Sunday, January 18, 2009

Things I've Learned Recently

These are just sort of random facts that have come across my desk in the last couple of weeks. They're the kind of stuff you just want to tell someone about and be like: "man, can you believe that?" And since my husband's gone, I thought I'd have that conversation over cyberspace with you, my blog-readers... I'd love to hear your comments.

1) At the Presidential Inauguration on Tues, there will be in excess of 40,000 armed security forces in place... which is MORE than the number of troops we currently have in Afghanistan! really?! (heard on CNN news)

2) By the year, 2050, America's white (of European origin) race will drop below 50% of our country's total population. That is within our lifetime. This is due to the vast increase in our refugee community, LEGAL immigrant community, and illegal immigrant community. America will be a rich curry of peoples... are you prepared to live with love in an ever-growing community of people who will out-number you? (read in "The Middle of Everywhere" by Mary Pipher)

3) "A 2001 survey conducted in low-income neighborhoods (in Egypt) found that 96% of women had been beaten at least once by their husbands." And the first "women's shelter" ever started in Egypt wasn't until 2006. Really?! (read in article here.)

4) A representative of Habitat for Humanity shared with me recently that the average Habitat home built in the U.S. costs between $80,000-$100,000. But the average cost of a Habitat home built in Egypt costs $1,100 U.S. dollars. Wow, huh? To learn more about Habitat for Humanity's Egypt office, click here.

What do yall think? Pretty interesting stuff, huh?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross

Last weekend, an Egyptian friend of mine was visiting Austin and he brought me a gift... the latest book from his mentor, Dr. Nabeel T. Jabbour called "The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross". Dr. Jabbour is an Arab Christian who was born in the Middle East and, as an adult, lived in Egypt (for 25 years) which is close to my heart, before he was kicked out and blacklisted by their government. After this, he moved to Colorado and took a job at The Navigators home office, overseeing all Middle Eastern programs.

My friend said that of all the books he's read on Christianity and its philosophy towards, strategy for, and relationship with Islam & Muslims, this was by far his favorite. He'd already read it three times since its recent release and was oozing with glowing remarks. So, after returning from our lunch, I sat down to read my new book... and I read... and read... and read... until I finished the last page with heavy eyes in the wee hours of the morning, 8 hours later. A first for me.

He was right. I couldn't put it down. What was different about this book, from others I've read on Islam & Christianity's response, was that it primarily sought to address WHY it is so difficult for Muslims to convert & get integrated into Christianity. Jabbour breaks it down into 3 main reasons (each with loads of detail in their arguement): 1) the message itself, 2) us, the messengers, and 3) the Muslim receiver of the message. I know that sounds broad, and it is, but then he goes on through the rest of the book to explain from a Muslim's point of view why each of these three things is a stumbling block for them to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. He uses real conversations and real dialogues he's had with hundreds of Muslims over the long years of his life.

But of course, as a follower of Jesus, I want to share the hope and love I have in Christ with all my friends, Muslims included... so does this book just tell me why that will never happen? No. In fact, what it served to do in my head was give me a portal into Muslim worldview and how they see things completely differently. If I can seek to understand Muslims and how they view the world, then my methods of loving, serving, and sharing with them will ultimately change.

I plan to blog about some of the points that really hit home for me in a different post, so I can ellaborate and include excerpts from the book. So, for now, let me just say, this book will definately turn into one of my "top recommended resources" on the subject to all those who share my desire to know and love Muslims more.

The one thing I hated about this book was the title... why is it that every book about Christian-Muslim relations or study have to use the same 2 words: Crescent & Cross. I get it... they are the "symbols" for each religion, but each book has way more unique insights and points to make other than the broad statement (or really the totally non-defining statement) of the title. That, however, is my only beef with this book.

Book Review: Secret Believers

This week, I took a short road trip to go visit Andy for the night... he's out of town writing some new songs and I hadn't seen him in a while. So, for my drive, I had been saving this great little book-on-tape: "Secret Believers" by Brother Andrew. Kimberly Stewart had recommended it to me back in the spring and she was right-- it was great!
I actually bought this as Christmas presents for some friends this year too because had them on sale (and still do!! $1.99 each for the audio CD). All in all it was about 4 plus hours of audio and is the abridged version of the book, but was still a page turner (as much as an audio book can be... ha ha).

Brother Andrew, the author, has been working in countries with high Muslim populations for years and years and this book spans over a several years too. It is a composite of a collection of believers he knew in the Middle East. So although these stories are real, they are written in a way so as not to compromise the believers safety.

The storyline covers: How God drew each believer to follow Jesus... What plans for fellowship God put in their lives... What ways God asked them to serve Him... and of course, the persecutions they faced because of their faith. It was a story of their passion and heart for God that would be such a stretch for an American Christian, yet it is their daily life.

If you want to read a snapshot of what being a follower of Jesus is like in the Middle East, pick up this book (or CD). :) To read an excerpt, click here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book Review: The Post-American World

I picked up this book ("The Post-American World") on a whim. I was traveling home from Dallas and wanted a book on tape. I went to Half Price in hopes of finding one of Obama's two books in audio format so I could learn a little bit about our new president. But they were out of stock. So, I grabbed this after I recognized the author, Fareed Zakaria.

