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Earlier today I was glancing through the newspaper and saw this blurb:

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Defending his brand of world politics, President Barack Obama said Sunday that he “strengthens our hand” by reaching out to enemies of the United States and making sure that the nation is a leader, not a lecturer, of democracy.

Source

Now no one would accuse me of being an Obama fan, and most definitely I don’t like the policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Cuba’s Fidel Castro. I have spoken out against leftist dictators and power grabbers in the past. Just not my cup of tea.

And I don’t care for Obama’s stances on most issues. I hate it because I really want to like his policies, but cannot really find them compatible with the way I was taught. (My history, economics and government teacher was my favorite, and he influenced me too much it seems!)

That said, I read the above-mentioned paragraph from the article and considered things differently based on a better understanding I have gained in recent months from talking with others outside of the United States. Additionally and more importantly, I have been rereading the Bible and have been reminded time and again of how Jesus lived. It’s not exactly the same as most so-called Christians live today. Let’s see how He told us to treat our enemies.

Matthew 5

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

And now see here… this is Joel Rosenberg. A forty-something man who grew up with an Orthodox Jewish father who later accepted Jesus. He considers himself an evangelical Christian and has a strong support of Israel. I keep tabs on his blog and was amazed in early April when I read this concerning North Korea’s plans to test a missile.

The danger, experts say, is that the missile could reach Alaska or Hawaii. It’s not clear if it could reach Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego or another Pacific coast American city. But the missile’s very existence poses a real threat to U.S. national security. What if it is carrying a nuclear warhead? What if the “test” is actually designed to launch an attack that could blindside us? We shouldn’t be taking any chances. We should take out the missile and its launch pad immediately and send a crystal clear message to Pyongyang — and, by extension, to Tehran and other rogue nations — that serious threats to our security will be dealt with firmly and decisively. Some might say that taking pre-emptive military action against an enemy that endangers you is overreacting. But wouldn’t it have been better if the U.S. had taken decisive pre-emptive action against al Qaeda before 9/11? (emphasis mine)

He wants us to go into another country and take out their missile? Are our troops not already stretched thin enough? Do we really need to start another war? Do we need to be involved in another global police mission? North Korea is a godless, cruel nation, but why this approach? I don’t understand this fear-mongering mentality! Mr. Rosenberg, is not God capable of caring for the world on His own? Does He really need America’s help in policing the world and making sure everyone behaves? Yes, I realize you think this will keep America safe and maybe I am wrong, but still. I am just tired of this hardliner evangelical stance on our enemies. So what’s wrong with talking to them? Read again what Jesus said about our enemies.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ”

So my question is this: are we Americans first or Christ followers? And if you say, “definitely Jesus is first in my life” then prove it! Start loving your enemies and praying for them. Why do sanctions, violence and retaliation have to always be our options? Why this “you’re either with us or against us” approach to our enemies? I don’t see the “let’s bomb ’em to protect our interests” plan promoted by the One Who came to serve others and redeem mankind. And that includes His enemies.

Let’s seek to imitate our Savior — pursue peace, love and serve others, stand up for the oppressed.

Let your light shine in this world so that others will see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (see Mt. 5:16)

Are our lights shining? Does the world see the good that we do in the name of Christ or do they say “Oh, those are the Christians! See how tough they are on their enemies?”

Sadly, this is the mentality many of them have. We are not accurately representing our Lord. We call ourselves Christians when we are nothing like Jesus Christ.

By the way, we overcome evil with GOOD! (Romans 12:21)

For more on our adventures & the amazing people we met in Syria, please visit my personal blog.  This is one I left there a few days ago.

We would often leave Old Damascus by hailing taxis from Bab Sharqi, which means Eastern Gate. It’s one of the seven ancient city-gates of Damascus and the one we saw every day as it was closest to the hostel. We could leave this gate by car or walk along the outside of the wall. It’s along this wall that we could reach our hostel by ladder.

Bab Sharqi is a short walk from the church
that honors the apostle Paul
(See second & third pictures here.)

This is a view across the road.

I think the sign says something about Coke being good with food. Some people boycott American products because they believe our major corporations pay high taxes and they know Israel receives billions of US tax money. They do not want to support their enemy in the slightest way so they avoid American goods.

