Category Archives: Culture & Religion

Quotes from Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging – by Marilyn R. Gardner

2014 Phone pics July-December 319

In this bookmarked summer of mine, Between Worlds brought a refreshing wash of memories for me of living cross-culturally. I miss the years we spent as a family in North Africa. Marilyn Gardner writes in colorful strokes of her third culture kid (TCK) experience of growing up in Pakistan. She also described vividly what it was like as an adult raising children (her own TCKs) back overseas. Read Between Worlds and you are transported to the places she lived as a child and again as an adult. She speaks of her family’s years in Cairo, Egypt, and I am also taken back to one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The smells, sights, and sounds are there…you will be enchanted.

Marilyn also shares with clarity and vulnerability that experience of living essentially between worlds. Of living among peoples not your own and yet you feel they are. Of returning to the US and appearing to be like all around you, and yet you are an “invisible alien”…not fully of this world either. Her stories are marked with lessons of deep living cross-culturally. We can all gain from these lessons – whether we’ve lived a third culture life or not.

Her stories I will leave for you to read in your own personal places…but some of her wisdom I share with you through these quotes from Between Worlds.

Home is where our story begins.” For a third culture kid who questions the definition of home, this is both reassuring and sad. If home is where our story begins, what happens when we cannot go back?” (p. 4)

“I read in Psalm 84: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.’ In my journey, this Psalm makes ‘Home is where your suitcase is’ a spiritual reality.” (p. 8)

“I was raised on chai…It was not just the taste; it was the full experience of comfort that nourished body and soul.” (p. 21)

“There can be strength in remembering…Perhaps writing helps keep some of the bricks intact, because memories are precious and if used properly give strength to the present.” (p. 26)

“Turns out identity isn’t about a place you live at – but a Person you live in.” (p. 44)

“Those childhood wounds that brand us, that tell us lies about who we are and what we’ll become, are not strong when they come up against the Image of the God who made us.” (p. 55)

“Pieces of childhood are important foundations to building adults…in the pieces of childhood there is grace and a Father God who delights in putting together the pieces.” (p. 71)

“When I finally stopped grasping at success, at confidence, at belonging, I inexplicably found it.” (p. 87)

“If you don’t start kids on the road or plane when they are young then too soon they, and you, will move into a place and state of mind that sees all the obstacles instead of the benefits.” (p. 102)

“It is amazing how much waiting there is in a life of movement…Above all, we wait for God. We move forward in faith, only to be stopped in transit. So we wait. It’s not time. We sit tight. There are dozens of ways that God moves in and orchestrates our plans, our movements…For waiting is nothing new in the work of God.” (p. 109)

“Behind every third culture kid is a parent – a parent who wishes, hopes, and prays that they are doing the right thing.” (p. 120)

“God chooses ‘place’ to reveal himself to people, to show who He is, to remind them of his love, his care, his sovereignty, to call them to himself.” (p.138)

“Cultural humility gives up the role of expert, instead seeing ourselves as students of our host culture. I puts us on our knees, the best posture possible for learning.” (p. 193)

“May I forever hurt with the goodbyes that I say. May I forever remember the strength of the words ‘God Be With You.'” (p. 202)

Whether you’re a chai or coffee drinker – you will want a cup of one or the other, as you savor this book of life Between Worlds.

To Purchase Between Worlds

Follow Marilyn Gardner on Twitter

Author Blog – Communicating Across Boundaries

On Leaving – Post by Rachel Pieh Jones – So Resonant of the Goodbyes & Hellos of Life on Two Continents

Blog - Rachel Pieh JonesRachel Pieh Jones and Family

Open road stretches out before me, cornfields and forests swirl into blurry greens and yellows. The windows are down and my hair tickles my nose, the sun warms my thighs and my elbow is getting sunburned but I don’t mind, I’ll peel and the dried skin will remind of me this day, this place, this slippery moment. The radio plays U2, Beautiful Day, and I’m singing loud.

