Thursday, February 28, 2013

WHY am I here? Reflection on Pope Benedict XVI

When I heard the news about Pope Benedict XVI resigning from the Chair of Peter, I can’t even begin to explain the sadness and confusion I felt about his decision.  How does one walk away from a position that one has been chosen for by the Holy Spirit?  If we truly believe that it is the Spirit that guides the Cardinals in electing GOD’s chosen one for the Papacy, how does one resign that?  How does one say, “OK, Lord, I’m done.”  I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it and I had to do some serious soul searching.
Feeling alone and isolated; I don’t get EWTN here in Bahrain so I couldn’t even hear the holy or scholarly discuss the issue at hand or give guidance or even help me understand it, I had no one to turn to except to my heart where I begged God to speak to me and give me understanding.  After several days of no real answers, I decided that it was not for me to judge, or  maybe even understand.  After all, only God knows the secret conversations He has with a person’s heart.   God’s will is certainly not always understood by man either.  If I allowed myself to look at what I had learned to love in Pope Benedict over the past 8 years, it was his humility.  He humbly accepted the Chair even when he felt he was too old; in his humility, he clung to and gave us a valuable witness to the love of Truth; and he never compromised that truth for the ways of the world.  I had to believe that it was in that same humility that He must have turned to God for direction, and then humbly submitted to God’s will – that He would now devote the rest of his life to “praying” for the Church. 
How deeply do we value the power of prayer?  We say it all the time; I’ll pray for you; pray for me; pray about it.  But do we really believe in the power of those prayers?  I had to answer that for myself a few days ago.  You see, I hit a wall.  The first time I allowed myself to ask, “Lord, WHY am I here?”  It had been a rough couple of days; or maybe I had just been suppressing my feelings for too long.  In any case, on that particular day it seemed like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.  I was worried for my husband; he was sick and still trying to adjust to his new work environment; I was worried for my daughter who is 4 months pregnant and experiencing constant all-day sickness with no relief in sight; I was worried for my other daughter who was facing mounting stress at work; I was worried for other members in my family and loved ones who each have personal problems of their own, and I felt so helpless!  Why was I here and not there?  Why did I have to be so far away without any way of helping?  I went up and sat on our balcony, looked up at the full moon and cried out to God “Why am I here? What can I do???”  And I heard Him say “PRAY.”  Pray?  That’s it?  I already do pray; all the time, every day.  Then the realization kicked in; yes, I pray every day, but do I “really” pray with fervor and devotion?   Do I take as much time as it takes.  Time – I remember one day long ago, sitting at my kitchen table doing my Bible Study; I started off with a prayer as I always do and then it led to another prayer and another.  The list of people who needed prayer just kept growing and growing and I remember thinking, ”Lord, why are so many people in need of prayer?  I feel bad because I don’t have time to pray for all of them!  If I sat here and prayed for each one, my whole morning would be gone and I have so much to do!  I have to write this week’s Lecture; I have to do this and go there, etc… “ Well, I don’t have that excuse now, do I?   Time is ALL I have now and God is giving me that time to do what I need to do; PRAY for those I love.  Even if I was at home, I can’t change or control the situations.  They are not mine to control.  But here, alone, I have the time to really and fervently devote my time to prayer because that is truly the most powerful thing I can offer.
My thoughts immediately turned to Pope Benedict; that is what he was going to do.  That is what God told him to do.  Why did I doubt that it would be any less important or powerful than what he was doing for us while he sat in the Chair?  After all, GOD is in control!  Then I thought about Jesus; how often did Jesus not go away, alone, to PRAY; to pray for US, for the whole human race; for GOD’s will to be done.  The Pope is the Vicar of Christ and what a beautiful example Pope Benedict now gives us as he follows Jesus’ footsteps and goes off alone to PRAY.   It is here that He will continue to imitate Christ; it is here that He will continue to be effective for God’s purposes and for God’s Church.  His time and devotion to prayer will be greatly needed in this time of crisis for our Church, and it is in the power of his prayers that the Church will continue to be blessed.  Of that I am sure of!
Thank you Holy Father for teaching me something so valuable once again; the power of prayer!  I must humbly accept my place in this world and trust that GOD is sovereign over all things; over every situation, and that sometimes the best thing  I can do for someone in need; someone  I love; is to simply PRAY for them, trusting that God hears the prayers of the faithful and answers them accordingly according to His holy will. 
I feel a great sense of peace and security in the knowledge that Pope Benedict will be praying fervently for us.  May I have the discipline and the desire to do the same for those I love and those in need.    

