Loving the Sacred through Word and Image. Parliament Hill Ottawa. A Wordpress Production

American Idol

In this Moment David Archuleta Finals

American Idol 7 – David Archuleta – Finals- Part 2 – 5/20/08


Friday photography

The rain has been coming and going since yesterday and I walked out on the balcony and snapped this photo. I should be uploading more photos in the coming days seeing that the gardens will be planted in the hood, so I am going to get out and take a walk this weekend.

Ok, so I am feeling a little bit empty, I want to write, I just don’t know what to write about.

Over the past few weeks I have been working on staying in my day, living in the moment. Trying to divine what it is I am supposed to be doing with myself. I saw my doctor last week, and he is on this longevity kick. He is talking to me about living another 20 years – as if my mortality was an imminent subject. I don’t know why he was in this space, as unpredictable he is, you never know what direction he is going to come from on any given visit. His pendulum swings from one extreme to the other and I find that troubling.

So I remind him that I can’t live in the future because it does not serve me well. There are things that you just can’t teach some people. I have never felt better in my life – I am eating well and my numbers have been stellar for over a year now, so why worry and try to tweak something that does not need to be changed.

Next week hubby is going to visit his friends in the country for a few days. I am looking forward to having him away, it is always nice to have the house to myself and it is good for him to get away, since going on vacation like many is not something we can afford. Not having a car hampers our ability to get out of the city, and unless we are going to visit family, the bus or the train is how we get around.

I don’t feel very inspired to write, this dry period happens now and then. So I am going to close for now and wait to see if my other reads give me something to write about.

Until later peeps…


Runner Up… David Archuleta


And Here we have a Knock Out!!!

The final show is over, and the night goes to David Archuleta.

His song choices:

1. Don’t let the Sun go down on Me – Clive Davis choice
2. In This Moment – Song competition choice
3. Imagine – Singers choice, favorite song of the season

It was a great competition, Simon was really not nice to David Cook. But all three rounds went to “Little David.” He was strong and sung incredibly well.

Well Done David Archuleta

I am sure he will win this years American Idol. He was the better singer by far.


David A. & David C.

It’s going to be an all “Male” affair for the American Idol title…

Let’s see if “Little David” can give Mr. Cook a run for his money…
May the best man win!!!


David Archuleta Think of Me !!!

Whoa Man Hot Hot FIRE !!!


Music Friday – Blake Lewis / Linkin Park

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I have to admit that I’ve never bought one American Idol CD [i take that back, I have a Clay Aiken cd in my collection], so Blake Lewis wasn’t my first and I have to say that I am not disappointed by [Blake’s] music. End of the World, How Many Words, I Got U, just a few top picks from the track list.

BUY this CD!!

Track Listing:
1. Silence Is Golden… (Intro)
2. Break Anotha
3. Got’s To Get Her
4. Know My Name ft. Lupe Fiasco
5. How Many Words
6. Surrender
7. Hate 2 Love Her
8. Without You
9. Here’s My Hello
10. What’cha Got 2 Lose?
11. She’s Makin’ Me Lose It
12. Bshorty Grabs Mic! (Interlude)
13. End Of The World
14. 1000 Miles
15. I Got U
16. …I Choose Noise (Outro)
17. Human (Bonus Track)

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For the Angst ridden listener, I offer you Chester Bennington and Linkin Parks latest disc, Minutes to Midnight. I happen to LOVE LOVE LOVE Linkin Park. I have all of their Cd’s. This is another Must Have CD.

Track List:

1. Bleed it Out
2. Given Up
3. Hands Held High
4. In Between
5. In Pieces
6. Leave out All the Rest
7. No More Sorrow
8. Shadow of the Day
9. The Little Things Give you Away
10. Valentines Day
11. Wake
12. What I’ve done


Bo Bice – Witness …


Report: Anglican Head To Meet ‘In Secret’ With Gays

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THIS is NEWS!!! 