What does leaving feel like?

It feels like that drive down the freeway. Like everything is right and the world is beautiful and maybe I’m wrong, maybe nothing is right because why does it hurt? I’m heading somewhere I want to go and leaving somewhere I want to stay and I want to be in both places and so I try to force the in between to linger. Tears stream down and blow off my cheeks, stolen by wind.

My toenails were hennaed black when we evacuated from Somalia and I remember watching the black grow out with my nail. When I clipped the last sliver of nail with black swath across the narrow tip. When my body released that last vestige, no longer stamped with a reminder of where I had been. I remember it feeling like, with that one snip, we were evacuating all over again, like something had been irrevocably removed.

Does anyone else see green grass and feel dizzy? The green blades like sea snakes swaying in the summer breezes. Does anyone else notice the way leaves filter sunlight and cast glittery shadows, orbs of golden light reflected off rivers in diamonds? Is there a way to hold it? To paint it on my toenails so I can carry it until I am ready to let go?

During leaving days every interaction is intensified, every color made more brilliant. Do you know I’m going back to Africa, to Djibouti, on Thursday?  [Note: Flights delayed and a lay-over so when you read this, they hopefully will have arrived.]

You’ll want to finish reading the rest of this post at this link.

 

Worship Wednesday – You Are My Vision – Rend Collective

Blog - Rend Collective - You are My Vision

The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and more modern, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British and Irish accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then words projected on the stuccoed front walls.

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British or Irish accent.

Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio about a year ago. The song was Second Chance*. I jotted down the group’s name and song (while driving…sigh) and would later buy the album** based on that one song. Have you ever done that?

When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much-updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshippers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Saviour of the song.

Worship with me through the lyrics and music of You are My Vision.

You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.

You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true Son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.

You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.

I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart –  High king of heaven, my treasure You are.

High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Lyrics for You are My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube video of You are My Vision with lyrics

**Rend Collective Albums with You are My VisionHomemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire

Rend Collective Art of Celebration – Album & Tour

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Back Story of Be Thou My Vision

*YouTube video of Second Chance from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People

YouTube video of  Build Your Kingdom Here from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People – another favorite for another day

We Grieve Differently – We Grieve with Hope

Blog - We Grieve Differently - Iraq - Persecuted Church[Adapted with permission  -Abby Wallace – Marketplace Advance]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The news is almost more than we can bear. Violence, war, persecution, suffering, death, seeming hopelessness. We want to look away. Yet, we know we, as Christ-followers, are to confront such matters in ways different than the world. We cannot be silent or uninvolved. We cannot turn away.

Allow the encouragement through the Scripture below help you keep perspective, guard your hearts, and stay in the battle. Remember the battle belongs to the Lord, and we are His witnesses. There are not always words. Sometimes we can’t think of a thing to say to help…and yet, we are not to stand with our hands at our sides. We come near…reach in…take hold…we refuse to be put off by the world’s struggles. Jesus died for these embattled ones around us, and we are His people…meant to extend His love.

Through Christ, we have hope, and it’s ours to share. — But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  – 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The work He calls us to, we have the capacity to do. Somehow, as we obey, He lightens the burden. — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

We are tempted to recoil from His work, to hide, to hope someone else will speak or act. He calls us as He called Joshua. Do we trust Him? –Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

His peace is what we bring to those around us. It makes a difference. — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Our tendency is to turn our focus on the mess the world is in rather than on the One who is at work in the mess. He is present with us…and with those He’s brought near to us. — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:6-8

We won’t understand what God is doing always, but we must persevere in prayer for those around us. — To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. – Psalm 13:1-5

As we persevere in prayer, God clears our vision and encourages us to keep trusting Him. — I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.- Psalm 18:1-6

When hardship comes, and it will, He has given us great promises to take us through. Believe Him. — But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. – Isaiah 43:1-5

