Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Several months ago the ladies I work with at the office decided we would have outfits made out of the same cloth for our Christmas party.  So we went shopping for cloth.  It was a fun afternoon, but challenging as well.  We all had different colors that we feel we look good in and we had to think of what the men would wear, so nothing flowery, pink, or otherwise feminine looking.  We also objected to some designs that end up with large circles strategically placed over certain body parts, like targets. Then, when we found something we all agreed on, it had to be something that the shop had a lot of since there would be a lot of us buying it.  And finally it had to be in an affordable price range. We eventually ended up with something with which we were all happy.

The next step was to take the cloth to the tailor and have it made into an outfit.  Of course, I procrastinated....I got the cloth in September and didn't take it to the tailor until December.  The tailor has pictures on her wall of outfits....but they are not really appropriate for middle-aged women in Niger.  I try to dress culturally appropriately, which means shoulders and upper arms covered, shirt long enough to cover the behind, and nothing too tight.  All the pictures she has are mermaid style skirts that one would have to pour themselves into and skin-tight shirts that barely cover the waist.  They are all the rage in the country where she comes from, but not really appropriate for here.

So, my problem is choosing a style from her posters hanging on the wall, then describing to her how we could make it more modest and more appropriate.  

But somehow there is usually a disconnect between what's in my head and what comes out of my mouth and what the tailor imagines!  I wish I could draw pictures of what I see in my head, but that's not going to happen!

I left the cloth with the tailor to be picked up a week later....but I got busy and forgot to go.  Before I knew it, it was the day of the party and then I had to rush over there between this and that to get the outfit.  I held it up and my heart sank.  For starters, the shirt was sleeveless....totally inappropriate.  Then I tried it on.  The shirt fit well, but was also too short.  And, in true keeping with the style, I could barely get the skirt on.  What an amazing tailor I have!  She told me to have a seat and then she and her apprentices basically remade the outfit in about an hour!!  She put sleeves on the shirt and lengthened it and they put extra side pieces on the skirt.  Oh, and the skirt was way too long for me, so that shortened it as well.  I was pretty pleased with the end result.

Except one thing....they added too much into the skirt and here's the thing.  They shape it like hips so now it looked like I had extra hips.  Believe me, I don't need any help in that department.  So when I got home I whacked off some of the extra hip shape and made it a bit more suitable.

The office party was great and we all had different styles of outfits.  

Even the four men who had shirts made had different styles.  I'm so happy I get to work with this group and that I can show my friendship with them by dressing in the same cloth or "uniform" as we call it here. (The ladies not in uniform are wives of office workers.)

The next day I wore my new outfit to the office.  When I came home for lunch, I decided to eat out on the terrace.  I picked up the cushion off the chair to dust it off and felt something go down my shirt.  I looked and it was a little lizard.  I started screaming for John, telling him to get it out.  He couldn't see it, so I said, "Let's go inside and get this shirt off!"  He replied that then the lizard would be in the house.  I sure didn't want that, so I just unzipped my shirt outside, hoping our house worker wouldn't come out of the house just then!  John found the lizard on my back, grabbed it, and threw it to the ground.  It ran off, but lost its tail in the process.  He was probably as traumatized as I was!  (Sorry, no pictures!!!!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Laundry, A Party, and a New Recipe

This is going to be a really random post, wandering from here to there.

First, over a month ago our washing machine gave up the ghost.  We thought it could be fixed, and so did the repair man.  But it turns out it was irreparable. So we went looking for another one.  It was more expensive than we wanted to pay, but God had provided some money unexpectedly, so we were able to get one that we hope will last longer.  My favorite thing about this machine is that it has a timer on on days when our house-helper doesn't come until late morning, but I have to go to work early, I can put the machine on the timer.  Then the close finish washing about the time he arrives and don't have to be in the machine all morning getting wrinkled.  It is a bit bigger than our old one but still fits in the spot but the door barely clears the toilet!

On Friday night we had a Christmas party for our Bible study group.  Here is a before shot, a during shot, and two after shots.  We did some singing, had a devotional, ate, and watched Amazing Grace in English with French sub-titles. We have only one girl in the group....and the guys ate like typical single college kids! There was not much food left....just crumbs on the floor and tablecloth!

On Saturday, for the first time ever, I made my own hummus.  It turned out really well!  

 And, that's enough randomness for one post!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When Prosperity Teaching Leaves You with Some Big Questions

The ladies at our church meet every Saturday afternoon.  Since Saturday is my only day to stay home and do my own thing, I've decided to go to the ladies' meetings on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month.  So, that's my routine.  I do enjoy the ladies, but I just can't go every week.

December is ladies' month at our church, so there are always some extra things going on.  For one thing, we buy the same cloth and make matching outfits.  This year's cloth was a real stretch for me.  I DO.NOT.WEAR.YELLOW.  EVER.