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(London) The leader of the world’s Anglicans reportedly with conduct a “secret” communion service in London for gay clergy and their partners.

The Times newspaper in an article to be published on Tuesday says that Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will hold the service at St Peter’s, Eaton Square. The parish is home to many of the country’s liberal and wealthy Anglican elite.

The paper said the service will take place on November 29 and include an address by the Archbishop that is titled “Present realities and future possibilities for lesbians and gay men in the Church.”

Those attending will be there by invitation only, the Times notes, adding that they have been warned not to disclose any of the events or discussions which take place.

A list of those attending has been vetted by the Archbishop’s staff and and will be shredded.

Disclosure of the service will likely acerbate the already deep wounds between Anglican liberals and conservatives as the church appears to be inching closer to schism.

This week Williams will attend the Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. 

The meeting comes  just ten days before a deadline imposed by conservative Anglican factions around the world for the Episcopal Church to guarantee it will not appoint any more openly gay bishops.

Tensions between liberals and conservatives in the worldwide Anglican Church have been increasing since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.

Anglicanism’s national churches, called provinces. are loosely bound to one another in the Anglican Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury its titular head.  Appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British government, the Archbishop is little more than a figurehead.

Rowan William’s tenure has been marked by growing differences between right and left in the Church – seen mainly as a struggle between those provinces in the Developing World and those in Industrialized Nations.

Conservatives, led by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, oppose gays and females in the clergy, and believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Nigeria has the highest number of Anglican’s outside of the UK and about half of the Church’s members are in the Third World.

When he meets in New Orleans this month with American bishops Williams will attempt to work out a statement that will be acceptable to both liberals and conservatives – something most church observers say is impossible.

Earlier this month the challenge in avoiding a schism became more difficult. 

Uganda’s Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi consecrated Virginia-based conservative John Guernsey as a bishop of a breakaway Episcopal group of 33 congregations in the United States that will recognize the Church of Uganda’s authority.

In Kenya two American priests were consecrated as bishops in the US as African conservative churches continued to poach dioceses in the United States. 

 A string of conservative parishes in America have broken from the Episcopal Church and aligned themselves to the African Anglican provinces.

Last month the Episcopal diocese of Chicago included an openly lesbian priest among five nominees for bishop. 

Next year bishops from around the world are scheduled to meet in London for their once-a-decade meeting called the Lambeth Conference.

In July the steering committee for the Global South Primates, made up of churches mainly in the developing world and the most conservative in the worldwide Anglican Communion, said its bishops will boycott the meeting.  

©365Gay.com 2007


Report: Anglican Head To Meet 'In Secret' With Gays

gene_robinson.jpg

THIS is NEWS!!! 

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(London) The leader of the world’s Anglicans reportedly with conduct a “secret” communion service in London for gay clergy and their partners.

The Times newspaper in an article to be published on Tuesday says that Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will hold the service at St Peter’s, Eaton Square. The parish is home to many of the country’s liberal and wealthy Anglican elite.

The paper said the service will take place on November 29 and include an address by the Archbishop that is titled “Present realities and future possibilities for lesbians and gay men in the Church.”

Those attending will be there by invitation only, the Times notes, adding that they have been warned not to disclose any of the events or discussions which take place.

A list of those attending has been vetted by the Archbishop’s staff and and will be shredded.

Disclosure of the service will likely acerbate the already deep wounds between Anglican liberals and conservatives as the church appears to be inching closer to schism.

This week Williams will attend the Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. 

The meeting comes  just ten days before a deadline imposed by conservative Anglican factions around the world for the Episcopal Church to guarantee it will not appoint any more openly gay bishops.

Tensions between liberals and conservatives in the worldwide Anglican Church have been increasing since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.

Anglicanism’s national churches, called provinces. are loosely bound to one another in the Anglican Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury its titular head.  Appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British government, the Archbishop is little more than a figurehead.

Rowan William’s tenure has been marked by growing differences between right and left in the Church – seen mainly as a struggle between those provinces in the Developing World and those in Industrialized Nations.