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The things that amuse me in Bahrain!

If you are my friend on FB, you've probably already heard about some of the crazy things I've seen here in Bahrain; but since I know many of you are not on FB, I thought I would share again with you.

My favorite is the handheld bidet in every bathroom.  Yes, a little hose to cleanse off after every visit.  I was told that toilet paper here is for drying yourself AFTER you've hosed yourself down!  Wouldn't that be messy?  Is the water cold?  You'll have to ask someone else becuase I'm not using it!  I use it to rinse the toilet bowl when I wash it!  I think I'm kind of obsessed with the toilets; they have two buttons on the top for flushing.  Each has a different amount of water pressure so you can flush according to your need (if you know what I mean). I just love their attention to conservation.  There are switches on each outlet and you only turn them on when in use.  The same for water heaters and the gas stove; there is a switch you turn on and off when you're going to use.

And speaking of appliances, the refrigerator gave me the best surprise last week.  I left the door open when I was unloading groceries and all of a sudden, I hear music.  Jingle Bells, of all things!  It was the fridge.  If you leave it open too long, it warns you by playing a song.  Who picked Jingle Bells?  I have no idea but I love it - Christmas year-round! 

We were lucky that our Villa has a lot of appliances included, like a vaccum.  If you know me, you  know that I'm a little crazy when it comes to vacuuming - I love to see the lines the vacuum leaves when you vacuum; proof that it's clean!  I like to make sure they are all straight and in order and then I get a little upset when people walk all over them.  But I love seeing straight, clean lines.  I think God is trying to get me to ease up on little things like this because our vacuum does NOT leave lines!!!  What?  The entire Villa is carpeted - the reason we picked it because 99% of homes here are all tile and marble.  Dave was the first one to use it; we were having his boss and wife and another couple over for dinner and Dave offered to vacuum while I cooked.  He's so funny - after a few minutes he says, "Honey, you're not going to be happy.... the vacuum does not leave the lines you like!"  What kind of a vacuum doesn't leave signs that it's been used.  Geeezzzzz.....


I may have also mentioned that all the doors and windows in the house have a lock and key.  You have to leave the key in the door - just in case you have to make an emergency exit - not sure if this makes me feel safe or a little scared of living in a place where you have to lock your bedroom doors with a key!  I've decided I feel safe.  As a matter of fact, we do feel very safe here in Amwaj.  Everyone is very relaxed and the crime statistics are almost non-existent.  Now, I'm not talking about protests and demonstrations - those go on daily in the city, but they are not meant to be violent in nature.  They are not aimed at Westerners; the truth is they just want attention from the King and they want to have their voice heard.  Every day I get several text messages on my phone warning us of this protest or demonstration, urging us to take caution and avoid the areas.  At first it was unnerving; we were bascically on lock down all of Valentine's weekend because major protests were planned that entire weekend, but now they are so routine I sometimes forget to even check the message.  Because we live in Amwaj, we are pretty much isolated from all those problems.  In fact, on Valentine's Day, lots of people drove to Amwaj to go to dinner and celebrate because this was a free zone.  So yes, I feel very safe.


