more aware or who you are, and what you value. There is a part of me that thinks Lent would be a lot easier if, like Qatar, and like Kuwait, and like Saudi Arabia, religious practices were state enforced, like everyone in the USA fasted at the same time, maybe nobody would sell meat or chocolate or alcohol. And then, I think “but what is the point?” The point is our own sacrifice. Is it a sacrifice if it is enforced from the outside?

I can’t sacrifice cussing in traffic this year. Pensacola traffic, by the grace of God, is nearly non-existent, and it is mellow. I’m not even tempted. I’m trying to figure out what I will sacrifice.

Father Neal Goldsborough at Christ Church Episcopal told us on Sunday how all the children come in from the Episcopal Day School to have the ashes imposed, and how poignant it is for him, and I can’t help but think of all the soldiers he has been with at their death, mere children, children of God, and how he must see the faces of these soldiers in the faces of these tiny children. My heart would weep, even knowing they are on their way home.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Germany, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

St. Oscar Romero

I didn’t even know we had a St. Oscar Romero, so when it came up on my screen, this morning as I was doing my daily lectionary readings I took a little time to read about him.

What an incredible man – and a modern day saint, too, a man for our times:


(24 March 1980)
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980), commonly known as Monseñor Romero, was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He later became prelate archbishop of San Salvador.

As an archbishop, he witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country’s civil war. His brand of political activism was denounced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. In 1980, he was assassinated by gunshot while consecrating the Eucharist during mass. His death finally provoked international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador.

In 1997, a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The process continues. He is considered the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, like the Church of England through its Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.

You don’t have to be perfect to be a saint, in fact in the reading for today, St. Paul writes that “22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

We cannot, in our own strength do right all the time, even if we want to choose rightly. Oscar Romero may not have been perfect (because none of us are, it’s not like I know anything scandalous about him) but he dedicated himself to righting a major wrong he saw in society, and his persistence and dedication ended up causing his death.

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Biography, Character, Cross Cultural, Leadership, Lent, Social Issues, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Lenten Challenge

In church this week, our priest spoke of the necessity of listening – and hearing. He spoke of how important it is to be fully present for our spouses, our children, not just listening with half an ear and going “um hmmm, um hmmmm” (ulp! guilty!) He also spoke of how hard it is to truly listen and to hear when our minds are unquiet, and we have a lot going on in our lives.

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday – this week.

I am tempted to give up extra noise for lent – to live a more silent and contemplative life.

Here is the problem – I love silence. I do listen to BBC when I am in my project room or in my car, but other than that, I don’t fill my life with a lot of noise. Silence is my friend. So for me, seeking more silence is not such a good thing, it is more like feeding an addiction. Listening to BBC is, for me, probably a good thing, keeping me more connected to the world, less in my ivory tower. It confronts me with problems in the world, and inspires me with people who seek to make a difference, even in a small way.

But that is not the point. The main point is to be fully present, to listen to those who are speaking and to hear the heart behind the words, and to love them as Christ loves us. I know that silence is not my solution, that paying attention is the real test. Focusing, paying attention – that is a real challenge.

It would be easier to give up chocolate!

February 23, 2009 Posted by | Character, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lent, Spiritual | 9 Comments

“Whirling Chaff”

From Psalm 83
Verse 13
O my God, make them like whirling dust,*
like chaff before the wind.

Reading the Lectionary readings for today I came across this verse in the very first reading. It brought a grin to my face.

Lent continues. The Lord sends me out in my car almost daily, in spite of my best laid plans. I struggle to keep my resolution not to call – not to even THINK – bad names at the fools on the road who cause disruption, chaos and pain. It helps to have a substitute in mind, so I have something I CAN say instead of just struggling NOT to say the words that immediately come to mind.

The above verse will do nicely – don’t you think?

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Character, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Humor, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual | | 5 Comments

God Laughs

So I think I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Lent was beginning and I was giving up all cursing in the car, as a kind of practicing some spiritual discipline kind of thing.

What I didn’t tell you was that I had this sneaky strategy all planned out – I had all kinds of projects lined up at home, and I didn’t really intend to be on the road much during Lent, and I thought that not putting myself in temptation would help do the trick.

I always get tripped up when I make those kinds of strategic decisions toward spiritual disciplines. Strategic and spiritual don’t always blend too well.

What happened is this – suddenly I have found myself on the road more than I ever thought. On the road every single day. Running from one thing to another. And not just my familiar treks either, but some challenging driving, new places, and with people in the car.

The pressure is on. The very worst day of all, I just had to give God a great big grin and thank him for the opportunity to really, really practice my spiritual discipline. The car is full of people, I am on a strange road, sand and dust are blowing everywhere, the competition for my road space are on their way home with their kids in the car, the highways are packed and people are hungry and all I can do is laugh, because I sure can’t curse.

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual, Weather | 4 Comments

When the Wicked Prosper

I learn so much listening to my Kuwaiti friends. The other night, over dinner, a good friend explained to me about how Islam teaches you that if someone slaps you, you are supposed to turn the other cheek. That is exactly what Jesus told us to do, and I had NO idea it was also in the Qur’an.

So here is my question for today: What does the Qur’an have to say about people who appear to prosper, even though they are bad, through and through.

In my culture, many times I have heard people ask how people who do such evil can also appear to be so blessed? The question crosses all the boundaries of church alliance, religion, morality. Isn’t good supposed to be rewarded? Why do the wicked appear to have abundance, and to be kept safe, while bad things happen to good people?

Psalm 37 has all the answers. My favorite is line 13 – The Lord laughs at the wicked; he knows their day is coming. I think I’ll write it out and put it on my dashboard, and instead of cursing when some yahoo cuts me off with only a millimeter to spare, I will repeat that verse.

Today’s Psalm from the readings of The Lectionary is about that very subject.

Psalm 37

Of David.
1Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

3Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

7Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.

8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.

12The wicked plot against the righteous,
and gnash their teeth at them;
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Lent, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Spiritual | 16 Comments