Monthly Archives: August 2008

Ramadan Kareem!

Well, it’s here!  My first Ramadan in the Gulf.  In case you’re not sure what it is, Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset (more information below).

I’m actually pretty excited, but I really don’t know what to expect.  I’ve heard stories on the extremes from different people.  As a Westerner here in the Gulf, Ramadan can be very imposing on your normal life.  You cannot eat, drink, or smoke in public during daylight hours.  Also, things will tend to move a lot slower, since working hours are cut back.

Depending on your attitude, though, it can be quite an experience.  Personally, I’m excited to be living here, because I think Ramadan will be the a great experience of Islamic culture that I have not seen before.

Here is some information from a recent US Embassy message that will give you some insight about life here during the next month:

• Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan.  As such, it is illegal in Qatar to eat, drink (even water), or smoke in public during fasting hours, i.e., approximately 5:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  Approximate times for sunrise and sunset will be announced in local newspapers.  If Muslims are present in the work place, they expect non-Muslims to respect their fasting and not eat, drink, or smoke in front of them, even in motor vehicles, or to prepare food that they can smell or see.  As it is illegal to serve food or drink during fasting hours, restaurants will be closed during daylight hours, with the exception of a few hotel restaurants that serve non-Muslims only.  Restaurants will begin serving food at sundown, but expect them to be crowded, especially during Iftar, the first meal immediately after sunset.  If you are in a hotel, and they do not serve a meal at a time you require, you will find that room service is normally available or the dining room will have an isolated area where non-Muslims are served.

• While modest dress and respectful behavior between the sexes (even between married couples) are normal social customs in Qatar, this is particularly so during Ramadan.

• Shops and markets are open in the morning, often closed in the afternoon, but open again for a few hours after sunset.  Shops and stores will have extended hours into the late evening and early morning to accommodate Ramadan hours of operation.

• If possible, please avoid driving in the hour immediately before sunset.  One should be extra alert at this time, as many Muslims will be rushing to family member’s or friend’s home or a restaurant to break their fast.  Many accidents occur at this time, some very serious.

Returning to my First Love

It’s looking like this will be a theme in my life and blog posts for a while.  I’m in a real season of refreshment, and it’s amazing.  I can already see, too, that this refreshment is just the beginning.  The things God is reminding me of right now are things that He wants for everyone.  I hope you are encouraged by this.

People that know me pretty well know that I am an emotional and sensitive guy, and that has been compounded over the last couple of weeks as God’s been reminding me in very real ways how important I am to Him.  It’s a wonderful time.  I’m filled with so much joy, and often tears, as I go through the day and God brings to my mind truths that I’ve known for so long.  During this time, though, He’s reminding me of these truths and pressing them past my mind and deep into my heart.

My favorite verse for a long time has been John 17:3.  This is when Jesus is praying, and He says:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

God did not save me out of my sin to just change my destination when I die.  I’m not meant to just do all of these religious duties throughout life in hopes that one day I will escape a fiery judgment and have eternal pleasure in Heaven.

No!  That’s falling way too short of the goodness of God.  True eternal life is something that I have now!  It is the ability to personally know the one true God.  I don’t even understand this.  How is this possible?  He’s so far above and beyond me, that there’s no logical way that I can even approach me.  I mean, who am I out of the more than 6 billion people on this planet?

But it’s true.  It’s all over the Bible.  God is crazy about me!

As I mentioned in my last post, music has played a huge role in this, too.  The lyrics that have really kept pushing this revelation along have been from “Scenes” by Charlie Hall:

I see You in every scene
I bet You are thinking of me
I have such a short memory
Still You keep reminding me of You

That is pretty much the theme of my life right now.  God is constantly reminding me that He is thinking about me.  That sounds so simple, right?  I mean, big deal.  Someone’s thinking about me.  But when it’s the God of the universe, it is a big deal!

I’m being reminded of and being shown lots of new verses about this.  Here’s just a sample:

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

Psalm 139:17-18

The great part about all of this is that it is not just for me.  I knew many people back in the US that were just worn out from life and felt like God was so distant from them.  I know I’ve felt like that countless times.  What amazing hope it gives me to know that He is always thinking about me.  Even when I feel rejected, alone, and forgotten, God is thinking of me.

Wow, let that sink in.  I think we could all use a reminder of this 🙂

There’s so much more that I’m processing right now.  Surely more to come…

Moved by Songs

One of the ways that God touches my heart a lot of times is through song.  Great worship songs that poetically express truth just really get to me.

A song that I’ve recently grown to love is a new one by Charlie Hall, from his album The Bright Sadness.  The chorus is very catchy, and it really says a lot with just a few words.  Here’s Charlie’s commentary about the song from his site:

I want to see God everywhere, and He shows himself through opening windows in everyday life.  I think He realizes our forgetfulness of His deep love for us, so He keeps speaking it out in the simple.  We just need to stop and see and hear.

