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I got tagged on Facebook and decided to post my answers here just for fun.  I’m not tagging anyone here because not everyone is “into” that sort of thing.

These are the instructions that I had from my friend.

Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, its because I want to know more about you 🙂

So here are a few things about me.

1. I am the oldest of four children.  The next oldest is my brother who is just 16 months younger than I. The “baby” is almost 13 years younger and in between Daniel and David is a sister, Stephanie, who is almost 7 years younger than I am.  Daniel and I used to play like we were brothers growing up.  When Steph came along, she joined our “brotherhood” for short time.  Then Daniel and I grew out of it, and I was a sister again.

2. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed talking to people who are not from my area.  Whether they were merely Yankees or genuine foreigners, I have always enjoyed talking about cultural/regional differences and languages/accents.  It’s just one of my thrills in life, I reckon.  When we went to New York City a few years ago, I wanted to know from which Asian country this particular group of tourists came. We were on a ferry at the time.  Unfortunately, they were not the look-around-and-make- eye-contact variety although I tried and tried to get someone to look my way so I could begin a conversation.  FINALLY a short man looked up and saw me so I smiled and asked “where are y’all from?”  China!  Ahhhh, he then practiced his English on me and asked how he was doing with it.  So cute.

3. One of my favorite memories from my teen years is being a page in Raleigh.  Although I was scared about going, my dad insisted that I go and I ended up loving it! In fact, the next few years, I went to Raleigh as much as I could each summer.  I even lived with Representative Peggy Wilson for a couple of weeks and went with her to a reception then Governor Jim Martin held at the governor’s mansion for the GOP members.  (Rep. Wilson didn’t have time to drop me off at her apartment so she said to come along as Gov. Martin wouldn’t mind.)

4. I was a page the week of July 4th.  In celebration, they wanted a few pages to each read one of the Bill of Rights in front of the NC House of Representatives.  I read one of them and afterwards Rep. Bill Hurley (D-Cumberland County) came up to me and said his mom was a Fuqua.  After checking the family tree once I got home, I found out we had the same ggg-grandfather.

5. Somewhere I have a picture of me from my sophomore year of high school when I went with a couple of my teachers and some juniors to the Republican National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  We had a great time and met the Republic of Georgia’s President (?) who was meeting with Representative Howard Coble at that time.    I have an official Washington picture of our group and those foreigners as well.  (I like foreigners.)

6. The most common spelling of my name is with a “z,” but since mine is really short for Susanna, mine is spelled with an “s.”   Although my name is often misspelled because of this, what I like about the “s” spelling is that my name begins how Jesus ends.  And I have “usa” in there as well.   Two “things” that I love:  Jesus and the USA.

7. In high school, I played basketball and had many lovely nicknames because my basketball coach loved nicknaming me.  *ahem*  He also taught me how to drive and when he saw my dad coming out of the school building upon our return to the school, Mr. B got out of the car and kissed the ground and said “thank you, God!” trying to make my dad think I was a terrible driver.  (You just had to know Mr. B.)

8. I usually buy 10 to 20 lbs of carrots every 10 days or so.  This week I got a little crazy and bought 28 lbs.   People who see my cart full of carrots often ask if I have a horse.  No, just a juicer that loves carrots.

9. While at ACC one of my teachers asked me to see him in his office.  He gave me a Gideon New Testament and asked if I ever thought about becoming a pastor.

10. On my first posture performance in freshman speech (high school), I made an E minus. My dad’s reaction was, “An E minus? I’ve never even heard of an E minus.”  Thankfully I improved a lot and made an A on my Robert E. Lee speech later that year.(Actually it may have been an A- because I went over and had points subtracted for that.)

11. When I went to the WILDS with my high school, each morning we had to tidy our room before we all met for flag raising.  The girls in my room woke up late (because we stayed up past lights out talking and laughing and eating) so we were scrambling to get ready.  I personally emptied the trash can three times in an effort to clean the room, but still our room was messy and the five of us were punished by picking grass off the steps. I still remember we passed the time by singing “I’ve been working on the railroad” and other tunes.