Our yard is enclosed; we have a rod iron door that is locked on the side of the house and the only other way to get to our house is to swim across the canal or go through someone else's yard, so it makes for a very peaceful environment.  One that Dave really enjoys becasue he doesn't have to worry about me being home alone and he can relax when he comes home after a long day at work.
The most excitement Bella gets is barking at the man who drives by in a little boat cleaning the canal or when she "talks" to the dogs across the water.  Oh, and of course, swimmers going by are also fun for her!  Yes, it's a little funny to look out and see someone doing the backstroke in your back yard or kayaking quietly across the water.  I always run to get my camera and then I stop because I remember that this is their back yard too; we share this one, big beautiful piece of water and I'm sure they want their privacy.  If I was back home, I wouldn't normally snap picutures of my neighbors if I saw them in their pool - I'd probably get arrested!

What I have come to realize recently is that the whole atmosphere here is very laid back and relaxed.  Meals are meant to savored over a few hours; no one ever asks if you want your check; you have to ask for it.  I guess you could say service is really slow here; you're lucky if you get your food in 45 minutes and you will have to hunt down your waiter for the check; but I realize that it's only the Americans who are in a hurry!  We're the ones always complaining about bad service; we're the ones always clamoring for the check - what's the hurry???  I'm beginning to like this relaxed way of living. still and know that I am GOD.  That verse keeps coming to my mind and it's funny because I used to have that verse on a garden stone in my yard.  One day a friend saw it and she laughed and said "YOU are NEVER still!!"  So sad.... but I'm the one smiling now...I really can get used to this - it's a process but one I know is good for my soul and yours - I highly recommend it - still and know that HE is God!!



Monday, February 18, 2013

So today is exactly ONE MONTH since we landed in the Kingdom of Bahrain and it's finally sinking in; I'm here for the next two years.  In a sense, it feels like we've been here forever; but that's only when I stop and think about how much I miss my family and friends.  I feel like I haven't seen them in soooo long and even though, and thank God we have Skype and I can talk to them daily, there is nothing like sitting face to face and sharing a cup of coffee while we chat or the feel of a hug as we part ways. On the other hand, there is still so much to see and learn and that's when I realize we've only been here a month!

So what have I seen?  What have I learned? Is it what I thought it would be?  Well....let me begin by saying that I've been pleasantly surprised - and in some ways a little disappointed.  I thought that I would have culture shock; that I would be wearing the most modest clothes that I could find and brought with me.  I thought I would have to endure many hungry days because I don't really like ethnic food.  Since I've been here, the most different thing I've had is Chai Milk (chai tea with lots of cream and sugar).  Instead of worrying about what I'm going to eat, I worry more about everything that I am eating!  Everyone speaks English and as for the clothes....well let's just say the Arab women really love to dress up!  I feel right at home! 

When we first arrived, we stayed at the Dragon Hotel; a resort on Amwaj Island where many Saudis come to vacation.  Consequently, they came with their entire families and were very carefree. Because public displays of affection are frowned upon, it was very endearing to see how loving the women AND the men were with their children.  I do believe that the love of a parent; like the love of our Heavenly Father, is universal!  We all love our children the same and one cannot help but hug and love on our kids.  I also found them to be very much like Hispanics in many ways.  1) They travel in large family groups!  They may not be piling out of ONE truck but they do travel in numbers. 2) They love to party!!  And the party starts late and ends early the next morning.  Watching the women sitting around in their black abayas and berkas, being so carefree and laughing up a storm brought a smile to my face; I realized how much like me and my YaYas they are, when we would sit around laughing for hours! 3) They love their bling!  Many of the women only wore their head covering with the trendiest of clothes along with their designer sunglasses and purse.  Even those who wore the entire Berka never seemed to be without their Gucci bag!  And they wear makeup, being sure to accentuate their eyes because they have beautiful, big brown eyes!  I have to tell you that I could easily blend in with them more than I can with some of the Brits and Americans I've met.  I'm really surprised at how skimpy some of them dress, considering the area where we are.  