Here is a car wash across the street from the hostel. Note the cute little yellow taxi. We rode in those nearly every day. Most all of the taxi drivers were sociable and many said one word we understood well: “Obama!” One driver asked Samer if we were sympathetic to the Arabs whereas another declared us “friendly” (because of our smiles) and wished he had a day off so he could spend it with us. He is the one who didn’t want to charge us for taking us to Anas Restaurant. (Don’t worry, we paid him.) Taxi rides were cheap in Syria and bus rides were even cheaper.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

I think it’s pretty safe to say that no one would accuse me of being a fan of Saddam Hussein.  Any leader who harms his own people and punishes erring ones by allowing sewage in their water lines is rather despicable in my book.  And don’t get me started on his playboy sons and their treatment of women.  In the beginning I was for the war in Iraq.  Perhaps I was living in my imaginary world where USA represents all that’s right in the world and we had to fight off those evil dictators and rescue the poor Iraqis.  Sure, it’ll be great to liberate Iraq.  Then those people will be free like us!  Whoo hoo….get ’em, boys!

For one thing I thought this was going to be a remove-Saddam-and-get-out deal.  NEVER did I think we’d still be there to this day.  I have been tired of the war for, oh, years now.  We quickly got to Baghdad, even found Saddam, but why are we still there?

Reading things outside of the American media has opened my eyes to some of the realities.  The imaginary world has been shattered and I’m left facing the ugly reality.  Perhaps my more enlightened Americans will berate me for this and show me where I’m wrong, and that’s all well and good. But I’m just telling it how I see it after listening to people outside my normal circle. Maybe they are feeding me a lie and I’m falling for it.  Who knows? But somehow I don’t think so.

For starters America is not making fewer terrorists by it’s preemptive wars.  No matter how we justify it, we don’t win friends by tearing up a sovereign nation.  And staying there.  For years.  If we were so wanting to truly help the Iraqis, why did we use weapons that have created so much lasting damage? Not just to buildings, but to people … I’m talking about weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) which, by the way, has not only caused a rise in birth defects and rates of cancer in Iraq, but also among our own soldiers!  So why all that just to remove Saddam from power? Did we have to leave this nasty gift for the Iraqis to deal with?  Some reports say DU can affect generations of people giving Iraqis a great reminder of what evil American WMDs can do.  We didn’t find WMDs in Iraq. They may have been there and moved elsewhere, but that’s beside the point now.  Sadly, America brought her own.

And in so doing we have given evidence of our own brand of terrorism … something that Iraq won’t soon forget. As their children are born with defects and suffer higher rates of cancer, don’t think for a minute they will be blessing the liberators from the West.  I see them instead simmering in their hatred and desiring justice.  Who will avenge them of their losses? Their shame?  And we wonder why the ranks of the terrorists grow.

Sadly, we are our own worst enemy in this (recently renamed) “war on terror.”

For more information see


The Depleted Uranium Cover-up


Today I will tell you how we got to our hostel in Old Damascus. First of all, here is a view from the street which runs in front of the hostel. Yes, that’s a horse-drawn cart among the crowd of taxis and mini-buses and other vehicles. I would enjoy peering out of the window just to see who was happening by at any given moment.


This is the long way to our hostel. It’s about ten minutes from the busy road you just saw. Typically taxis would drop us off at Bab Sharqi (the tall white thing in the center of first picture),

and we’d walk down these narrow streets in the Bab Touma neighborhood

which cars and buses would brave at times.

Welcome to The Damascus Hostel! This is probably the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed in. We met people from Australia, Turkey, the United States, British Columbia, Lattakia, London, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France and Amsterdam.

The other way to our hostel was a bit more exciting. Here Andrew will demonstrate. Starting at the busy road (pic 1),

climb over the fence

ring for the ladder if it’s not already down & then climb up here.


Our room was in the tower. That is the window I’d look out of to see the sights on the busy street below. One of my favorite memories was seeing cleaners washing the street with a big water truck around 12:30 or 1 AM. I wish I’d been able to photograph that, but I figured I’d only get a glare from the window.

Later I’ll share pictures from within these hostel walls, but now you know how to get into the place.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

Stay tuned….Samer is working on a great post, I hope. In the meantime something else from my personal blog about our time in Syria.

