Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quote: God as our Last Resource - [cqod] 05/30/07 -- MacDonald: the last resort:

"How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest
resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. And
then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon
the rocks, but into the desired haven.

... George MacDonald (1824-1905)"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quote: "Bondage of the Will"

This is why I don't believe a person's will is ever really "free". Whenever a person tells me something about their 'free will' I want to ask: What is your will free from? All outside influence? Surely not. So in what sense can it be free? Certainly it's yours to exercise. But I don't think it's ever free.

I think Robert Short gets it right in this quote.

The heart's slavish and dogged devotion to its idol is
what fathers of the Church have called 'the bondage of the
will.' This bondage becomes most painfully apparent in our
lives when we earnestly feel the need of changing but cannot;
when we are attracted to another value that for one reason or
another conflicts with the desires of our true god--that value
nearest and dearest to us. But our true god lies so deeply
inside us that often we are not even consciously aware of its
presence or of what it actually is.

... Robert L. Short (b.1932), The Parables of Peanuts

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Call to Reinterpret the Islamic Law

This interesting report came up today in the Khaleej Times. See what you think of it.

NEW YORK — The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Shaikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, has issued a strong call for re-interpreting Islamic texts in order to address the social, educational and other constraints impeding the equality of women in the Middle East.

Pointing to the dynamism of Islamic Shariah to adapt to the changing situations, she called for new interpretations of the texts in the light of the new life circumstances.

"The concept of human rights is based on the notion that all human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms," Shaikha Haya noted in an address to a panel discussion on May 16 on "Women and Human Rights in the Middle East" at Rutgers University, New Jersey, US.

She said the situation stems in part from the interpretation of Islamic text. "Women are subject to family laws that are Shariah-based, which strictly follow the interpretations of Islamic scholars who lived 1,000 years ago at the beginning of Islam. These interpretations are applied now without making any allowances to the very different social contexts of today," she said.

"In fact, these interpretations are sanctified as holy which prevent them from criticism and change. This is one of the main reasons behind the discrepancy between personal status codes on the one hand and the current social circumstances on the other."
The General Assembly President blamed a "lack of rational interpretations of the texts that integrate the current social circumstances."

For Texting Teens, an OMG Moment When the Phone Bill Arrives -

Fascinating story at the Washington Post today on texting and teens. Having arrived in Dubai 5 years ago and working with my church's youth group have perhaps given me a earlier entre' into the world of texting than my Western counterparts.

For Texting Teens, an OMG Moment When the Phone Bill Arrives -

"Teenagers elsewhere in the world have been texting furiously for years, using the cheap technology to evade government controls on dating in Saudi Arabia and to foment revolution in the Philippines. Now that texting has exploded in America, it's regarded as one of the current teen generation's inexplicable behaviors, like instant-messaging or spending hours on Facebook.

'What we have to see is that connections are very different than when we were growing up,' said Lilli Friedland, a Los Angeles psychologist who also does consulting for the entertainment industry. Text-messaging, she said, is how kids feel comfortable communicating today. Think it, text it, keep it short, have to have it."

As with any other type of technology, too much or misapplication of it can lead astray. But I personally like texting for lots of situations. It's quick and effective often. On my recent business trip to Jordan I could text back to Dubai and feel in touch with lots of people at a lower cost than a voice call and with less of a time commitment.

One of the questions of texting though is how it effects the quality of relationship you would have with another person. I believe that at some point, loving another person requires being there. Paul, in the New Testament, wrote many letters to congregations he couldn't physically be with (often because he was in prison or traveling in far off places). It was better than not writing, but even he mentions many times in his writings that he longs to be with them.

The article touches on this idea:

Friedland, the psychologist, says texting is different from the marathon phone calls most parents remember making as teens because it's typically done with a large group of friends. "For many of them, it is the sense of being part of a group that is really important," she said. What she worries about is that children aren't getting the "cleaner, deeper sense of friendship and relatedness" that came from talking to someone directly, even on the phone.

"We just don't know yet what the impact will be," she said.