12. With few exceptions, I hate talking on the telephone.  I much prefer face-to-face talks with my friends or keeping in touch by e-mailing or instant messaging or posting on blogs and group forums.

13. I’ve always been interested in names.  Years ago this interest lead me to where I ended up meeting a great group of ladies who have remained dear friends. Never knew I could grow to love people I never met before until then.

14. I love my dear nephew Michael.  I often go to McDonald’s with him where we hang out sometimes for hours.  We have made many friends there over the last couple of years.  It’s great to go there and know the workers’ names.  By the way, most of them call me “Susie.”  (I think they got that from Michael.)

15. About two years ago I prayed for God to help me see people with compassion and love.  Since then He brought people into my life that others may find undesirable, but I have learned to care for them deeply.  I am very thankful for what God has taught me through them.

16. At a time when I was a bit disenchanted with some things about Christianity, God used devout Muslims to make His Son more precious to me.


I read an interesting article earlier today about olive harvest in West Bank:

Jewish settlers have been caught on camera punching and kicking two news photographers and a British woman who was helping Palestinians pick olives near a West Bank town.

The scuffle near the town of Hebron was the latest in a series of incidents blamed on settlers trying to disrupt the annual harvest which provides a livelihood for many Palestinians.

The settlers claim the trees are on Israeli land and the harvest is illegal.

The settlers punched and kicked Abed Hashlamoun, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), leaving a bloody scratch beneath one eye.

They also assaulted his brother, Nayef Hashlamoun, a Reuters photographer.

Janet Benvie, a British activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, sustained a scratch to her lip after a scuffle with a settler who had grabbed a camera.

Those settlers come to OUR land and forbid us from harvesting its fruits!! Just because our race is different, we have NO RIGHT to live in this land. How can this world ignore this clear racism? How can such racism be covered(If not protected) by the current American administration which is supposed to be the number one defender of human rights in this world? When did Bush say anything against the racist settlers in the Palestinian territories?

Palestine and the Palestinians will be liberated from oppression even if all people supported their oppressors! God will never allow oppression to last!

After growing up in a conservative Christian household in the southern United States, I believe I understand why so many people like me favor Israel. Why not when the Bible speaks of Jews and Israel, the kings, the prophets and, of course, our precious Jesus who came from them? What’s not to love about Israel? Those poor people not only had to undergo persecution from the Nazis, but even now they are being terrorized by their hateful neighbors who want to wipe them off the map or drive them into the sea! Also you know how many folks cheer for the underdog!

Well, that was Susanne for most of her life. Not that I had a hatred for the Arabs or Persians. I did not. I just didn’t love them. Maybe apathetic best describes how I felt towards those people groups. Not really concerned with their perspectives because, goodness’ sake, these were THE JEWS — God’s Chosen People — that they were messin’ with! *sigh* Same old struggle since the days of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau. Quite frankly, I just chalked the Middle East up to a Hatfield-and-McCoy type of dispute and figured those folks “enjoyed” conflict for centuries so what hope did anyone have to make them change now? It would always be that way so why concern myself much about them?

Thankfully, the One who knows my interests, how I think and what I enjoy decided it was time for me to get a broader perspective, to hear another point of view, to better understand. It was time for me to care about “those people” for whom I had little concern.

I can identify quite a bit with this, especially the last line. From The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan:

Dalia’s reflections of the house she lived in with her parents was very interesting. She wrote an open letter to Bashir that was published in the paper so Israelis could read it as well. She included how “it was very painful for me, as a young woman 20 years ago, to wake up to a few then well hidden facts. For example, we were all led to believe that the Arab population of Ramla and Lod had run away before the advancing Israeli army in 1948, leaving everything behind in a rushed and cowardly escape. This belief reassured us. It was meant to prevent guilt and remorse. But after 1967, I met not only you, but also an Israeli Jew who had personally participated in the expulsion from Ramla and Lod. He told me the story as he had experienced it, and as Yitzhak Rabin later confirmed in his memoirs.” Dalia mused, “My love for my country … was losing its innocence .. some change in perspective was beginning to take place in me. (pg. 200-1)

More later.