Zakaria hosts a weekly show on CNN that I Tivo called "GPS: Global Public Square". It is always such a fascinating insight into what's happening in the rest of the world and how it all interplays and affects the world as a whole, not just America. He covers news stories and global trends like no one else on American news stations. He is an Indian immigrant in the US and is flat out brilliant. I ended up even giving this book to my dad and my friend Joey for Christmas before I even finished it.

It was a great read... not a light or easy read, but TRULY FASCINATING to dig a little deeper into the post-american world. And it wasn't wholly negative about the U.S., it just focused on the development of the rest of the world. Really cool slant. If you have the same fascination as I do about global events and the multi-cultural world in which we now live, I highly recommend it!

From the Barnes & Noble website, here is the blurb about the book... the publishers describe it far better than I could:

A Prophetic Assessment of America's Changing Place
in an Increasingly Global Age

For Fareed Zakaria, the great story of our times is not the decline of America but rather the rise of everyone else—the growth of countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, and many, many more. This economic growth is generating a new global landscape where power is shifting and wealth and innovation are bubbling up in unexpected places. It's also producing political confidence and national pride. As these trends continue, the push of globalization will increasingly be joined by the pull of nationalism—a tension that is likely to define the next decades.

With his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination, Zakaria draws on lessons from the two great power shifts of the past five hundred years—the rise of the Western world and the rise of the United States—to tell us what we can expect from the third shift, the "rise of the rest." Washington must begin a serious transformation of global strategy and seek to share power, create coalitions, build legitimacy, and define the global agenda. None of this will be easy for the greatest power the world has ever known—the only power that for so long has really mattered. But all that is changing now. The future we face is the post-American world.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Turk's Insight Into America

Andy and I just hosted our good friend Umut, from Turkey, for the last 5 weeks. He left today and looking back, I learned a lot about my own country and my own routine through his eyes. Here are some interesting insights he had... things I rarely, if ever, thought about:
  • He said that everything in America tastes so sweet and sugary... even things that aren't supposed to. He was sick to his stomach the first few weeks while he adjusted.
  • After a visit with me to the grocery store, he remarked how wonderful it was that we allowed "old people" to work. He said in Turkey, if you are over 30, you cannot get a job that puts you out in front of people.
  • He is amazed that we opt to drive everywhere, even something a few blocks away... "why don't you walk?"
  • Fried pickles are the best American invention (according to him).
  • Clothes and shoes are CHEAP in America... but when he would read labels, he'd say, "Oh, it figures: 'made in china'". He's convinced we don't make anything ourselves.
  • Consumption of soft drinks results in weight gain. He says (I don't know where he got his figures from) that he gained 15 pounds because of all the soda he drank. [So, THAT'S where my extra weight comes from?!]
  • American football should be renamed handball or wrestling or some combination there of... this was a big demand of his in effort to preserve the reputation of his favorite sport, (the real) football.
  • And finally, even though Turks eat something called chee-kofta (terrible interpretation of spelling), which he described as "a raw meat dish", they still TOTALLY GROSS OUT when Americans eat raw beef (like beef tartar or beef carpaccio) or sushi. I thought he was gonna gag himself watching me eat sushi nigri one night.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cross-Cultural Labor & Delivery

My Turkish conversation friend, Sibel, had her first baby yesterday here in Austin. Wonderful & exciting news to be a new mom and she is already so in love her little one. But today when I went to visit her at Seton, the hard truth of crossing cultures stood out to me and made me hurt for her.

To her disadvantage, she went into labor while her husband was out of town on business (and he won't return till Thurs). She is from Turkey and is still learning English. So he wasn't there to translate what the doctors and nurses were saying or help her make decisions which she only barely understood. I simply cannot imagine having to go through all that labor & delivery entails in a second language, with no support system. Can you even imagine having to ask your medical questions, or learn the new in's and out's of motherhood, in Spanish (for most Texans, that would be our equivalent)?

When I turned up today to congratulate her, there was a sign on her door saying "Patient requests no male staff or visitors" (because she was holed up in her room without her headscarf and in her PJs). After greeting me, she told me-- with a deep sadness-- that they couldn't deliver her baby naturally. They had to perform a C-section. And after pushing a little further, I realized that she went into delivery in the middle of the night on Friday and at 4am Saturday, they moved forward with the surgery. She had no one there who could help explain what they were even talking about. While I was visiting, the "lactation consultant" came in to talk to her about breast-feeding. Talk about a difficult conversation to translate or communicate about! Words like "latch on" and explaining the feeding schedule, etc. I know she had so many questions that she could explain right. Sibel had a great Turkish friend there helping to translate (but she was only there for a few hours and then had to leave her with only Turkish speaking friends), but it still was stressful for her. Being Muslim, she also adheres to a specific dietary code. So none of the hospital food would do... instead all her Turkish friends had brought up an entire store-full of Turkish foods that they were sweetly offering to every visitor and staff.

Those things alone make me so sympathetic to foreigners having to endure critical events in a place and language they do not understand. I could tell she was frightened, yet courageous. She was lonely & missing her husband (and her own family not able to come to America for the birth because the US government denied them visas), yet relying on the Turkish community of women who were rallying to her rescue the best they knew how. What an experience! So challenging for her to endure... and for me, a little bit heart-breaking to watch.

(I would post a pic of little Joseph online, but I am not sure if that's culturally ok???)