Rubenstein can text without even looking at the keypad and responds within seconds, although the conversation tends to be about nothing especially important.
Being there physically is better than writing, whether it's on a mobile phone keypad or with quill and parchment. Still, texting is here to stay (until a superior technology supplants it) and so I'll use it to stay in touch and perhaps as a bridge to fill the gaps between face to face meetings with people where I can really communicate the love of Christ.

Funny Quote of the Day

"One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork.

Edward Abbey
US radical environmentalist (1927 - 1989)"

Friday, May 18, 2007

On the Way out of Church...

Today is "church day" here in Dubai. I seem to meet "the world" on the way to the car every week.

As I stood after singing the final hymn I turned to Dave, a construction company owner in town to explore starting a company office here. Dave is in from Arizona and I had invited him to church. As we talked I got a call on my phone... from the other side of the sanctuary. It was Tim, from south India. He's here for an extended stay with his company and had a message he wanted to pas on from a friend. I saw him wave from the other side of the room and agreed to stay put until he got there.

In the meantime, Joanna and her father Frank had approached. They're both from south India as well and Joanna works in the office with me. Frank and I arranged for lunch together this week and we bid each other farewell. As I whirled around I found Tim had made it over to me and had a friend in tow. Sati was introduced to me as a recent University graduate from Tehran, Iran who had just begun work here in Dubai. We exchanged phone numbers said we'd be in touch with each other soon.

As Sati and Tim walked away I turned to speak with Nisin and Steven. Nisin is from Kerala in south India and Steven is from Nigeria. Both had business items to talk to me about and we decided together to meet at 3pm on the first day of the week to sort it out.

My guest Dave had waited patiently and we now turned to leave the sanctuary... finally. As we left the room the Philippino church was setting up. On the way out of the doors Nisin reintroduced me to Faris, an acquaintance from Iran.

Once out into the foyer I chatted with David about his plans for the afternoon briefly before being greeted with big smiles and hugs from two brothers from the Punjab state in north India. These guys had happy greetings in the Lord and inquired about how my family was doing. I responded appropriately with inquiries about their families as well. After discussing my recent business trip to Jordan I said my goodbyes to them and moved over to speak with a young Indian friend who is thinking of going to University in the US. We chatted briefly and agreed to talk later this week on the phone about the details. Wael, from Egypt, walked past and I patted him on the back and said hello. We had encountered each other last week when business had taken me to his office building.

Dave, myself and the family finally descended the stairs to the entryway to the church. I needed to use the washroom so we stepped into the the 1st floor area under the sanctuary where I was greeted by Denis, Dipak, and Shehan - three guys in the youth group. Denis and Dipak are from India and Shehan is from Sri Lanka. Shehan gave me a hard time for not coming to the Cricket World Cup final showing at his house a couple weeks ago. I reminded him that Sri Lanka was crushed by Australia and that it wasn't much of a game. He wasn't happy with me. In the washroom I met up with the south Indian father of the young man trying to make his way to the US for University. We talked for a few minutes and we pledged to pray for one another.

Making my way back to the entryway I greeted Lizal, the Philippino woman who does some housework for us. I told her we'd see her later tonight when she got home.

With a few more greetings, one to two Indian guys I met last year and another to a young British girl involved in the youth group, we finally made our way out to the car in the sand parking lot.

In many ways it was more quick than normal weeks. I had missed most of my friends form the Arab church and also friends from the Chinese church that meets before our service. And I hadn't gotten over to say hi to the 6 or 7 African friends gathered near the front of the sanctuary, some from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Kenya.

Regardless, I'm always happy to be late in getting home from church.

Revelation 7: 9

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jordan Trip

I just returned from a long stretch of meetings in Jordan. We were able to get out just a little to see some sights. Here is a picture taken with my phone. The location is a place called Aljoun up near Jerash north of Amman. There are ruins on the top of the mountain... likely some structure erected by the Crusaders about 1000 years ago.
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Friday, May 04, 2007

Dubai in the U.S. News - NBC

Dubai has been in the U.S. news in the last few days. NBC's morning show follows their lead morning anchor around the globe asking "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?". Well, he was in Dubai a day or two ago. Here are lots of interesting videos online at the NBC site. The above shots are screen grabs of the videos.

p.s. It might be best to use Internet Explorer on the videos... I use Firefox for internet surfing and the NBC site doesn't play well with Firefox (NBC is owned by Microsoft, of course :)

Interesting Article Roundup

I'm leaving tomorrow and I needed to get these links off my desktop. You should check out these articles relating to the region and religion in particular.