Conservatives, led by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, oppose gays and females in the clergy, and believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Nigeria has the highest number of Anglican’s outside of the UK and about half of the Church’s members are in the Third World.

When he meets in New Orleans this month with American bishops Williams will attempt to work out a statement that will be acceptable to both liberals and conservatives – something most church observers say is impossible.

Earlier this month the challenge in avoiding a schism became more difficult. 

Uganda’s Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi consecrated Virginia-based conservative John Guernsey as a bishop of a breakaway Episcopal group of 33 congregations in the United States that will recognize the Church of Uganda’s authority.

In Kenya two American priests were consecrated as bishops in the US as African conservative churches continued to poach dioceses in the United States. 

 A string of conservative parishes in America have broken from the Episcopal Church and aligned themselves to the African Anglican provinces.

Last month the Episcopal diocese of Chicago included an openly lesbian priest among five nominees for bishop. 

Next year bishops from around the world are scheduled to meet in London for their once-a-decade meeting called the Lambeth Conference.

In July the steering committee for the Global South Primates, made up of churches mainly in the developing world and the most conservative in the worldwide Anglican Communion, said its bishops will boycott the meeting.  

©365Gay.com 2007


All is Right in the World

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I slept in today, UGH! But I did get to my evening class with Sara, my Celtic Christianity class, which I totally enjoyed. Sara’s classes are comfy and warm and cozy that you come in and you sit and allow the feeling to wash over you that “all is well in the world.”

That doesn’t speak of an easy ride mind you, but one of conscious thought and work. I have been reading the course pack and through tonight’s discussion we have learned a few things. That there is more to Celtic life than we may have known. That each reading in the book is set in its place for a reason.

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Imagine standing before a forest, you boys out West can better understand this than I can paint a picture, but Sara used the forest imagery tonight. And I remarked how each reading, if laid upon the one prior paints a picture in successive layers of reading, and information. And the readings tease you to walk into the forest and turn leaves over looking for further clues to the real truth of the Celtic.

We are invited to start exploring the forest for clues to our study for this term. It is not all so easy, and reading about the past – we must use our lenses of hermeneutic suspicion, to read each text and article with a critical eye. I used that term tonight, and Sara giggled to the rest of the class, “oh Jeremy, you are so clever, aren’t you!” I had to explain this strategy with my fellows.

It’s all good…

And my young warrior from the West came to visit! You can check out his blog, The Life of Robert Wesley, he is a very special friend that I have known for some time.  Joy of joys he has decided to continue writing!! YAY!!

On the way home I hit “Came to Believe” in time for the second speaker, just so I had some time to sit with myself and be quiet and listen to another speak about his trials and tribulations about recovery. I just wanted to sit and listen, which is always a good thing to do when possible.

Over all is was a great night. Now I am gonna hit some dinner and chill out…

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A photograph from the Portfolio of Robert Wesley from B.C.


A Holocaust mystery finds some answers

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By ARTHUR MAX and MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writers 

BAD AROLSEN, Germany – Deep in Shari Klages’ memory is an image of herself as a girl in New Jersey, going into her parents’ bedroom, pulling a thick leather-bound album from the top shelf of a closet and sitting down on the bed to leaf through it.

What she saw was page after page of ink-and-watercolor drawings that convey, with simple lines yet telling detail, the brutality of Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp where her father spent the last weeks of World War II.

Arrival, enslavement, torture, death — the 30 pictures expose the worsening nightmare through the artist’s eye for the essential, and add graphic texture to the body of testimony by Holocaust survivors.

“I have a sense of being quite horrified, of feeling my stomach in my throat,” Klages says. Just by looking at the book, she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid of being caught.

Now, she finally wants to make the album public. Scholars who have seen it call it historically unique and an artistic treasure.

But who drew the pictures? Only Klages’ father could know. It was he who brought the album back from Dachau when he immigrated to America on a ship with more than 60 Holocaust orphans — and he had committed suicide in 1972 in his garage in Parsippany, N.J.