Our constancy of faith, singularity of purpose, and perseverence through trials are strengths we bring to the battle – to our circle of influence – we won’t give up on God. It’s not over yet. — Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14

An example of a life of faith in grief – Job — Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-22

An example of a life of faith after grief – David — David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. – 2 Samuel 12:16-20

Our example of a life of complete obedience and love – Jesus — Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:1-12

As Christ-followers, we are His laborers in the Harvest – we are all His laborers. The marketplace wherever we are is crowded, even in times of war, with those who desperately need Him. – we are His workers; He will redeem. — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-38

Baptist Global Response

What Does the Bible Say About Grief and Sorrow

What We Owe Beheaded Children – I Have No Words – But Lend My Voice in Support of These – Praying

Blog - WHat We Owe to Beheaded Children

[Used with Permission by Author Lori Stanley Roeleveld]

What unspeakable horror of which we must now speak.

So many headlines have bombarded my vision, my senses, my soul through my fifty plus years but this one, this one grabs my heart and tears it open like a gorilla at a bag of chips.

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is reportedly slaughtering Christians and doing it with the intent to horrify others into converting to Islam before they find their own necks touched by a callous blade. They film their barbaric acts, televised terrorism, which includes ravaging women and beheading children.

I won’t go on. But it begs the question – what do we owe beheaded children, crucified men, and tortured women?

We can’t unknow what is being reported. We can’t jump in planes and gather the children, their parents, their broken bodies in our arms. We also cannot allow the darkness to cripple us with fear, sadness, or hatred. These are the weapons of darkness, not light, and if we yield to them, we kneel before the same idol as the terrorists. So, what do we owe those who fall?

First, we owe them to bear witness to the crimes against them. As horrible as it is to know that children are being beheaded, we dishonor them by hiding our faces in the sand. This is part of the pain of the end times, bearing witness to the horror. Still, the suffering of hearing these unpleasant truths pales in comparison to the suffering of those who must live it but this is our pain, the pain of being witnesses who refuse to turn away.

If we turn away and refuse to know, we aid the enemy in their efforts, we tell the victims they die alone, unnoticed, we say to the world we are cowed by evil. Only by the strength available in Christ can our eyes remain open but open they shall remain. We won’t blindfold ourselves.

Second, we owe them to live lives worthy of Jesus Christ. Every five-year-old who falls by the sword should be a reminder to us that God has shown us grace simply by choosing the land in which we were born. That might have been our child. It might have been us. It should magnify our gratitude. It should galvanize our desire to live life to the fullest. In the name of these babies slaughtered, we can refuse to take our own lives in Christ for granted. We can live out the freedom granted us by the eternal lives blazing within us like a thousand suns. We owe these ones who have been robbed of life to not waste a moment of ours.

Third, we can refuse to pick up the weapons of darkness – fear, hatred, bloodshed, rage, and violence – but instead, wield the weapons at our disposal in Jesus Christ. We will learn to battle on our knees, moving the forces of heaven with our prayers. We will force back the darkness by aiming our light in its direction. We will refuse to remain ignorant, blind, and silent. We will not stand idly by but neither will we engage them on the field of their choosing. We will force them to fight where they are destined to lose – in the realm of the kingdom of God. Do you know prayer warriors? Apprentice with them. Ask them to teach you to battle in prayer. Build up your endurance for the long siege to come.

Fourth and finally, we can prepare for the time to come. Those who have fallen in the name of Jesus will wake to see His face. If they could speak to us from beyond, they would say “Be ready. Strengthen your hearts, your minds, your souls in Christ Jesus for the day they paint the mark on your door, for the day they aim the sword at your throat, for the day they come to slay your children.”

