Monday, February 22, 2010

Travelin' Again

I'm not sure how it worked out that February would be our month for travel, and I never thought I'd think Houston had been too cold and too damp too long! But all these things are true and El Jefe and I are off for a week, so QG will be closed until our return.

We're going back to Mexico to enjoy some warm weather and a beautiful beach before going into full time MOB and FOB mode.

Friday, February 19, 2010

QG Podcast: Romans 8--Victory in Christ

If anyone is interested, here's a link to the podcast of my BSD lecture yesterday on Romans 8 from the MDPC website:

There's some error with the previous link. If you go here:

Then click on the media files for the top entry--Victory in Christ dated February 17, you will be able to hear it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh, Oh, Limpics

Last night I watched some Winter Olympics with Babs and P-Dubya. Babs has always been a HUGE fan of the Olympics, but these days its hard for her to stay up for her fav skating events because of her early appearance at work.

So we're watching something called the snowboard half-pipe, at least I think that is what it is called. It seems like something only a teenage boy would love--baggy loud clothing, risky stunts and lots of macho. We were highly amused by the "analysis" of the different tricks the guys performed--it seemed awfully pretentious and forced.

We miss the Jamaican Bobsled Team--now there was a really fun group to watch!

On the whole we were decidedly underwhelmed. Are you watching the Winter Olympics? What do you think?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Thought

Heard at yesterday's church meeting:
"Those called to leadership in the church have the privilege of seeing Christ's bride without her makeup and with all her flaws and wrinkles exposed, but love her anyway."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Hurridier I Go...

The more behind I get! Why does a few days away create a frenzy on returning of:
  • MOB business
  • Church meeting business
  • BSD Lecture preparation (Thursday!!)
  • Re-adjusting Bea and Olivia to their daily routine
  • Too much mail
  • Too much laundry
  • Not enough time
But it was worth it! San Miguel is a beautiful place and was a lot warmer--but not warm--than Houston. We were visiting friends who have retired there and they have a lovely home with a stunning view of the mountains. Their neighbor there was one of the founding members of our church! He told us some interesting stories about the early days of MDPC. I can't see us following their lead and retiring there, but we'd be happy to visit anytime!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mexico Lindo

El Jefe and I are off to Mexico Lindo for the Valentine's Day weekend, visiting friends who retired to San Miguel from Dallas. We're wussies and glad to get out from our dreary cold weather in Houston--not used to it!

QG will be closed until Tuesday.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Schools for Yemen?

Thomas Friedman, the NY Times columnist, is now calling for the US to help build schools in order to promote peace and development--but in Yemen rather than Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I see that Greg Mortenson is onto something.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

WNTW RevGal Episode

We were out Friday night so I recorded the What Not To Wear RevGal episode. Yesterday afternoon I had time to watch it.

I thought it was very cleverly done. Loved the choir processing in singing the Halleluia Chorus from Messiah as Stacy and Clinton surprised young (and very pretty) Episcopal priest Emily! Someone on the show knows something about classical Christian music and used excerpts as background music several times--notably Bach's Toccata and Fugue in C.

As always, Stacy and Clinton respected Emily's opinion about how she needed to present herself at work. They talked with her colleagues at the church about this, too. That was quite a challenge when you consider that she wears a clerical collar every day to her job at the church! They even had a custom made collar made for her that would work well with the suits and blouses she bought.

An online article that I read last week revealed that Emily tithed $500 to a charity in accordance with her beliefs, so she actually only spent $4500 on her new wardrobe. Good for her! She looked so beautiful and approachable when they were done.

Did you see this episode? What did you think?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Luncheon Report

Today I met the first woman to become a lawyer in Pakistan. Well, I didn't meet her personally, but she spoke at the sold-out Three Cups of Tea luncheon in Houston today. Greg Mortenson, the keynote speaker and author of Three Cups, introduced her to the crowd.

Portia, Queenie and I were really touched by the words of this sister lawyer. Mortenson said that she had suffered beatings and stonings at the hands of fellow students and teachers for daring to seek an education. Her family also opposed her ambitions but finally she was able to persuade them to grant permission for her to study law. She is the first woman to pass the bar exam in Pakistan and is now doing advanced studies at Montana State University--no doubt with the encouragement of the Mortenson family who lives in Montant. Her goal is to become an advocate for the property rights of women and widows in her country.

Mortenson's speech concentrated on three themes:
  • the importance of elders
  • the importance of building relationships to build peace
  • the importance of the education of women

Mortenson quoted a statistic that only 10% of American children had ever spent any time listening to their "elders" (grandparents or others of that generation) recount stories of the events of their lives and the history they had lived while 99 to 100% of Pakistani and Afghani children have done so. He pointed out that in the US children are becoming ignorant of the history and culture that shapes their society. Listening and building relationships with the "elders" in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a major emphasis for the Central Asia Insitute in its efforts to expand schools and education for girls in the region and is a key to its success.

With respect to the importance of building relationships, Mortenson praised our military leadership for finally "getting it" and placing emphasis on building trust and partnership with the people of Afghanistan as they struggle to resist the forces of the Taliban in their country. Three Cups of Tea is now required reading for those taking counterinsurgency training. He shared an email from General Petraeus, who after reading Three Cups of Tea, summarized what he learned from it: "build relationships, listen and respect the people."