The sole clue was a signature at the bottom of several drawings: Porulski.

Klages, 47, has begun a quest to discover who Porulski was, and how her family came to be the custodian of his remarkable artistic legacy. The Associated Press has helped to fill in some of the blanks.

What unfolds is a story of Holocaust survival compressed into two tragic lives, a tale with threads stretching from Warsaw to Auschwitz and Dachau, from Australia to suburban England, and finally to a bedroom in New Jersey where a fatherless girl makes a traumatic discovery.

It shows how today, as the survivors dwindle in number, their children and grandchildren struggle to comprehend the Nazi genocide that indelibly scarred their families, and in the process run into mysteries that may never be solved.

This is Shari Klages’ mystery: How did Arnold Unger, her Polish Jewish father, a 15-year-old newcomer to Dachau, end up in possession of the artwork of a Polish Catholic more than twice his age, who had been in the concentration camps through most of World War II?

None of the records Klages found confirm that the two men knew each other, though they lived in adjacent blocks in Dachau. All that is certain is that Unger overlapped with Porulski during the three weeks the boy spent among nearly 30,000 inmates of Dachau’s main camp.

“He never talked about his experiences in the war,” said Klages. “I don’t recall specifically ever being told about the album, or actually learning that I was the child of a Holocaust survivor. It was just something I always knew.”

As adults, she and her three siblings took turns keeping the album and Unger’s other wartime memorabilia.

The album begins with an image of four prisoners in winter coats carrying suitcases and marching toward Dachau’s watchtower under the rifles of SS guards. It is followed by a scene of two inmates being stripped for a humiliating examination by a kapo, a prisoner working for the Nazis.

One image portrays two prisoners pausing in their work to doff their caps to a soldier escorting a prostitute — intimated by the seam on her stocking. Another shows a leashed dog lunging at a terrified inmate.

The drawings grow more and more debasing. Three prisoners hang by their arms tied behind their backs; a captured escapee is paraded wearing a sign, “Hurray, I am back again”; an inmate is hanged from a scaffold; and, in the final image, a man lies on the ground, shot dead next to the barbed-wire fence under the looming watchtower.

The album also has 258 photographs. Some are copies of well-known, haunting images of piles of victims’ bodies taken by the U.S. army that liberated the camp. Others are photographs, apparently taken for Nazi propaganda, portraying Dachau as an idyllic summer camp. Still others are personal snapshots of Unger with Polish refugees or with American soldiers who befriended him.

Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, said Porulski probably drew the pictures shortly after the camp’s liberation in April 1945. He used identical sheets of paper, ink and watercolors for all 30 pictures, she said, and he “would never have dared” to draw such horrors while he was still under Nazi gaze.

“It’s amazing after so many years that these kinds of documents still turn up,” Distel told the AP. “It’s a unique artifact,” and clearly drawn by someone with an intimate knowledge of the camp’s reality, she said.

Holocaust artwork has turned up before, but Distel and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, who is with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, say they are unaware of any sequential narrative of camp life comparable to Porulski’s.

“I’ve seen two or three or four, but never 30,” said Berenbaum.

In Coral Springs, Fla., where she now lives, Klages showed the book in 2005 to a neighbor, Avi Hoffman, executive director of the National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts. Hoffman immediately saw its quality and significance. The two became determined to uncover its background and find out if the artist had created an undiscovered body of work.

In August, Klages, Hoffman and Berenbaum went to Germany to begin their hunt. They hired a crew to document it, hoping a film would help finance a foundation to exhibit the book.

They began chipping away at the album’s secrets at the Dachau memorial, outside Munich, where they found an arrival record for Michal Porulski, which listed his profession as artist, in 1941.

They learned that Unger hid the fact that he was Jewish when he reached Dachau three weeks before the war ended. “That probably saved his life,” Hoffman said. They also discovered a strong likelihood that the album’s binding was fashioned from the recycled leather of an SS officer’s uniform.

Unger, an engaging youngster, became an office boy and translator for U.S. occupation authorities at Dachau, which was turned into a displaced persons camp, and obtained a U.S. visa in 1947.

Research by Klages’ group and the AP has begun to pull together the scattered threads of Porulski’s life from long forgotten records at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, a tiny museum in Warsaw, Auschwitz and Dachau, the International Tracing Service of the Red Cross, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial archives in Jerusalem, Australian immigration records and data from England.

Porulski enrolled in the Warsaw arts academy in 1934 after completing two years of army service. Attached to his neatly written application is a photograph of a good looking young man with light hair and dreamy eyes.

It says he was a farmer’s son, born June 20, 1910, in the central town of Rychwal, although in later records Porulski said he was born five years later.

Chronically poor, he left the academy after failing to secure a loan for his tuition but was later reinstated. After Germany invaded in 1939, he made some money painting watercolor postcards of Nazi-occupied Poland, two of which have survived and are now in the Warsaw Museum of Caricature.

In June 1940, he was arrested in a Nazi roundup “without any reason,” he wrote many years later in an appeal for help from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Two months later, he and 1,500 others were the first Poles to be shipped from Warsaw to Auschwitz. He spent eight months there, then was sent to the Neuengamme camp and finally to Dachau, near Munich, in May 1941.

In Dachau, according to a brief reference in a Polish book on wartime art, he painted portraits, flowers, folk dance scenes and decoration for a clandestine theater.

In 1949 he sailed to Australia and tried to work as a painter and decorator but mostly lived off friends. He returned to Europe in 1963 and lived in England and France. He visited Poland in the early 1970s for several months, and stayed with his sister, Janina Krol, in Gdynia on the Baltic coast, and another relative outside Warsaw, Wanda Wojcikowska.

He brought his sister paintings of Dachau, his niece, Danuta Ostrowska, now 75, recalls. But her mother threw them away, saying “I can’t look at them.” The family still owns 10 of his mostly prewar paintings.

He was robbed of his money and passport, and Poland‘s communist authorities wanted Porulski out of the country, Wojcikowska’s daughter, Malgorzata Stozek, recalls. “My mother even found a woman willing to marry him, to help him stay in Poland,” she said. But he already had borrowed money from his sister and left.

His letters from England said he found work maintaining bridges, Stozek said. “He wrote that the moment he finished painting a bridge over some river, he had to start again.” It could have been a metaphor for a life going nowhere.

“One day I came to see my mother and she was crying because he wrote to her that he had no money, he was hungry and was sleeping on park benches. He lived in terrible poverty,” Stozek told the AP.

He was so lonely, she said, he had considered suicide.

In 1978 he sent a request for war compensation to the International Tracing Service in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, which houses the world’s largest archive of concentration camp records and lists of Holocaust victims.

“I have no occupation of any sort. I was unable to resume my studies after all those years in the camps,” he wrote. “I am just by myself, and I live from day to day.”

The ITS replied that it had no authority to give grants, but was sending confirmation of his incarceration to the U.N. refugee agency to support his earlier reparations claim.

Unger also shows up in the Tracing Service, in a 1955 two-page letter he wrote recounting his ordeal that began when he was 9.

Unger’s father had a prosperous furniture business near Krakow. “Then the infamous horde of Nazis overran our town, disrupted our life, murdered my parents and little sister, and robbed us of all we had.” He was the only survivor of 50 members of the Unger family.

Christian friends hid him for a while, but he ended up imprisoned inside the Krakow ghetto, then was moved to a series of concentration camps.

His daughter says that after he immigrated to America, he told a cousin with whom he lived in New Jersey that his job at Dachau had been to tend the ovens. The Nazis commonly used inmates for such purposes — it was one of the few ways of surviving.

Newly arrived in America, Unger spoke to Newark newspapers of his years of torment, saying he escaped three times during marches between camps but was always recaptured.

At one point, he told the Newark Evening News, he was herded into a gas chamber at Natzweiler camp with 50 other prisoners, but they were spared at the last minute because some of them were electricians whom the Nazis needed for their war effort.

The two lives, briefly intertwined by the Holocaust and an album of photos and paintings, ended 17 years apart — Unger by hanging himself in 1972, Porulski in 1989 in St. Mary’s Hospital near Hereford, England, of pneumonia and tuberculosis.

The death certificate gives his age as 74 and his profession as “painter (retired).”

Shari Klages was 12 when her father died.

He had just been laid off from his 18-year job in the aeronautics industry, and his wife had been diagnosed with brain cancer. His suicide is given added poignancy by the image of the hanged inmate in the album, and Klages believes it was his Holocaust experience that weighed most heavily on him.

“I have no doubt it was the most significant contributor to his death,” she said.

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report. Arthur Max reported from Bad Arolsen, Germany, and Monika Scislowska from Warsaw.

On the Net:

National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts

Dachau

International Tracing Service


Baghdad Burning … (Is Safe)

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Baghdad Burning… 

Leaving Home…


Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.

We waited… and waited… and waited. It was decided we would leave mid to late June- examinations would be over and as we were planning to leave with my aunt and her two children- that was the time considered most convenient for all involved. The day we finally appointed as THE DAY, we woke up to an explosion not 2 km away and a curfew. The trip was postponed a week. The night before we were scheduled to travel, the driver who owned the GMC that would take us to the border excused himself from the trip- his brother had been killed in a shooting. Once again, it was postponed.

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

We didn’t sleep the night before we had to leave because there seemed to be so many little things to do… It helped that there was no electricity at all- the area generator wasn’t working and ‘national electricity’ was hopeless. There just wasn’t time to sleep.

The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk- the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away- but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over- the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away.

I knew then as I know now that these were all just items- people are so much more important. Still, a house is like a museum in that it tells a certain history. You look at a cup or stuffed toy and a chapter of memories opens up before your very eyes. It suddenly hit me that I wanted to leave so much less than I thought I did.

Six AM finally came. The GMC waited outside while we gathered the necessities- a thermos of hot tea, biscuits, juice, olives (olives?!) which my dad insisted we take with us in the car, etc. My aunt and uncle watched us sorrowfully. There’s no other word to describe it. It was the same look I got in my eyes when I watched other relatives and friends prepare to leave. It was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, tinged with anger. Why did the good people have to go?

I cried as we left- in spite of promises not to. The aunt cried… the uncle cried. My parents tried to be stoic but there were tears in their voices as they said their goodbyes. The worst part is saying goodbye and wondering if you’re ever going to see these people again. My uncle tightened the shawl I’d thrown over my hair and advised me firmly to ‘keep it on until you get to the border’. The aunt rushed out behind us as the car pulled out of the garage and dumped a bowl of water on the ground, which is a tradition- its to wish the travelers a safe return… eventually.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.

We waited for hours, in spite of the fact that the driver we were with had ‘connections’, which meant he’d been to Syria and back so many times, he knew all the right people to bribe for a safe passage through the borders. I sat nervously at the border. The tears had stopped about an hour after we’d left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.

By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that’s been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.

It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, “It’s been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah,” he said cheerfully.

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?


Celtic Christianity …

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Celtic society was hierarchical and class based. According to both Roman and Irish sources, Celtic society was divided into three groups:  a warrior aristocracy, an intellectual class that included druids, poets, and jurists, and everyone else.

Celtic economy was probably based on the economic principle of most tribal economies: reciprocity. In a reciprocal economy, goods and other services are not exchanged for other goods, but they are given by individuals to individuals based on mutual kinship relationships and obligations.

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The Celts were polytheistic: We do know that Celtic gods tended to come in threes; the Celtic logic of divinity always centered on triads. This triadic logic no doubt had tremendous significance in the translation of Christianity into northern European cultural models.

“In short, what the soul is in the body, Christians are in the world. The soul dwells in the body but is not of the body; Christians dwell in the world, but they are not of the world. The soul is invisible and is confined in a visible body; so Christians are recognized in the world, but their religious life remains invisible.”

Many of the early British Christians known as the Celtic saints were monks and nuns. Monks lived in caves or huts, often grouped around a more experienced leader. Bishop Martin Tours (c316-97) was the best known of the early Western figures who pursued the monastic life. The monasteries of Gaul developed a strong intellectual tradition, and from 400 ce their influence spread to Ireland and Wales.

Columba established a community on the island of Iona, off the Scottish west coast, which became a centre of monastic life and learning throughout Celtic times.


Connected…

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A little “Inspiration!”

This post has been running through my head for a couple of days, and I have put up some thoughts here, only to take them down, for fear that they would be read by particular readers. I feel like a school boy as of late, because I put my hand out and invited a new friend into my life, and there is a ritual to introducing new people into my circle.

Coming Out is still a daunting experience, at age 40. Every time I sit to write this post I get tongue tied and skiddish. Classes start and you try to find commonality with your peers and eventually one or two people step out of the fray and it is like God saying, “here you go, you wanted to meet new friends, well here they are!”

Over the next few days one gravitates in the direction of said people in class and you start with pleasantries and speaking to each other after class, and eventually something clicks and a friendship is summarily born. But for me, in religion and now theology circles, I am still an outsider.

Having to “Come out” to new friends is always daunting because you never know how people are going to react to your interest in them. Why would someone like me make a concerted effort to get to know someone – I can answer that question simply by stating that in listening and participating in class, “commonality” is usually my first connection to any one new that I want to get to know.

So I invite new friends to come here and read. Over the last few days many of my historical posts have been accessed from the memory banks – someone is reading about my history. My stories about being diagnosed, my life story and my AA story and as well, my parental sins page. Someone is interested in who I am by way of what has happened to me over the last fifteen years.

I proposed the “getting to know you” in the form of an invitation to my blog to break new friends in, so that they have a full understanding of where I am coming from and possibly begin dialogue and further discussions. I also invite my friends to break bread. Sharing a meal with someone is, in my book, a very important part of friendship. Many of my present friends also feel that sharing a meal is an integral part of our relationships. Going for coffee or having a meal together is a logical step in “Christian community.”

Silence is deafening.

The weekend is upon us and I haven’t heard back from my fellows and I can’t help but wonder that I have freaked them out by assuming that someone would want to engage me because of certain differences in out respective lives. Maybe I have hit a sore nerve or maybe the fact that I am observant of people and situations and I listen to what things are shared in class and outside of class.

I’ve stayed away from posting to allow my fellows to have time to read and sit with what they have read, following the traffic patterns, it seems today that the past has not been accessed in over 24 hours. I wonder what will happen if the weekend goes by and those people I have invited into my community decide not to engage. Life goes on and we must accept what people decide to do with information they have been given.

I am powerless over people, places and things…

Knowing that we are all adults and it is 2007, I was sure that we could make friends with people without having to worry about judgments or moral issues. I can’t change what has already happened and who I am today. I guess the topics of Gay, AIDS and Homosexuality will make good fodder for discussion in my Christian Ethics course, seeing we all attend this class. Maybe this will be a learning situation for everyone involved.

We all want for people to like us for who we are and not be put off by factors of our lives that they might not find acceptable. I am making assumptions here, but ant good man with HIV knows how to read signs, body language and signs. It is a gift that we were given long ago by the creator so that by peoples actions and reactions, we could judge their character and know whether to cut them loose or bring them closer.

I don’t know…

I did not expect to be emotionally caught up in this new friendship. But I am only human. They say never assume, and maybe I did assume that commonality would outweigh difference, that as adults we could find commonality and discuss what may bother us or what is bothering us already. God puts people in our paths for a reason, I guess I will have to wait and see what transpires in the coming days.

Like I said the other night,
I will be heartbroken if my fellows do not rise to the mark.