Election 2016 – A reason to celebrate!

By Erika Rizkallah

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”   Abraham Lincoln

Today is election day and what a day for rejoicing and celebration ! In a few hours all the haranguing and caustic rhetoric will end.

I know that’s unlikely. In reality there will be plenty of rhetoric and accusations to last the rest of the year. But at least the tv ads and fake political texts will cease.

That alone gives us reason to celebrate!

Did you know that the quote from Abraham Lincoln came directly from Jesus? Lincoln used it in a political speech about ending slavery in 1858. By his own admission he wanted a frame of reference that (at that time) everyone could understand.

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In Jesus’ case, the statement was in reference to driving out demons. People brought a demon-possessed man to Jesus who was both blind and mute and Jesus healed him. The Pharisees witnessing the miracle said that Jesus healed the man through the power of demons. This judgment call obviously made no sense.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25

Friends, this is still true today. There’s an enemy at work trying desperately to divide our country, our states and our homes. He wants us to hate instead of love each other.

And no, this isn’t a political statement about any candidate. As Christians we are called to be at peace with our fellow humans whenever and wherever possible.

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We’re also called to respect authority and to understand that whomever becomes President of the United States is placed there by God.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:1-2

So whatever happens, let’s heed the apostle Paul’s message and live out our faith in all godliness and holiness. And let’s intercede for our leaders in prayers and thanksgiving.

That’s the end of my PSA . . . I’m off to the voting booth!

 

Called to struggle

By Erika Rizkallah

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Out of the darkness comes light. Do you believe this?

Whenever a mass killing streams across news headlines I try not to spend too much time in front of the television. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of a natural disaster or at the hands of a psychopath.

It’s too painful and I tend to absorb the energy of those who’ve suffered and lost.

However, the Orlando attack resonated with me; it could have been me in that bar. I don’t go to bars now (because I’m sober) but a long time ago, I frequented gay bars in my old hometown. It was the best place for a young woman to dance the night away without being hit on by sloshed and groping men.

Last night I forced myself to listen to the many survivor stories and I can’t get two of them out of my head.

The first was about a guy who’d made it out unharmed. On the way, he found a man who’d been shot three times – one was a life-threatening shot in the back. He helped him to a waiting police car for transport to the hospital. The officer had him shove his shirt in the bullet wound and instructed him to bear hug the guy all the way to the hospital. It was a human tourniquet and would help keep him from bleeding to death. Bloody and hugging the injured man, the good Samaritan said, “Can I pray for you?” He then cried out to God on the man’s behalf and comforted him, telling him everything would be alright.

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He silently begged God that his words would be true. His prayer was answered.

The next story was told by a man hiding in a bathroom stall with others when the shooter came in. He says they begged him not to shoot. The killer laughed and sprayed bullets. The survivor told the reporter the laughter sounded satisfied. It was a laugh unlike any he’d ever heard before.

He then went on to say, “It sounded like it came from another world.”

I don’t doubt it. The Bible clearly states that our world is increasingly evil. Because of this, we’re called to struggle.

We are called to strenuously resist our own evil inclinations and fight against the forces of darkness. We’re called to struggle in prayer.

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Prayer is our weapon. Faith is our shield. His word is our sword.

Today will you pick up your weapons and fight with me?

 

Visiting Dubai – Part 2

“Twelve days is not enough time to visit Dubai!”

Before we embarked on our journey I heard this statement from different relatives (and cab drivers) several times. I thought No way, twelve days is more than enough. My kids start to beat each other up after five! Terrible but true. We seem to have a limit to how much time we can be trapped together in one place.

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Notice the irritation on my husband’s face. He’s saying, “Take the damn picture already.”

Boy was I wrong. I think we could have spent an entire month in Dubai and still not seen it all. It’s packed with opportunities to sightsee, shop and entertain yourself in ways not available in other countries. After all, how many times have you skied inside a mall? How about visiting an aquarium or petting penguins . . . also inside a mall?

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Because of the variety of options I highly recommend visiting a site like TripAdvisor to plan how you’ll spend your time. In some places reservations are required and are easily secured online before you go. Like the time we had tickets to go inside the Burg Al Arab. They took one look at my husband’s t-shirt and turned us away from the guard station.

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So we had to watch this rich person land his helicopter from the outside.

Our family each picked a few “must do” items. On our list was: dune bashing, strolling in the Miracle Garden, petting penguins, mall shopping, skiing, riding the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World, swimming in the Gulf of Oman, seeing the fountains at Burj Khalifa and sightseeing in general.

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The inside view of dune bashing.

Twelve days was not enough.

If you enjoy people watching the place is a smorgasbord. I swear I felt like the whole world was there: Saudis, Americans, Kuwaitis, Indians, Europeans, Asians and people groups I couldn’t even identify. It was mesmerizing.

 

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I don’t think we have this store in America.

We went during high season so if you’re not into crowds, I’d suggest going another time. But not in summer or during Ramadan (June 6  because as one Bengali cab driver told me, “You can go dancing at the club but music is not allowed.” Nor is eating or drinking during the day. So . . .yeah.

Whenever you go be aware that Dubai is a city under construction – they’re even building in the ocean. Our view was obstructed by the building of the Dubai Eye which is like the London Eye – only bigger of course. But our view from the hotel was amazing.

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The view from the Amwaj Rotana in JBR

It’s fast and noisy place with few truly peaceful moments but a unique opportunity to see a city taking shape before your very eyes. We will definitely go back again . . . and again.

Alert about a new “IRS” phone scam

By Erika Rizkallah

Hello friends! Today I’m going to write about an important phone call I just received. It was a message left yesterday on my cell phone from “the IRS” informing me that they were going to file a lawsuit against me. I was directed to call the number to get information about my case file.

The timing was interesting for two reasons: First, I’d just gotten a large check from the IRS that same day(!) and second, a friend of mine received the same call last week except from a live person She actually does have a case with the IRS and was making progress payments. She was terrified.

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The aggressive caller wanted her to pay the entire balance immediately. Strangely, the amount they said she owed was just a few dollars off from her actual debt. She was distraught. They caught her off guard, early in the morning and when she asked questions and for time to check her records they threatened to send officers to her door. She asked to speak to her case worker or a supervisor and they got more aggressive, even telling her that she needed to jump in her car, go to the bank and send the money by Western Union.

He was actually going to stay on the phone with her while she made the transactions.

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She told them to hang on for a minute so she could think. She got her car keys and was headed out when she realized that everyone she’d been speaking to had a foreign accent. She didn’t give any information but went on to the IRS website and it was there that she learned about this scam.

I wanted to make people aware that this is happening and is apparently effective. According to the IRS website, so far “4,550 victims have collectively paid twenty three million dollars as a result of this scam.” When I got the message on my phone I Googled the number and sure enough, many others got the same call and wrote about their experiences.

Please let your elderly friends and neighbors know this is happening, as they are a primary target and may not use the internet. These scumbags are also threatening some people with deportation and use other tactics to terrorize and trap the unwary.

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If we all join together and talk about it, we can help our fellow citizens.

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who ware caught in the schemes he devices. Psalm 10:2