Mortenson criticized the current administration's secret discussions and failure to consult our military leaders and the important Afghan elder groups before setting the policy for a new surge. He fears that plans to bring troops away from the "forward" positions in the countryside and back into the fortified positions in the cities risks the destruction of the relationships they are successfully building in the remote areas more subject to Taliban violence.

"Unless girls are educated, things are never ever going to change," Mortenson said. He quoted an African proverb: "If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a community." According to statistics from UNICEF, in 2000 there were 800,000 children in school in Afghanistan--almost all were boys. Today there are 8.4 million children in school--2.5 million are girls! That is impressive progress. That is the hope for our future together.

The crowd was filled with many Pakistani and Afghan women as well as several groups of high school students. The table next to us was an all-Pakistani or Afghan group and I noticed their enthusiastic response to Mortenson's speech--especially his words about our military's current approach to their mission in that area. The high school students wanted to set up Facebook relationships with their counterparts in Afghanistan, only to learn that the internet wasn't quite as ubiquitous in the mountains of that country as it is on the Gulf Coast of Texas!

It was an inspiring event that renewed my belief in the importance of education--especially for women--in the pursuit of peace.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Book Review: Stones Into Schools

This morning's news brought word of yet another attack on a girls' school in one of the northern provinces of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. Three schoolgirls, a Pakistani soldier and three American troops were killed in the blast. Many girls were also injured.

Which is why Greg Mortenson's Stones Into Schools is such an important book. This is the sequel to Three Cups of Tea, the book that chronicles the story of Mortenson's mission to build schools and promote education for the women of the remote areas of northwest Pakistan. Three Cups of Tea became a best-seller and Mortenson, albeit reluctantly, became a much-sought after speaker and fund-raiser for the Central Asia Institute, which has built 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan serving 51,000 students with an emphasis on the education of girls. Why the emphasis on girls' education? Because Mortenson believes that girls are the key to social change in this part of the world.

Three Cups of Tea is now required reading for West Point's Counterintelligence School because of the insight it gives into the culture of the people of this area. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stones Into Schools added to that list because it expands that insight into remote areas of Afghanistan. Mortenson, the son of Christian missionaries to Africa, has a gift for communicating cross-cultural understanding.

Stones Into Schools picks up where Three Cups of Tea left off. The book recounts Mortenson's struggle to fulfill a commitment made to 14 brave Afghani men who crossed a dangerous pass into Pakistan to find him and beg him to build a school in a very remote are of their country. Ten years and many disappointments and hardships later, that vow was fulfilled. And it was fulfilled by the efforts of the Afghani people rather than by their American supporters. One of the reasons why the work of the CAI is so promising is that it empowers the local people to do for themselves and thus have real ownership of these schools and the expansion of education to their girls.

Stones Into Schools is not great literature, but I think it is as compelling and inspiring as Three Cups of Tea. The book combines a fascinating travelogue with individual stories of triumph, tragedy and heroism. I highly recommend it.

This Monday Greg Mortenson is speaking at a fund-raising luncheon in Houston, which I am happy to report is now sold-out. I'm going along with several other family members because we have adopted the CAI as our charity of choice in honor of my nephew, the navy doctor, who is waiting deployment to Afghanistan. I can't wait.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

BSD Lecture Coming Up!

In a couple of weeks I will be giving a lecture on Romans 8 for our Bible Study Discussion program. I have about 50 minutes in which to do it for about 200 women on a Thursday morning. Oh, boy!

Our groups are studying Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter by chapter. Since this is the middle of the book, I think it is a good time to include a brief review and summary of the first 7 chapters as well as a look ahead to what is to come. It better be brief because Romans 8 is the apogee of Paul's letter--and one of the most significant chapters in all of the Bible.

Chapter divisions in the Bible can be helpful or arbitrary. In the case of Romans, they are arbitrary and don't always come at logical places in Paul's densely written argument. That makes a lecture on one chapter challenging!

If any of my Gentle Readers can give me suggestions for resources for this assignment, I would be most appreciative! I'm using Paul for Everyone by N.T. Wright and the Interpretation series commentary on Romans, written by Paul Achtemeier as well as the study notes in the NIV Study Bible, the Oxford (NRV) Study Bible.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What Not To Wear Alert!

Here's a Must See TV alert for all my RevGal friends--mark your calendars for this Friday evening, 9 Eastern/8 Central time on TLC.

My favorite reality show, What Not To Wear, features one of your own as the subject of Clinton and Stacey's makeover. The promo for this new episode says "Emily is your typical single girl with one divine difference... she's an Episcopal priest. She may have been called by a higher power but her friends and family called Stacy and Clinton. Can Emily find a feminine style that balances her youthful energy?"

Usually WNTW is very good at finding styles that are appropriate for the profession or lifestyle of their subjects. What will they do with Emily? Did they consult PeaceBang of Beauty Tips for Ministers fame?

Can't wait to see....

Monday, February 01, 2010

Looking for that Special Verse

Yesterday in worship, members of our church's third grade Sunday School class were each given a Bible. This is an annual custom in our church. The translation they are given is the NIV Adventure Bible.

The senior pastor told them he had highlighted a different verse in each Bible --one that he had chosen specially for each child--and signed his name by it. A very thoughtful gesture, especially since there were 55 children involved!

I wonder how many kids started looking for their verse as soon as they sat down again in the pew?