My skin has a definite yellow tinge to it, so I don't think yellow or orange are very flattering on me. Not only that, the modele is not something I would have picked out for myself.  The sleeves are, ummm, interesting as you can see from this blurry photo. What do you think?  Bat or angel? But I guess when it's all said and done it doesn't look too bad.

During ladies' month they sing special numbers at church, are very involved in preparing and serving the Christmas dinner, sometimes lead the singing at church, occasionally speak at church, and other involvements.  One of the big things they do is a conference for the women and teenage girls of the church.  They invite other churches as well.

Before the flood our church had started a project of adding on to the church to increase the sanctuary size, something that was really needed.  But then we got flooded out and were in exile for several months.  Once we moved back to our building, little by little the church addition has been finished off and the sanctuary has been spruced up.  It looks like it's pretty much finished now with a fresh coat of paint, a new pulpit, and carpet on the platform.

So for the ladies' conference, the women decorated and they did a fabulous job on it!  It looked beautiful and was very tastefully done (no cotton balls on the wall).

 I only made it to one meeting of the conference.  The ladies sang, we had a time of singing, a testimony time, and then a message from a guest speaker. 

I don't know who the speaker was and I wouldn't give his name if I did.  But his message concerns me.  It concerns me because it is something I hear so often here.  In fact, the next day at a different church, the closing prayer was pretty much the same.  It concerns me because people in the church don't seem very discerning about error even though our pastor has spoken against this.

Granted, I don't always follow the French very well, but the gist of the message was that if you obey God, He will bless you and if you ask God for anything, He'll give it to you.  You should never be sick.  You can even command the mosquitoes to leave (I'm pretty sure that's what I heard him say).  He gave examples of people who prayed and because they were giving generously to the church and involved in the church programs, they were given what they prayed for.

I do believe that God blesses us.  I do believe He punishes us when we refuse to repent.  I do believe He heals.  But I have serious problems with the whole health and wealth teaching.  This isn't meant to be a serious, theological discussion, but in no special order, here are some of my questions and objections.

1.  He based the message on Deuteronomy 28.  This was God's covenant with Israel:  in brief, if you obey I'll bless you and if you disobey I will punish you.  So I think the principal holds for all believers....but the way I hear it approached here is with a sense of entitlement and of demanding of God.
2.  So what if I do obey and I do tell God what I want and it doesn't seem like I'm blessed?  Even worse, what if instead of blessings, terrible things happen to me?  Like they do to Christians all over the world every day.
3.  What about Job?  His friends all assumed he had sinned because God wasn't blessing him.
4.  Doesn't this then become a works-based belief system?  If I am good enough, give enough, help the church enough God will bless me.  So if I don't get a material blessing, I'm not doing enough or my faith isn't great enough.  If I don't get a material blessing, it's somehow my fault.
5.  Our society in the US is very materialistic.  Many in the society here are living in poverty, but would like a better life for themselves (understandably).  But aren't we promoting materialism with this belief?
6.  And so if I am poor, shouldn't becoming a Christian bring me out of my poverty, out of my illness, out of my problems?  So what if I become a Christian and I'm still poor, sick, or troubled?  What does that mean for my relationship with God?
7.  And speaking of relationship, doesn't this kind of teaching just focus on what I can get from God rather than on my relationship with God?
8.  And then there's Jesus.  He had no place to lay His head, was despised, rejected, persecuted, and killed.  Hmmmm, what happened to His prosperity?
9.  And Jesus chose to give up all to come to the earth.  Will this kind of teaching prevent church members from being willing to give up all to go to isolated areas to preach the Gospel?
10.  Jesus tells us to not worry about what to wear or what to eat.  He'll provide.  He does tell us to ask Him for our daily bread, but I think that means we should ask Him for our needs to be met, not necessarily our wants.
11.  What about Proverbs 30:8 & 9 "Give me neither poverty nor riches!  Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.  For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'  And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name."
12.  This morning I was reading Revelation 2.  I was struck by what it said about the church in Smyrna:  "I know about your suffering and your poverty--but you are rich!"  This is also the only one of the seven churches that doesn't have a criticism about it.  They were persecuted and they were poor, but they were faithful and God considered them rich.
13.  I think we need to strive for balance.  Live victorious lives, but also focus on our relationships with God, on our spiritual health, and on being faithful to Him.  Then let Him bless us and provide for us.  We need to learn to trust Him when things go wrong and when things are going well.  

I don't in any way mean for this to be a criticism of our church.  Overall our church takes a balanced approach and the pastor has even spoken out against this kind of teaching.  But it does concern me because of its prevalence and the way it is so easily accepted.

What do you think?