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Expat wanderer

“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

Lent and Laughter

“So how’s that workin’ for you?” cackles AdventureMan, on a roll. He is totally cracking himself up.

“Hey, where’s your wife, AdventureMan?” he goes on, his high story-telling voice as he goes on making up stories. “Oh, I had to send her back to the Us of A for cursing in the car during Lent.”

He is not even listening. He is on a roll. Oh, he thinks he is so funny.

Today is the first day of Great Lent, our 40 day season of repentance and looking inward, fasting and spiritual examination. AdventureMan has asked what sacrifice I will make, and I had just said that last year, giving up swearing in the car, one word in particular, while I was driving had been a real struggle, but that I had actually managed, mostly. Not perfectly, but mostly.

“This year,” I told him, “I am going to practice turning the other cheek, I am going to try to be a peaceful spirit on the road, I am raising the bar.”

That’s when he started cracking up. There was no stopping him.

He had already told me he is giving up liver and brains and kidneys for Lent, all foods he stays far away from anyway. AdventureMan doesn’t take sacrificing for Lent very seriously. “I’m going to fast the way Little Diamond describes in her blog, you know, like the Maronites,” he giggles, barely able to talk, “only instead of fasting from midnight to noon, I will fast from ten at night until ten in the morning!”

He is laughing so hard he can hardly hear me.

“That’s not a sacrifice!” I argue! “You are sleeping most of that time, and you don’t eat breakfast anyway! That’s not a sacrifice!”

‘You worry about YOUR sacrifices and I will worry about mine!” he says, and I know he is right.

The truth is, AdventureMan sacrifices every day of his life. He works hard to provide a good life for his family. He sacrifices his time and energy every single day. He goes to church with me willingly, he prays with me every morning. It’s enough.

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Character, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Marriage, Relationships, Spiritual | 8 Comments

Party Planning

I was idly contemplating a party, and wondering if I should think about Mardi Gras (think Jambalaya, bread pudding, and honky-tonk beads) or Chinese New Years (order in a bunch of Chinese Food, hang up some good luck signs, and some Rats – this will be the year of the Rat) and I thought I would check the dates.

Holy Smokes! Gras! Mardi Gras is February 5th, Lent starts February 6th and Chinese New Year starts February 7th!

Celebrating Chinese New Year on a Thursday night is cool (Thursday night in Kuwait is like Friday night where the weekend is Saturday/Sunday) but not so cool when everyone has just started fasting and spiritual examination. Lent is not like Ramadan; Lent is more spare, it’s introspective, it’s kind of like Danish modern, less is just LESS!

(I think I had better go for Mardi Gras.)

If YOU want to celebrate Chinese New Years, Here is where you can find out about what you need to eat for Good Luck in the new Chinese year like when you eat noodles, don’t cut them because long noodles signify long life, a whole fish signifies togetherness and abundance, and whatever you do, don’t eat tofu, which is white, and unlucky, signifying death and misfortune!

chinese-astrology.gif

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Holiday, Lent, Spiritual | , , | 9 Comments

Easter Sunday 2007

For the second year in a row, we were able to celebrate Easter in the United States. Today was so special to us. We went to church surrounded by many families. Although we were strangers, people were very friendly and happy to see us. We were very happy because we were with family!

Although it was our style of worship, every church does things a little differently – and this church does two things I have never seen done before. As the priest entered the church, he knocked at three different doors and said . . . something, and the entire congregation responded with “Allelujia! Christ is risen!” and then as the priest and choir processed down the center aisle, they made a joyful NOISE – and it was a huge noise, every choir member and many members of the congregation had BELLS which they rang as they sang the opening hymn and it was unexpectedly marvellous!

Here is a photo from the entry to the church:

00stasparish.jpg

The church entry has several shadowboxed collections of crosses from around the world – totally gorgeous. This is just one part of the collection:

00crosscollection.jpg

After church, we had a wonderful family dinner with the parents of our daughter-in-law. The dinner was fabulous. We are in the Southern part of the United States where the cooks have a reputation for being THE BEST. They are the best because they use all the ingredients that make food truly tasty – fat, sugar, eggs, real cream, etc, things that we forbid ourselves most of the year, and oh, how delicious everything was. We had a big green salad with a choice of dressings, green beans with slivered almonds, a big ham, scalloped potatoes and freshly baked biscuits with butter and jam.

I would have to say, this was a wonderful Easter meal; fabulous food, great conversation, lots of laughter. For dessert, the hostess made two of my husband’s very favorite things, coconut cake with a white/coconut icing, and banana pudding with a baked meringue topping – oh oh oh! We hated to leave.

A note of interest – my neice, Little Diamond says that this is one of the rare years when Easter is celebrated on the same day by all the major Christian religions – a rare occasion indeed.

And for those of you who are going to ask, no, I am not going to take up swearing again just because Lent is over. The whole goal was to break myself of a very bad habit that crept into my life on the roads of Kuwait. I will continue to strive to clean up my act!

April 9, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Diet / Weight Loss, Easter, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Health Issues, Holiday, Lent, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos, Relationships, Spiritual, Travel | 7 Comments

Adventure Man’s Blog

“If I had a blog, I’d blog about this!” Adventure Man gasped as I held my hand over my mouth in shock.

That is, between whoops of laughter.

Adventure Man asked me if we were going to be on the flight out of Kuwait on which we had been booked. I had just talked with the KLM office in Dubai, seeking a little wasta, and I had been graciously but firmly turned down.

“We’re forked” I said, using a very vulgar word instead of ‘fork.’

“I thought you gave up saying any of those words for Lent?” he hooted.

“No, my goal was no swearing on the roads!” I countered.

And he just gave me that long look that said it all. It said “hypocrite.” It said “I think you’re missing an important point.” It said “bad words are bad words no matter where you use them.”

Adventure Man can get a lot of meaning into one long look. We’ve been married for a long time. He gets the same look from me now and then, the long look.

He had me; he was right, I was wrong.

I started snickering. He started hooting. I laughed out loud. He laughed louder. Soon I was writhing on the floor and he was gasping for breath. It’s good to laugh like that every now and then.

And he’s right. It’s not just on the road. Bad language is bad language and I want to clean up the entire act. I am really really glad Adventure Man doesn’t have his own blog.

April 7, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Bureaucracy, Communication, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Humor, KLM, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Marriage, Relationships, Travel, Words | 5 Comments

Mouth Guard

Last summer, my dentist told me I needed a mouth guard to wear at night to keep me from clenching or grinding my teeth.

I’m a little cynical about what I think of as “dental fundraising”. There always seems to be something beyond teeth cleaning now that my teeth no longer develop cavities. Whitening? Special electric toothbrush? Gum treatments? Hey, lets dig out all those old fillings and replace them with gold? And then let’s replace the gold with porcelain? He is always pushing for something new.

And I think my husband would have said something if I were grinding or clenching my teeth.

But on my way down seventh ring the other day, as one guy whooshed by me doing 40 km/hr over the speed limit and the guy on my right zipped right through the RED light as if it weren’t there, and the Gucci sunglassed dame got right on my bumper even though the passing lane was clear as could be and I had a cement truck on my right, I noticed I was clenching my teeth.

For one thing, although I have not succeeded in my Lenten goal of not saying ANY swear words on the road, I am down to only about one per long trip. For example, I hardly ever swear on the way to go grocery shopping, just a short trip to the co-op.

It is only on the ring roads or the speedways that sometimes a bad word pops out before I can stop it. The exercise in NOT swearing has been good for me in that now I am very aware, even alone in the car, when a word just popped out or almost pops out. And down to one per trip and holding back the others – hey! – all this is good. The goal is still zero-defects. But I have to applaud my progress.

So I am thinking I should probably wear my mouth guard while I am driving, because that is where I am clenching my teeth. But I wish they also made one that would guard my mouth from those very bad words that want to come out.

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Lenten Update

As you know, I gave up bad language in my car for Lent. Yes, I could have given up chocolate. It would have been easier.

I’ve done fairly well. I totally slipped up once, my husband was driving. At first I thought, “well it doesn’t count because I am not driving” but – it does. It counts.

I have not succeeded in not thinking the bad word. I ask forgiveness, and I ask for help not even thinking the bad words. He IS helping. My language is getting better. Alhamd’allah.

For my non-Kuwaiti, non-Middle East friends and readers, you can actually get in more trouble here for bad language than you can for crashing a car.

True story: in one country, a man was trying to get into a gated community and was refused. He was angry and wanted to back up, rather than going forward and turning around, so he put his car in reverse and gunned the engine and smashed into the car behind him. The woman driver was shocked, and just sat there. So he moved forward, and gunned the car in reverse, and hit her again! He did it a third time. She got out of her car and screamed at him “What are you doing, you a$$####???” and he had HER arrested for bad language. He stoically paid for the damage to her car, but SHE had to go to court and through a lengthy humiliating process of finding a lawyer, etc. She also had to pay a huge fine and listen to a lecture from the judge.

A wise person NEVER makes any hand gestures, either.

Giving up bad language on the highway is not only a spiritual improvement, it could also save me a lot of trouble down the road.

March 10, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Communication, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Random Musings, Spiritual, Words | 7 Comments

Giving it Up for Lent

Lent started today, our own holy season of repentance and fasting. When I was a little girl, children would gather and figure out what they were going to give up, like chocolate, or coca cola, or candy. Mostly, in truth, it didn’t last too long. We meant well, we took it seriously, but we didn’t have the capacity for that kind of long term commitment – 40 days (and 40 nights, too; we don’t get time off from sunset to sunrise.)

As adults, we can be equally wacky, but in different ways. We can give up something that is too easy to give up. We can give up something and then obsess about it until it makes up a major focus of our day. If we are very fortunate, with prayer and God’s help, we can truly give up something meaningful and stick to it, offering it up as a spiritual sacrifice to God.

I had a blessing this week. It didn’t feel like such a blessing at the time, but a great deal of the time this week I was driving, and I had riders in the car.

I had no idea my language in the car had deteriorated so far. I’m a pretty good driver, but this is Kuwait. There are things that are out of my control. And I discovered that occasionally, bad words pop out of my mouth.

I can only guess that it happens when I am alone, too, but I am not conscious of it. All of a sudden, when some bad word pops out of your mouth and you are NOT alone, you become VERY conscious of it.

I’m giving it up for Lent.

At first, I was going to allow myself non obscene words like “Idiot!” “Imbecile!” and “What are you thinking??????” but after lengthy thought, I think it defeats the purpose. No. I am going cold turkey, no obscenities, no outraged exclamations.

Perhaps an elaborate “I forgive you” from time to time. . . . Pray for me!

February 21, 2007 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual | 13 Comments