Today I will tell you about one restaurant we went to. Sorry, but I don’t know the name. I think this was my least favorite place, and it’s not that this place was bad. Rather the others were just so delish! We’d just had a wonderful time at the mountain overlook where we’d seen Damascus at night. There were 7 of us in 2 cars so we stopped by a cute restaurant for dinner. Andrew was in his gusto mood to try anything the guys recommended, whereas I was Ms. Picky and not so apt to try new stuff. I have nut allergies so I have an excuse. And after looking at this menu, I was glad I was picky. I just don’t see this stuff advertised in most restaurants I frequent in the States. OK…none of them. Can’t say I’ve seen brains, kidneys, livers, testicles or tongues at O’Charley’s, Ruby Tuesday or Cracker Barrel. Maybe they are there and I just missed ’em! (Gotta hate that!) Seriously, brains with egg?

Soooooo, I looked at this menu and probably had one of those deer-in-the-headlights faces … something like 8-/, but thankfully, I found out “shish tawook” was similar to grilled chicken …. ahhhh, something safe. *whew*

The offending menu. I mean LOOK at it!

Ol’ Andrew was gung ho to try the local cuisine, but found fatteh wasn’t his thing. Can you guess which bowl was his? Thankfully the fries were good and I gave him some of my chicken because, well, I’m just sweet like that, ya know?


Oh, here we are! See how happy I am with my chicken? I was just overwhelmingly glad I wasn’t eating brain salad. I’m lovin’ Andrew’s face at the prospect of having to finish off that bowl of Shami goodness! (evil laugh)

(Aren’t y’all wondering about this stupid hat I wore nearly every day? C’mon, admit it! I look like a character from The Cat in the Hat, right? Ha!)

I’d already eaten all the chicken before I remembered to take a picture. (Thankfully, Samer took the one above and sent it to me in time for this post.) Mushrooms aren’t my thing … so I gave them to Sami since he loves them.

And here are our dinner and looking-at-Damascus-at-night companions.
Mohammed and Ahmad (aka Jake)


Basheer, Samer and Sami

Notice the pictures in the background … we saw those e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!

Pictures from February 3, 2009
Damascus, Syria

I am going to start sharing some pictures from our trip to Syria. On the first Sunday we were there, we went to an internet cafe’ in the Shiite neighborhood and when we left it around 1:30, these scenes from the street caught our eyes.

Children, children, everywhere … even in the streets!

Children talking with their friends after school probably wondering who that crazy foreigner is taking their photo

Kids, bikes, cars, trucks, even the occasional horse … all sharing the road

These little guys were nice enough to stop and pose for the camera

Andrew got caught by the guy we dubbed “the aggressive nut seller,” and he bought . . .

a kilo of pistachios and cashews for about $17!


Photos from February 1, 2009
Damascus, Syria

A week ago today, we were at Krac des Chevaliers.  *sigh*  Our trip to Syria was great!  The people were so hospitable!  See more of those we met here. I really miss them a lot.  We left Damascus early Wednesday after 12 wonderful days.

Here we are with Samer. He is truly a fantastic young man!  I am very blessed to be his friend.  It was an honor to meet his family, friends and see his city and the surrounding areas.

More later.


A year ago the January excitement was snow, but not this year!



My house in January 2008 when we actually got snow!

Southern snow is so boring compared to, ohhhhhh, deciding your first overseas trip is flying over 6,000 miles to visit friends in the Middle East! Agreed?! Samer invited me and my husband to visit Damascus many months ago. We discussed it then, decided we might like to go during the winter so we went ahead and got our passports just in case. That was in May 2008 so this trip seemed so far away, but now it’s here and I can hardly believe it! Did I ever mention that I’d never traveled west of Tennessee? And that the only plane trips I’d been on were 1.5 hours each way. So this will be quite a change!

If all goes as planned, we will fly to Chicago in the morning and then it’s on to Istanbul for a 12 hour layover. Lord willing, we will arrive in Damascus at 1:25 on Friday morning. That’s different from what it was originally, but oh well. The earlier flight from Istanbul to Damascus was canceled.

We are looking forward to seeing Damascus and surrounding areas, but most importantly, I am eager to meet my Arab friends. I really meant it when I said they were God’s gifts to me! I look forward to meeting Samer, Sami, Jake, Amer, Basheer, Hassan, Mohammed and maybe even Souvenirs & Scars (see blogroll on left). Sadly, my cheeky friend Louai is in London (he’s a famous architect!) so I won’t get to see him, but he has been helpful in giving suggestions about places to visit.

I guess the moral of this story is….don’t invite me to come visit you unless you really mean it. I just might take you up on the offer! Insh’allah. 😉

After too many days of seeing heartbreaking scenes, this verse jumped out at me as I read my Bible this morning.

Proverbs 14:31

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Let’s vow to honor our Maker this year…

I’m just partial to these smiles!