Walk a mile in the North African shoes

IMG_0430Thoughts from North Africa …. as the third call to prayer goes out.

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Welcome to Tunisia, “Mahrahabba (welcome) You are not tourist here, you are our guests, you are family.” Right hand pats the heart three times, as the man in the red checkered scarf looks deep into my eyes. I wonder if he is hoping for a large tip.

Ancient roman ruins abound in this country, as do artifacts from generations since. Coming from Canada, where anything over 200 years old is considered ancient, I can hardly fathom the large stone blocks fashioned into the massive amphitheatre  that held up to 35,000 spectators in the third century. “The monument of El Jem is one of the most accomplished examples of Roman architecture of an amphitheatre, almost equal to that of the Coliseum of Rome.”  (Unesco World Heritage -El Jem.)

IMG_0336What was it like to live in ancient Roman times? … I could only imagine as we viewed the arena. The gates of life and death were pointed out to us at a previous site, as the guide explained how the animals, prisoners, and gladiators were brought into the arena, likely to face their final battle … they may have been killed in the colosseum, but apparently were not devoured in the presence of the audience … that surprised me, but perhaps that was something offensive to some of the more sensitive members of the audience?

What was it like? And what is it like to live in this transitioning country today? I have not been here long enough to answer that question. I am taking it all in. Tunisia has been described as post revolution—in fact today is the anniversary date of the revolution. When speaking with some of the locals, I ask through a translator, how has this revolution impacted the ordinary person. Many say they have not seen any benefits yet, as prices have risen and unemployment has increased.

I sit with my daughter, we have been invited to taste zagoo-goo, a special dessert made for the prophet’s birthday. (Two holidays fall in sequence: the prophet’s birthday on Monday, and the revolution anniversary the next day.)  The dessert is made from a paste of ground nuts and a creamy thin overlaying. To my surprise it is not as sweet as it looks—it looks like it should be chocolate pudding with whip cream, decorated with sprinkles.

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Two months ago, this neighbour  serving zagoo-goo asked my daughter:  “What is it like to live with love?”

A profound question.

What is it like to live with love? The question haunts me, it speaks of the deepest longing we have as a human being. For the lady, it was equated into the love of her husband … but it seemed to go deeper. This country is enchanting, the mix of ancient and modern, and yet the eternal question …

What is it like to live with love?

 

(Photos by Jocelyn)

Does goodwill extend to dogs?

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Is Christmas only for kids and does peace on earth, good will extend to the dogs?

December brings a kind, seasonal spirit. The song asks “Why can’t we keep Christmas every day of the year?” And the reality is that Christmas brings stress: family isn’t always fun to be with, expectations are high, people are traveling, budgets get blown … the cause for headaches increases with the social obligations.

I am privileged to spend Christmas with my sister’s family this year, and delighted that small children are involved. Her eight year old grandson is losing his belief in Santa, he has pieced it together that when Santa showed up on Christmas Eve, grandpa was in the bathroom. When my own children were small, we didn’t fuss too much about Mr. Claus, we kind of let him be … his mall lap was sat on, hopes whispered into his ears, we have the pictures. I had not wanted all the components of Christmas to be lumped together, and then outgrown … like the magical man that can visit all the children of the world in a sleigh on one night. (About as realistic as the nativity scene?)

IMG_6361My own grandchildren are living in N Africa, and they are not bombarded with seasonal slogans, no music piped in at the malls. Everything is focused and intentional on their part, the country does not celebrate Christmas. Yes believe it or not, the western way of doing Christmas is very western, and very consumer driven … And the true Father of Christmas has invited us to become like little children-to come with eyes wide in wonder, and embrace the most unbelievable gift given for all—Immanuel, God with us.

And what about the dogs? How did that get into the picture … well in the Oregon country side where I am Christmasing, the neighbor has three dogs, two dobermans, and a small yapper …. My sister and I went for a walk, and to our nervous surprise, the dogs circled us, bared teeth … I was just thinking that they were not looking or feeling very friendly, when I felt this sharp pain on the back of my left leg as one dog darted behind me. “I think he bit me!” I exclaimed to my sister and he had. We talked to the owner—we told him that was a serious offence, and her grandkids were coming the next day … we wanted to be able to walk the country lane. My thoughts of goodwill were lost in the moment.

The culprit

The culprit

So does peace and good will extend to all? Do you extend good will to a dog? If so, what does that look like? The peace and joy of the season gets challenged daily in December and the coming year. So, who let the dogs out?

Merry Christmas to all!!