Know the One in whose name you pray and for whose name they were cut down. For even as the soil of Iraq and Syria absorbs their shed blood, their spirits are entering the kingdom of Christ where pain and suffering are no more. Those who struck them down have no hope unless they repent and call on the name of Christ to be saved. Those who struck them down are already dead, but we are alive forever. Know God’s word. Rid your life of sin and fear. Listen to God and move forward in faith when He speaks.

I know that some of you, loved ones, are more sensitive and tenderhearted than others. I know this is hard. It’s painful to bear witness and awful to hear of these atrocities. Jesus Christ will make us strong. He will make us able to bear up – those who face the sword and those left to wrestle with the knowledge of their violent deaths. He is with us all.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ESV)

What do we owe beheaded children? We owe them to live for the One in whose name they died.

This is a time to share our courage and strength. How else can we battle for those who have fallen? What scripture passages shall we pray? What news outlets are most reliable? Let’s share what we know here in the comments so we can act when we can, pray with wisdom, and support those who still live in the path of the blade.

We need to encourage one another, loved ones. Are you in for company along the narrow road? Click on the bar above that says “I’m in” and learn how to be a part of our little band of followers or Click Here to subscribe or contact me. Mercy and grace, Lori

**People are messaging me about sharing this post – yes, everyone has my permission to share this post, copy it and post it, send it through email, use the buttons at the bottom of the post to share through social media, etc. I’m sure you’ll all credit it back to this site but what is most important is spreading the message contained in the words. My prayer is that God uses them for His glory and for the building up of His church. Lori

Amazing Grace – On the Edge of Our Seats – Will She Remember?

VBS Preview 2013_LifeWay

Children’s programs at church have such a wide scope of experience for the persons in the congregation. Depending on the choral leaders and the sound capabilities of the church, special music done by children can be almost professional. Or they can be…something altogether otherwise. Still, it’s a good opportunity for children to get up there and bring a Gospel message, of a sort, and hone the life skill (?) of performing in front of people. And make their parents proud. I’ve been among those parents. Now I’m enjoying the musical adventures of other parents’ children until the coming of grandchildren who will mesmerize me with their musical giftings.

For now, I want to tell you a story of young girl who was handed a mic on a Sunday night at a church where my husband was to speak. This story came to my remembrance after watching a video from my Facebook feed. Sometimes I regret clicking on these videos for all the time burned watching them. This one was different – a little girl singing Amazing Grace with a voice mature beyond her years and a poise also of a strikingly older girl as well.

Not so with the girl in my story. She walked up to the podium with more courage than poise. She was a 5th or 6th grader, lacking the fashion-sense of an older middle schooler. Thin, a bit thrown-together in her clothing choices, and her hair a little wild in someone’s harried attempt to bring it under control for this occasion.

I was cringing a little as the minister of music handed her the mic and positioned her on the stage. It had the feel of a darling little girl who might have asked for this opportunity, not having proved herself previously, but a decision based on kindness. Now, her eyes were wide with the reality of the moment.

She sang without benefit of words before her…and actually sang fairly well through the first two verses of Amazing Grace. Her face was expression-less as she stared out into the congregation (maybe having had the coaching of “just look at heads, not faces” to still any fear she might have had).

“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!”

And then came the third memory-making verse…she sang the first two lines as she’d sung the previous verses. Standing straight, with her little shoulders squared, staring with resolve into the audience:

“Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;”

And then she stopped. Frozen. It was obvious she could not, for the life of her, remember what came next.

Probably every adult in that church knew what words came next. This song has been a part of church tradition for centuries. We know this song. I think every one of us sat up, leaned forward, and did all we could to will those words back in her mind. Some of us might have even prayed for her. I was searching the front of the church for her parents, a teacher, the minister of music. If there were any mouthing the words for her, she did not see them – her eyes transfixed on the crowd in front of her.

And then, after what seemed an eternity, with no observable change at all in her face or posture, she found the words:

 ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Glory! A collective sense of relief washed over the people. And right then, if not before, we worshipped. In fact, I have probably not experienced any more rich a moment of corporate worship as when those words tumbled out of her mouth.

It’s grace. All grace really…that brings us safe thus far. And grace will lead us home.

I honestly can’t remember if she sang the last verse alone…or if we joined her. Whichever it was, with tears in many of our eyes, we silently or loudly, sang the rest with her. This little girl, with a mic, and a moment of grand deliverance. Thanks be to God.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.”

2006 Nov 352

YouTube of little girl singing Amazing Grace

Short Documentary on the Story Behind the Song Amazing Grace

The complete verses of Amazing Grace by John Newton

Wikipedia article on Amazing Grace (with lyrics)

 

Bookmarked Summer – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

2014 July Blog pics 002

Summer…So many thoughts flood our mind at the mention of the word. Longer days. No more school (usually). Family vacation. Road trips. Reunions. Abundant fruits and vegetables. Cookouts. For our family, all the years our children were in school, wherever we were in the world, summer also meant a reading program. We always got a head-start on the books in their next reading level. That may sound like punishment, but it wasn’t. We all gained from each other’s reading. New characters, new places, mysteries and adventures, history unknown to us until we read about it in these books. Our summers were always marked by whatever we were reading – bookmarked.

The summer reading program is behind us all, but we still have an avid reader in our daughter. She continues to introduce our family to lovely stories, and such was the case with this strange-titled little book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (an aunt and her niece), this little book is a historical fiction with some of the confounding twists of plot reminiscent of Jane Austen novels. This story is set in England, in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. It focuses on the correspondence of a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and various people in her life, including her publisher, a childhood friend, a suitor, and a group of book club members on Guernsey Island.

During World War II, the tactical decision was made that the Channel Islands could not be protected from the Germans and therefore left on their own. They were occupied for most of the war by the German military. In fact, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society emerged in this isolated hardship situation.

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Through an odd turn of events, Juliet struck up a friendship with one of the island dwellers, and that friendship grew to include all of the remaining book club members as well as some of the other less literary islanders.

“It was so kind of you to write to me about your experiences during the Occupation. At the war’s end, I, too, promised myself that I had done with talking about it. I had talked and lived war for six years, and I was longing to pay attention to something – anything – else. But that is like wishing I were someone else. The war is now the story of our lives, and there’s no subtracting it.”

Through the letters between Juliet and her new-found friends, she was so moved by how they survived the German occupation, that she arranged a visit to Guernsey. The visit became a lengthy stay and her life was changed forever.

Blog - Guernsey Literary Society Annie BarrowsMary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*

I loved this story. Historical fiction has never been my favorite because the details (intertwining the history of the period with the characters) usually wear me out in the reading. This story engaged my mind and heart so well that I could smell the salt air and feel the sea mist in my hair. Yet, the terror of war coupled with the consolation of friendship became as real as if I were there in that moment. It surprises me that Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows are not English (Mrs. Shaffer is from West Virginia) because they crafted the story as if it happened to them. It was deeply personal to them. Some of the beauty of the book could have come out of their love for each other, as Mrs. Shaffer’s failing health required Annie to finish the book for them both (published in 2008, after Mary Ann Shaffer died). What a legacy for them together…

The picture below is the first page of the book.

IMG

It alludes to the curious way Juliet Ashton, the leading character of the book, came into the lives of the Guernsey islanders. My daughter recommending this book to me in the long days of this summer gave me a similar experience. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has marked not only my summer, but my life.

There is still time…don’t miss this book this summer. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading it, you know what I’m talking about.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” 

Guernsey Occupation

Fact File: Channel Islands Invaded

Telling the Truth about the Channel Islands Cost Me My Friends 

Short Video about the book featuring author Annie Barrows

Goodreads Quotes from the book

*Photo Credit – www.anniebarrows.com

 

 

 

Stop…and Then Go – Connect with Internationals

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For many years, our family lived overseas. When work takes people out of their home countries into other cultures, we can embrace the experience or insulate ourselves from the experience. I loved living overseas. The people who invited us into their lives were some of the kindest, most generous people we’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Our family tried to live very intentionally, learning all we could about the ebb and flow of life of each new culture and what mattered to the people there.

Our friendships grew deep, even when we didn’t share the same religion or the same traditions, we lived life alongside each other. We learned from them and they learned from us. Now, working back in the U.S., I find that we’re on the flip-side of that experience. We have many, many internationals living in our city, and some are our friends. They are here for school or for work or for refuge from war or other disasters. Just as local people overseas reached out to us with help and hospitality, we want to reach out to these internationals who are now our neighbors here.

Rachel Pieh Jones, in her blog Djibouti Jones, lists out 20 things expats should stop doing if they are going to really thrive in their host countries (where they’re currently working or studying). I was intrigued by this list and saw how some of Rachel Jones’ observations would be helpful when applied here, by us in our home countries. Out of her list of 20 “stop’s” – things to stop doing in order to make a foreign place more your home – I adapted 10  (with her permission) to help us be less “foreign” to internationals/immigrants – those who are among us gradually making this country their home (even for a season). As we are willing to stretch out our lives to truly welcome internationals in, we can help make it possible for them to feel at home here (for a season…or a lifetime).

10 Things We Should Stop Doing if We Desire to Build Relationships with Internationals

  1. Stop complaining. We complain a lot, and often about first world problems. We also too often complain about peoples of other nationalities (both those in our home country and in their own). If we truly desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to them, we look for what is good (about our own country, and theirs).  Focus on what is good about both their country and our own. Look for the common denominators that build bridges.
  2. Stop putting off language learning. You may not have any ambition about learning another language, and for sure, most internationals living here for school or work are doing what they can to master English. Still it is a delight for any of us to hear even a few words in our own language. Rachel Jones talks about the great impact you can have by learning even a few words: “Make their day by putting in the time, effort, and laughter to honor their language.”
  3. Stop hanging out with only other Americans. Internationals, and especially immigrants, will find each other, and tend to also gather just among themselves. However, if you reach out to a neighbor or colleague or fellow student, you will, more often than not, be well-received. Strike up a conversation and gently ask questions about them and their country and their culture. You may be opening the door to a friendship beneficial to you both. Visit your new international neighbor (bearing in mind possible cultural constraints, but don’t let those keep you from extending hospitality). Are there immigrant vendors/proprietors in your neighborhood? Call them by name. “Celebrate holidays with gusto”, Jones says, (both yours and theirs).
  4. Stop your addiction to social media. There’s a lot to be said about what we gain from social media. Eventually, however, to really engage with international/immigrant neighbors or coworkers, you have to get up, go out, and meet them where they are. Just this week I celebrated the discovery of an authentic Japanese noodle restaurant with a young Japanese friend. She just graduated from her university here and, with no family in the US, we celebrated together as family.
  5. Stop taking yourself so seriously. To pursue cross-cultural relationships, you will make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand social cues from an international friend. You will make mistakes, sure, but your friend knows your heart. People who don’t make mistakes in international relationships simply don’t have them..at least at any deep, constant level.
  6. Stop ignoring beggars.  This may seem a strange point in this list. Rachel Jones’ family has made their second home in a very impoverished African country. If you live in a US city, you have probably encountered beggars. They are most probably Americans, not internationals. Still beggars are found in most cultures. How to respond to beggars is a challenge for us all. It may be a case-by-case decision, but seek the Lord about a Biblical response to beggars. Beggars remind us all of how Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” Your immigrant/international friends will take note of how you respond to beggars. In her blog, Jones said, “That doesn’t mean to start giving to them; decide your own convictions on that. But look at them and talk to them. Ask their names and listen to their stories.”
  7. Stop ignoring the international press and international events[observed locally].  To often we focus on the news reports that only affect us. As you develop friendships with internationals, seek out news items that affect them or their families back home. Participate in their cultural events or festivals when possible.
  8. Stop shopping only at the more high-end stores. Of course, there are internationals who are very wealthy and shop in those stores, too. This is just to keep in mind for the others in your lives. Find where your immigrant friends shop and how they manage to feed and clothe their families. You may learn how to better, or more creatively, do the same for your own family.
  9. Stop being afraid. Examine your heart about what makes you afraid of being in the lives of internationals. Is it the language difference? Their culture? Are you afraid you might offend? Or you afraid a friendship might be too time-consuming? Or will it become awkward if they need jobs or a visa? Or is it an issue of love – you are not even sure how you feel about them being here? With God’s help, deal with the fear and allow Him to work in your heart to build bridges, rather than walls.
  10. Stop thinking you can solve the(ir) country’s problems.  I heard a very strange news report this week that enemy nations were accusing each other of killing their own people and blaming the other side.  We live in strange times, and it’s difficult to know really who to believe about politics or the world’s problems. We all have opinions about how nations can improve the situation for their peoples, but very few of us are in a position to make that happen. Praying and loving, in Jesus’ name, are our best tools to help our friends as they look back “home” and long for things to be better there.

A Bonus: Rachel Pieh Jones ended her list of 20 Stops with:

20.  Stop forgetting to call your mom. Good advice for us all.

I hope you found this helpful. Jones’ blog for expats reminded me of how we’re all pilgrims on this journey. Whatever we can do to help and understand each other will make community for people who very much need community…and in demonstrating the love of Jesus to these immigrants/internationals, they gain much more than just our friendship.

20 Things Expats Need to Stop Doing

 

 

 

Ramadan – Much More Than Fasting – A Quick Study for the Sake of Your Friends & Coworkers

2008270mnj287“Ramadan Kareem!” “Ramadan Mabrouk!” “Ramadan Mabarak!” may be familiar words to you…or not so much. Around the world, among Muslims, these are greetings of blessing for their holy month of Ramadan. In this month, all Islamic peoples are united in the observance of their religion, more than any other time of the year.

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is considered holy because Muhammad, Islam’s most revered prophet, reported receiving the Qu’ran during this month. At the sighting of the new moon at the beginning of Ramadan, Muslims begin a month-long exercise of six tenets of their faith, consistent, to a large extent, among all of the world’s practicing Muslims.

Fasting [Sawm (Arabic: صوم‎)]  From sunrise to sunset, during Ramadan, devout Muslims fast. In some countries, in fact, it’s illegal for a Muslim to be seen eating or drinking during these hours. There are exceptions (young children, the sick, elderly, and others in a few defined temporary situations). However, the fast is intended to be complete during the day (no food, drink, smoking, sexual intercourse, or profane speech). At sunset, the fast is broken with a meal together as family and eating can continue into the night until just before sunrise the next day. Because of this “flipped day”, Muslims, when possible, sleep during the day or spend time in recreation, exercise, or visiting. The women must still cook for that “break-fast” meal. School and work hours are shortened during Ramadan because of the fast.

Tip for you: Be sensitive to your fasting friend or coworker. If possible refrain from eating, drinking, smoking in front of him/her. Invite them to break their fast with your family (it means a meal later than usual, if Ramadan is in the long summer months). Don’t miss an opportunity to join them if you’re invited to a meal in their home.

Charity [Sadaqah or Saddka (Arabic: صدقة‎, plural ṣadaqāt صدقات)] and/or Alms-giving [Zakāt (Arabic: زكاة‎ )] Part of the reason for fasting is to experience the life of one poorer than you. The idea is to eat less and use the money saved to give to the poor during Ramadan. Islam has two types of charity – one is voluntary charity to the poor that is seen often during Ramadan; the other is the mandatory alms-giving, required by faithful adherents to Islam. Ramadan is sometimes the month when Muslims give their alms through their mosque(s).