So, here are the words, and you can go to Charlie’s site to hear a clip of the song, or you can check out the video below.

chill and cold and flakes of snow, ice and sleet, frost and cold, each storm cloud and thunder bolt, lifts my mind to you, every work and every power, every second of every hour, fall of dew and sweet rain showers, lifts my mind to you, summer wind, fire and heat, autumn leaves and blooms of spring, ocean waves and mountain streams, lifts my mind to you

i see you in every scene, i bet you are thinking about me, i have such a short memory so you keep reminding me of you

as i lay me down to sleep, as i walk on city streets, as i laugh with friends and feast, it lifts my mind to you, as my children play and run, in the news with wars and guns, in the church where songs are sung, it lifts my mind to you, deep inside the beggar’s eyes, as for sweet love i fight, on the radio at night, it lifts my mind to you.


Sometimes I’ll be listening to a song that I have listened to, and even sung, hundreds of times, but the words will hit me with a fresh realization of who God is.  This happened recently with a song called “He Knows My Name.”  Here are the words, followed by a video:

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Wow, I had a really cool experience tonight.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve eaten dinner at a friend’s house with him and his family nearly every Thursday night.  Rob and his wife Heather have three girls, ages 3, 8, and 10, so it is always tons of fun.  I have really come to feel like a part of their family.

Well tonight, I had a friend’s birthday party to go to, so I couldn’t make it to the family dinner.  During their dinner time, I got a phone call from Rob, and their 3 year old, Rena, was on the phone asking if I was coming over tonight.  She said, “Will  you come have dinner with me?”  It was so sweet.  Rob told me that there was an empty spot at the table tonight, and Rena asked, “Where’s Justin?”

I love it!

A God Who Loves Me

I think this is the first serious post I’ve written in a long time.  This is some good stuff, though.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie, Luther, but it is a great one.  One scene in particular jumps out at me every time I watch it, and I always tear up.  In this scene, Luther is hating himself and is talking to his superior about the issue.  His superior asks, “Martin, what is it you seek?”  The response of Luther stirs my heart:

A merciful God;
A God whom I can love
A God who loves me

Whether I think about it or not, this is a deep desire of mine.  I want someone to love, and I want someone to love me.  As I’m approaching the age of 28 and living the single life in a foreign country, I’m in a prime place for God to fulfill this role.  I’ve had ups and downs while I’ve been here, but God continues to amaze me.  The most recent display of His love for me is just too great for me to hold back.

Work has been really busy and kinda stressful, so my life has been pretty consumed with that.  Ramadan is starting next week, and there will be a holiday, Eid al-Fitr, at the end where many people take a short vacation.  I wanted to go somewhere, but I Just didn’t know where or with whom.  I was really thinking that the Eid would just come and go, and “maybe next year.” Then I made some new friends.

There are a few grad students from the US that are here for a semester that I met last week.  I hung out with them this weekend, and we all really hit it off.  They told me about this trip they’re taking over Eid, and they invited me to go.  To Jordan and Israel!  What an opportunity; one that I’ve been wanting to take for a long time.

So that’s pretty cool, right?  Well, it gets better!  I got the itinerary for the trip, and I decided to see what we have planned for my birthday, which is during this trip.  Get this.  My birthday will include watching a sunrise from Mount Nebo, visiting the baptism site of Jesus, and having dinner while watching a beautiful sunset over the Dead Sea.

I thought about how I like to feel special on my birthday, then I got an overwhelming sensation of God’s presence.  This is God making me feel special on my birthday.  The creator of the universe put together all of these events for me to have this amazing experience on my birthday.  I get chills when I think about it.

Of course, the rest of the trip will be a great time, too.  It’ll be a wonderful experience to see all of that history, and I’ll be enjoying it all with my new friends.

I have so much that God’s doing in my heart right now, but it mainly comes down to Him reminding me in many different ways that He loves me.  What better place is there to be?

My New Companion

Well, I finally did it.  I’ve been wanting to get a pet for a while, and I finally got a little kitten today.  He’s so cute.  He’s got this toupee-looking patch on the top of his head.

I think I’ll call him Pablo.

In other news, work is starting to get really busy, because we’re starting the time just before classes start back up.  I’ll be helping out with the IT portion of the orientation for new students.  I’m excited, because it will be a good opportunity for me to get some face time with the new students.

New Season of The Office Just Weeks Away

I love The Office.  I have the first three seasons on DVD, and I’ll definitely be buying the Season 4 DVD when it is released early next month.  The new season starts on September 25, and I can’t wait, especially after seeing this commercial that aired during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  Enjoy!


Undersea Adventures

I went scuba diving again today with some friends here in Qatar.  The place we went is pretty cool, but the visibility isn’t great at all.  It was still tons of fun.  I got an underwater enclosure for my Sony Cybershot point and shoot camera, so I now have pics and video of my own.  Check it out here.  The last few things in the gallery are short videos that I took.  Here’s a sample of the fish eating out of our hands: