Redefining Success for the Faith-Based Expatriate

Quick link: You Are Not a Failure

Over at A Life Overseas today, writing about something that’s been bugging me a bit lately.

I’ve read lots of blog posts and essays about failure lately, about people who grew up wanting to change the world and end up discouraged. Jonathan Trotter wrote about this a year and a half ago. Sarita Hartz wrote about it just last week. Abby Alleman wrote about it in February. I guess its my turn.

To people who made youthful commitments they didn’t follow through on, to people who moved back ‘home’ earlier than planned, to people who don’t see what they dreamed of seeing, I want to say: You’re not a failure. And, you didn’t even fail.

You were on a date and you’d been trained to think this was a marriage. You got on a train and mistakenly believed you could never, ever get off. You’re lost in a new city and you think U-turns are not an option here. You fell in love and like most first loves, you fell out of it again. Or, it was in truth just a crush. Thankfully no one expects us or pressures us to marry our sixth grade ‘boyfriends’ and none of us feel guilty for abandoning them on the playground. But if, in our youthful naiveté and with the emotional high of a summer project, we make grand pronouncements of a lifetime commitment to service in the name of faith and turn our backs on that – we call it failure.

No one should be berated, by themselves or anyone else, for getting lost and making a U-turn. Even with Siri and GPS, we are not infallible. And when it comes to lifelong decisions, even with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we’re allowed to change direction as we grow and evolve.

Click here to read the rest of You Are Not a Failure

Fear, Muslims, and Franklin Graham

Quick link: Afraid of Muslims?

Today I am back at SheLoves Magazine to join them in an important conversation, a response to Franklin Graham’s recent inflammatory words about Muslims and immigration. Others have already written beautifully on this, most notably Marilyn Gardner, this piece simply aims at starting a conversation.

Did you know that an American in America is more likely to be killed by their refrigerator than by a Muslim terrorist? Are you afraid of your fridge?

Fear, Muslims, and Franklin Graham

Are you afraid of your toddler? Are you afraid of your dog?

Are you afraid of Muslims? I say “Muslims” instead of “terrorists” because, as media outlets and Franklin Graham apparently want us to believe, the two words are synonymous.

Franklin Graham seems to believe we should be afraid of Muslims and that we are at war with Muslims both in the US and abroad. A few weeks ago he said immigration needs to be closed to Muslims, that we are under attack. He isn’t alone in this kind of ignorant fear-mongering. Over 160,000 people liked his Facebook post.

In the United States in 2013, three people were killed by terrorists (who were Muslim), all three at the Boston Marathon. That same year, five people were shot by gun-wielding toddlers, and about 34 died of dog bites.

Why didn’t Graham insist we prohibit toddlers inside our borders? Why hasn’t he called for a moratorium on dog ownership?…

To read more and to join the conversation, click here: Afraid of Muslims?

*”Ground Zero Mosque Supporters 4” by David Shankbone from USA – Ground Zero Mosque Protesters.

 

The Bookshelf: Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, started June 18. This means Muslims don’t eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. In Djibouti, and many other places, this is incredibly difficult. I’ve fasted several times during Ramadan, though only once for the entire month, and my respect for those who maintain the fast is high. I’ve also fasted at other times of the year and in different ways. My personal faith conviction is that yes, I should fast, but also that Jesus didn’t lay down an exact methodology or time frame for it.

So, this week I wanted to look at some books that talk about fasting and also about Ramadan.

A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper

The first is one that has been significant for me. I read it in college, slowly and thoughtfully, and it left a massive impact on my beliefs and my actions. Though many authors tout the physical and mental benefits of fasting, I love food too much to relinquish it without this deeper, spiritual call to fast. In a world of gluttony and abundance and over abundance, of needing to be satisfied, needing things easy, going without food is absolutely contradicting this tidal wave of cultural pressure to be comfortable. People tell me they can’t fast because when they do, they feel dizzy and weak. Yup. You’re supposed to feel dizzy and weak, you’re designed to need food so going without it is hard. That’s partly the point, at least one of the points. To remind us of our weaknesses. Anyway, this is a great book.

7 Basic Steps to Successful Fasting & Prayer by Bill Bright

This is a really short booklet, just 24-pages, but it is a great resource for Christians wanting to grow in their discipline of fasting and who have questions on how to go about it. Practical and obviously a quick read.

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to a series of articles and videos about Ramadan. I have not had the chance to look through them, found them through Twitter.

I am assuming that not all Djibouti Jones readers have a background in Islam or knowledge about the month of Ramadan or other tenets of the faith. Karen Armstrong provides an accessible and interesting read on Islam, including Ramadan in Islam: A Short History.

 

 

 

 

And now I guess I have to confess that I haven’t read much more about fasting. Oh, chapters here and there in books about Islam or about Christianity. I could reference those books but instead I’ll send you to links from In Culture Parent. This post includes six books geared toward children about Ramadan. Here are a couple:

A Party in Ramadan

Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story

 

What I’m Reading This Week

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. What can I say? Fascinating. Fascinating. Creepy. Really well written, an excellent read.

Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller (she also wrote Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood which I loved). I read her first memoir in one day. I had a little stomach bug, very minor, but took it as an excuse and spent the entire day in bed, reading. The kids were still little and it felt luxurious. I’m really enjoying this one so far as well, she seems to be writing from a more mature place, more reflective. So good for Third Culture Kids, expats, people from quirky families. Love it.

The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love by Jaimal Yogis. Not the best book I’ve read in my life, but really interesting, entertaining, and insightful about how to conquer our fears. Also – why it might be perfectly safe to swim with great white sharks without a shark cage…

What are you reading?

The Call, a Life Overseas

Quick link: 6 Ways to Be Certain of The Call

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about how to decipher the call of God on your life.

Called

There is much debate and discussion around The Call. Mysterious, spiritual, dreamy. Everyone else’s Call story is better. The Call is supposed to come in a flash and be so powerful that it under girds every decision and emotion and experience for the rest of your life, no questions asked, no doubts ever encountered.

It can be quite daunting to determine whether or not you have received this Call. Here is your foolproof guide. You will never doubt again (channeling my inner Princess Bride here):

Disobey. If you think you hear God telling you to do something, do the opposite. If things go just fine, you heard wrong. If you are swallowed by a gigantic fish, you heard right. Once you are vomited up on shore, obey. Grumblingly but with certainty. (see Jonah 1-4)…

Click here to read this surefire plan: 6 Ways to Be Certain of The Call

Facing My Fears

Quick link: Another Chance to Be Afraid – and Trust God

Today I have another piece published (see also Djiboutian Women at the Gym in the Sahan Journal), sometimes they all just fall on the same day. This essay is in Her.meneutics, a branch off of Christianity Today. My last pieces for them include:

The Good Female Samaritan

You Can’t Buy Your Way to Social Justice (or Why I’m Afraid of American Christians)

Today’s piece is about the Garissa attack that took place on Maunday Thursday. I wrote a blog post about it (Whispers in the Dark, Garissa) and this essay branches into another direction, away from grief and into fear.

When I Am Afraid

…I fear a lot of things. Malaria. Loneliness. Physical pain. I can’t sleep the nights my kids are flying between Djibouti and Kenya for school. Easter Sunday after the Garissa attacks I noticed that our church hadn’t placed any armed guards outside like they often do on holidays. During the service, my body was tense and my eyes constantly flicked to the doorway.

If forced to choose between “brave” and “coward” to describe myself, I have to say coward. I am the woman cowering behind Jesus, clinging to the edges of his robes, trembling. I’m the one saying, “I want to be with you. I want to go with you. But are you sure you want to go there? You really want to do that?”…

Click here to read the rest of Another Chance to Be Afraid – and Trust God