A friend who is now working with people in the West Bank and Jerusalem recently recommended The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan so I went to the library and checked it out. The author portrayed this region’s recent history in such a way — and with human faces — that, at times, I found myself imagining that I lived there and experienced those events for myself. Many times I was struck with how sad the situation was and how little I knew about it previously. The author gave me a much better understanding of both sides as he presented Dalia Eshkenazi’s story of how she came from Bulgaria with her Jewish family and ended up living in the Khairi house and Bashir Khairi’s story of how he came to be part of the resistance, fighting for the Palestinians’ right of return after his family was expelled from al-Ramla.

The two met when Bashir went to visit the house his family had left when he was six, and Dalia, a young woman at that time, allowed Bashir and his cousins to tour it. A friendship formed and the two kept in touch somewhat despite nearly a quarter of Bashir’s life being spent in Israeli prisons. It was interesting to hear Dalia and Bashir discuss their points of view. Two things that stand out from those talks — one from Bashir when he politely asked Dalia why she and the other Jews could not simply go back where they came from (meaning Europe). The other from Dalia when she pointed out that the longing for the land that the Palestinians taught their children was similar to what the Jews felt towards their ancient land for the centuries that they were in exile.

From this book I saw how Arab nations turned on Arabs. I was amazed when I read how King Hussein from Jordan asked for Israeli air support in its fight against the Palestinians (aided by the Syrians) when the Palestinian guerrillas fought the Jordanians on “Black September” (Palestinian word for that event.) I learned about the formation of several Palestinian resistance groups including the PLO and Hamas which is often in the news when we hear about terrorist organizations on this side of the world. Shocking was when I read how Ariel Sharon allowed Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen into two Palestinian refugee camps where men, women and children were killed during a quest for revenge. The book said Israel even “launched night flares to illuminate the militias’ search” (pg. 204)! Just from this one incident, I better understand why my Arab friends sat in disbelief and anger when United States President George W. Bush referred to Sharon earlier this year by saying: “My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He’s a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.” Bush got the “warrior” part right, but “man of peace” for the person critics dubbed “the Butcher of Beirut”? Hmmmm.

I have several notable quotes from the book that I want to share eventually, but this is long enough for one post. This was a great book and shared a lot of the recent history of the region in an interesting way.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

In American culture we generally expect to receive a few gifts around certain holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, but, to me, gifts are more special when they arrive for no obvious reason.  No birthday, no wedding anniversary, no holiday or graduation from school or college.  One of those “just because” gifts that make us feel loved or appreciated by the giver because he or she was thinking about us and decided to bless us with something thoughtful.  For many people, a gift’s value isn’t determined as much by the cost as the thought behind it.

One year ago today, I was given such a gift.  Well, my gift is both valuable and full of thought.  One year ago today — 9 October 2007 — I was at my parents’ house with my nephew when I decided to check MySpace to see if I had any new comments or messages.  What a surprise to see a note from a young Arab college student from Damascus, Syria!  Who knew by answering this simple message, my life would change so drastically?  Ha, ha……probably the One Who sent me this special gift!

I never would have thought replying to Samer’s message that I would come to have more of an understanding and love for Arabs and Muslims.  Those were two groups I really didn’t know much about or cared for very much. I just didn’t know any.  None.  And I didn’t care to understand them. It just never occurred to me that I should care since I never crossed paths with them.  Ahhh, but the Lord had different plans!  He wanted me to “cross paths” with some Arab Muslims. Apparently He wanted me to learn some things, to broaden my perspective and understand their views and struggles.

I thank God for Samer and the other young Arab friends that I have met as a result of him.  I praise God for my Shami, Latakian and Palestinian friends — Amer, Basheer, Sami, Louai, Hassan and Ahmad (aka Jake). God has given me such wonderful opportunities to learn from them this past year.  They are my unexpected gifts!  I am so very thankful for each of them and the way they have impacted my life.  Definitely I can no longer hear “Arab” or “Muslim” or “Syrian” or “Palestinian” and dismiss them as before. Now when I hear those words, I think “FRIENDS.”

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)