MAKE YOUR LIST & CHECK IT TWICE

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I received a serendipitous gift at a coffee shop recently.  I couldn’t help overhearing as Eddie read to his partner, and when he asked her “What do you think?” I joined in the conversation to say I thought it had been a great little article, who had written it? It was his own …. for me it was a chance encounter–to meet a fellow writer further along the road. (His website is listed below) Writing, like life is a process, and I learn as I go and grow. These little gifts come at the most wonderful of times, so I practise keeping my spirit open to them.

The line that caught my attention was–to make a list and check it twice. He was referring to a dream list, although I immediately thought about a gratitude list. It is easier to see what is not going well in my life, although I want to practise gratitude. As I walked home the world looked brighter, I was writing the things-I-was-grateful-for list. Being thankful is a mood changer.  87791726-person-making-list-photos-comTry it– make your list and check it twice, make two lists, one of gratitude and one of dreams.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here, we just received what I dub the “Christmas Eve snowfall”–three inches of soft white frosting on the entire landscape, including my mindset at the moment.  You can get on my gratitude list easily, by leaving a comment–what are you most thankful for this season?

DSC_0053Richest blessings of the season to you and yours!

Jocelyn

Eddie Lemoine is an author and motivational speaker, to visit his website go to  http://eddielemoine.com/

More Humbugs-Tis the Season to Fa la la

DSC_0047Tis the Season when you deck the hall, or perhaps you want to deck someone?  What if you don’t like Christmas?  What do you do then?

Sales people love an early December snowfall—it makes the cash registers ring. The “Holly Jolly” songs have been piped over the PA systems for a few weeks, adding to the urgency to run the card through the machines to show people how important they are. The new math equates amount of dollars spent with amount of love expressed. It’s a time some people love, and some people hate. (Is this another best of times, worst of times?)

For people grieving it truly is the worst of times. My first Christmas after the loss of my two children, is one I would never ever want to repeat. Although there were some incredible God-moments, I dreaded the season for months in advance.  The constant reminders and family photo-card images reinforce for those in a tough situation,  the feeling of loneliness and despair, causing many people to want to pack up and ride away for the season. Be kind to all, you don’t know what they may be going through. May the spirit of love covers all aspects of your Christmas, like a gentle snowfall.

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It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on         Sarah McLachlan

A Pacifist at Remembrance Day

imagesThe Pacifist at a Remembrance Day Ceremony

For once she arrived on time to an already packed out gym, standing room only as hundreds of townsfolk came to the Remembrance Day service; not a poppy-less coat in the crowd, thanks to the young girl guides handing out programs and poppies, camouflage garb mixed with the stiff jodhpurs of the RCMP.

Her Mennonite hometown never had this large a turn out. Apparently Mennonites don’t dance and they don’t go to war. …  Only after my father had died, I found out that he had wanted to join the Canadian Air Force as a young man during the Second World War. His father would have none of it, as the church did not allow for going to war; it believed in the call to peace. And in a not so peaceful manner my father fought with his father, but obeyed. Very likely the departure of a dream.  Because conscription was the law, my father was given the option to become a conscientious objector (CO) and was assigned to work at the CO camp at Clear Lake Mb. Many Mennonite boys were allowed to stay at home and continued to work in the farms, a few defied their churches and signed up to become soldiers for Canada’s army, experiencing the rejection of their communities for their choice.

This day she came as an observer, to honour those who had died for her country’s freedom. “Freedom is not free,” she heard. Veterans of any war were asked to stand, she quickly tried to count the number, at least eighty, possibly a hundred. The bag-pipe and drum band led the procession of young cadets, aging vets, and current military recruits. Next to the men in kilts, white plumed hats and elegant capes bobbed, representing the British pomp and ceremony.

John Cotton who had fought in the Korean War, spoke with the authority and cadence of  a BBC radio announcer as he told his story …. “the Chinese came over the crest, wave after wave of men—I had never seen so many men. We engaged them we cut them down, they retreated we advanced,” words devoid of emotion, “our grenades were better than their grenades. We kept our machine guns going until they became so hot, we had to change the barrels … round after round. They outnumbered us seven to one, but we cut them down.” He did not glorify the war, he did not justify it, he gave us his description in neutral blood free terms. The war was fought sixty years ago, and he remembers it every day, and his final strong words to the crowd: “I shall never forget these men as long as I live, and I hope to God you won’t forget either.”

A processional led the throng down the hill to the town’s cenotaph, for the 11 am silence,  followed by the laying down of the wreaths. Two red and white planes circled overhead. The observers were invited to add their poppies to the wreaths. She waited her turn. Two young cadets stood in position, at either side of the cenotaph, large rifles pointed down, their eyes fixed above the crowd. She had lost a son the age of these recruits, and she knew the pain. She may be a pacifist, but she recognized the sacrifice others had made.

The sad reality hit her—many of the casualties of war are still alive.