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Tip for you: You and your Muslim friends/colleagues may share a concern for the poor of your city or for an oppressed people group somewhere in the world. This could open a door for you to act together on behalf of those in need.

Prayers [Ṣalāt (Arabic: صلاة‎ ṣalāt; pl. صلوات ṣalawāt)] Prayers are a major tenet of the Muslim faith. During Ramadan, prayers are considered even more powerful to the faithful Muslim. Entry into Paradise can hopefully be won through the careful attention to religious practices during Ramadan. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, a special Night of Power [Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لیلة القدر‎)], is believed to have even greater weight in the practicing Muslim’s pursuit of favor with God.

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Tip for you: Even if you do not notice your Muslim friend or coworker’s prayers usually, during Ramadan, you may see them praying in their homes or at their desks. The mosques in your neighborhood will be much more noticeably busy during Ramadan. Besides the usual Friday service, and the 5 regular prayer-times during the day, there are often special opportunities for Muslims to gather to pray and read and discuss the Qu’ran. Pray for them as they pray.

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God-consciousness or Piety [Taqwa (Arabic: تقوى‎ )] For many devout Muslims, Ramadan may not be so exceptional, except for the fast. Most, however, count on this month for its spiritual focus. Both men and women will have opportunities to learn more about God and the teachings of their prophet Muhammad. The global observance of Ramadan is a galvanizing experience for Muslims, with each other, and with the history of their religion, and, their hope, with God.

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Tip for you: Ramadan is an excellent time of the year to increase your own understanding of what your Muslim friends/co-workers believe. Questions about their faith are usually welcomed. Arguments about faith are not. Do your own homework about the faith issues where you may disagree with Islamic teaching. This type of information is prolific on the internet (especially related to differences in thinking between Christians and Muslims). Then you can ask or discuss the faith issues that matter most to your friends/colleagues, because during Ramadan, they have been thinking about them.

Community [Ummah (Arabic: أمة‎)] Breaking the fast together and praying together in the mosque are clear signs of the strong bond between Muslims, especially seen during Ramadan. Christians enjoy this experience through similar celebrations (Christmas and Easter, to name two) and through their faith in Christ, bringing them into the larger Family or Kingdom of God. This Muslim observance of Ramadan, in its 30-day concentration of focus and universal religious practice, is unique to this religion.

Tip for you: For some, the community of the Islamic world, in their religious practices and political views, can be a little uncomfortable. A good reminder to self is that Islam is a religion, and Muslims are people. Whatever you agree with or disagree with, regarding the religion, needs to be separate from how you engage with the persons who identify with a certain religion. All of us need community and affiliation. So don’t be put off by the Islamic practices you see in Ramadan. Remember, the people who are fasting, praying, and trying to understand God may share very similar concerns and struggles. AND if your Muslim friend/colleague is observing Ramadan away from his family/religious community, he or she is especially isolated and could really use your friendship during this time.

Ramadan’s Festival Day(s) [Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر‎)] – at the end of this month’s fasting and praying – in a future blog.

Muslim Website on Getting the Most Benefit Out of Ramadan

Breaking Fast with Family – English Subtitles – Coca-Cola Commercial – Strong Message of Perceived Power of Month of Ramadan in Changes of Heart

Short Public Service Announcement on Breaking the Fast & Family Time Together After

Breaking the Fast – Ramadan Subway Commercial – You Don’t Have to Know the Language to Appreciate the Message

California Muslim Teens Explaining Ramadan

A Morality Tale (Ramadan Pepsi/Lays Potato Chip Commercial) on the pull of society on Muslim Youth & How Ramadan Holds Family Together

What Growing Up in a Muslim Country Taught Us About Ramadan – Another Author’s View

Glossary of Islamic (Arabic) Terms for the Month of Ramadan

Arabic Words & English Transliteration