Another interesting fact is that they LOVE their BIG, FANCY cars!!!  If you love cars, this is your playground!!!  Lamborghini's, Maserati's, Porches, Mercedes, and big SUVs!  Gas guzzlers are certainly not a problem - gas is like .70 cents a gallon!!  And hot rods - well they're the best for drag racing!  If you like Nascar, you would love driving in Bahrain.  If you're not bumping and grinding the cars around you, you're not driving correctly in Bahrain!  I have never, ever, ever seen worse drivers!  Mexico drivers have nothing on them!!  You need a parking space?  You make one.  And if you can't squeeze your way onto a sidewalk, then you just park behind a car; they will either jump the curb to get out or simply back into your car and push it out of the way when they want to leave.  You didn't pass parallel parking on your driving test?  No worries - you park whatever direction you want to park in.  It really is a free-for-all here and makes for a very anxious experience!

We've been very blessed to have access to the Navy Base here.  That is where Dave works and we have almost all military privileges on base; except medical and housing.   I really think this is why things have not been very hard on us so far; we go there to shop for groceries and they have all American brands; they have a great restaurant that serves great American meals, along with a Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, etc...  We can go to the NEX (Navy Exchange) for clothes, shoes, etc... And everyone is American so I really feel like I'm in the US.  It's almost like being on a college campus, and yes, that means a lot of walking from one place to the next. But they have a Vet for Bella and they have a Chapel where we go to Mass.  The Catholic Church in Bahrain is in a place that is not secure and it is off limits to us at different times on different days.  That doesn't mean I'll never be able to go - it is my mission to get there!  But thankfully, we can go to Mass on base.  The Priest is awesome!  He is from Chicago; in his 50s and very dynamic.  He gives great homilies where he goes into a lot of explanation about how things were in the OT and also about Church history and tradition and teaching.  The Chapel is small but I would guess there are around 100+ people on Friday mornings.  Yes, Friday!  Friday is the Holy Day here in Bahrain  and "when in Rome...."  so we celebrate Mass on Friday mornings with the Sunday readings.  They do have another service on Sundays at noon but since that is a work day for everyone, there are less people there that day.  It's more like daily mass attendance and you don't see families with children then because they are all in school.  Daily mass is held at noon in the Chaplain's office and I  have yet to go, since I don't have a car, but hopefully that will change soon.  Then again, I don't really want to drive here!  I'm not assertive enough yet!  I have Lectored a few times but I have to admit that I love seeing the soldiers up there even more.  It's usually MEN who serve and that is awesome to see!  I also feel that serving in Mass must mean so much to them since they are not always on base or in a place where they can attend mass and do so.   They don't have Lector or EM schedules because they can deploy or have their schedules changed at any time!  So although I have offered to serve whenever they need me, I'm happy to sit in the pew and allow others to serve.

And while we are on the subject of religion - let me just say that I admire the devotion of most of the Arabs here.  Because we live in Amwaj, which houses most Expatriates (British, Americans, and other westerners) there is no Mosque here.  That means you don't hear the call for prayer over the loud speakers five times a day.  However, because all businesses must be owned by Bahrainians, if you are in a store or restaurant, you will hear the call over their PA systems.  It sounds like a chant; like a beautiful song.  We were having dinner one night in a restaurant where all the wait staff was Asian and all of a sudden this loud person started singing.  They don't usually have MUZAK or anything like that so I started looking around to see who it was; where were they?  Then our friend  told us it was the call for prayer.  The workers don't have to do anything if they are not Muslim but nonetheless, they have to play it in case there are Muslims in the building.  There is a store called LuLus Hypermarket - their version of Walmart - only bigger because they have a Food Court and upstairs, they have a Prayer Chapel in case you are there and want to go pray when the call comes in.
Some people get annoyed at the calls and one said to me; "The problem here is that everything is about religion.  Everything is about God - God first and then family and everything else!"  I just stared at him and said; "But that's the same for us as Christians; that's exactly the way it should be; God first; family second and then everything else." *Blank stare - birds chirping*  I admire anyone who gets up in the middle of the night to pray; who stops several times in the day; no matter where they are or what they are doing; to take a moment to focus and give worship to God.  So my goal is to also stop whenever I hear the call for prayer and say my own little prayer to God - if only we could all be so fortunate to have those little reminders each day???