NYTimes: In Iran, Tactics of Fashion Police Raise Concerns

7Days: Space Rules for Muslims

NYTimes: After Saudi's First Steps; Efforts for Reform Stall

Does your dog love you? Watch his tail.

Odd/Interesting article in the NYTimes on what your dog's wagging tail can tell you about brain activity.

I stood over my dog and tried to gauge the angle of deflection to see if he really loves me or is afraid of me. I couldn't tell a difference between the wag to the right and the wag to the left. Looks like I'll need a stop-motion camera setup to determine this as per the article.

But I know he loves me. I feed him :)

The Source and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories in the Muslim World

Extremely interesting article written just for the Gulf News recently. Husain Haqqani analyzes the source and destructiveness of conspiracy theories in the Muslim World. It's short and a "must read".

Here's a quote near the beginning...

"The contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories limits the capacity for rational discussion of international affairs. For example, a recent poll indicates that only 3 per cent of Pakistanis believe that Al Qaida was responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the US, notwithstanding Osama Bin Laden and his deputies have taken credit for the attacks on more than one occasion."

But does he go far enough in his analysis of the source? What do you think?

God's Commands through Moses for Employers

I ran across these verses in my personal study time the other day...

Employers everywhere (are you listening Dubai?) would do well to heed these commands that God gave the Israelites through Moses as recorded in the Old Testament book Deuteronomy (which means "Second Law").

24:14 “Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. 15 You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the Lord against you, and it would be counted against you as sin."

Read the whole chapter for yourself if you want.

Stinging Critique from an Emirati Professor

This Gulf News article came out over a month and a half ago but I clipped it and have been eager to comment on it. It's an amazing article given the historical lack of freedom of the press and public criticism of the government here. Much progress has been made and perhaps this published interview is evidence despite his pessimism.

The professor, Dr. Jamal Al Suwaidi, is a Political Science teacher at UAE University in Al Ain and he got his PhD at the University of Wisconsin. Here are just a few of the excerpts from his interview.

On the first democratic elections of the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi in December...

"...a setback... it showed a clear tendency toward tribalism. If the election process is to be expanded, it will become even more tribal and will take the UAE back at least 50 years"

On the recently formed Human Rights Society...

"It has done nothing since it's creation last year. It is just a name, a banner."

On the state of the media in the UAE...

"It suffers from self-censorship. Everybody talks about the freedom of expression but they never excercise it."

On the education system in the UAE...

"Our education system is a failure... The Ministry of Education talks too much but does nothing."

On the percentage of expatriates in the UAE...

"foreigners now constitute almost 90% of the population" (this is in contrast to official government numbers which state that expats are 79%)

It's a fascinating article and you should read all that he says. I'd love to talk to him over coffee one day!

For his quotes on radical Islam in the UAE click below.

On Islamism in the UAE...

"the (Muslim) Brotherhood has a following... but they have yet to interfere in state policies. (But) they surely have a local leadership in this country, carry public activities and have their own institutions."

On Islamism and democracy...

"Religious currents like the (Muslim) Brotherhood carries a message that enjoys sympathy of the majority in the Arab world. But if they grabbed power they would send everybody to the gallows."

On the Middle Eastern governmental dilemma...

"Today we are stuck between two extremes: authoritarian regimes on the one hand and the Islamist totalitarian opposition."

Those Amazing Billboard "Walkers"

(click on the picture to see a hi-res/zoomed-in version)

I continue to be amazed by the workers who 'walk' the massive billboards and scale the towering scaffolding here in Dubai. Often I see on my way to or from work but the traffic is so bad it would be suicidal to snap a picture. The other day into work I saw these guys when the lanes were relatively clear next to me. So I signaled and eased over onto the shoulder, rolled down the window and snapped this picture.

How minute they seem compared with the baby's gigantic face is a bit of a metaphor for how the subcontinent workers are treated here in the Emirates.