Can’t I Just Stay Home?

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I’d put it off as long as I could. I had to go. This couldn’t wait another day. If I didn’t make it to the grocery this morning, the kids would have nothing but pancakes for dinner. Literally. No eggs, no fruit. Simply pancakes.

The store is only one bus stop away, but it was all I could do to get out of the house. I had looked futilely for excuses: The weather was fine. The house picked up. We have money for food. Thankfully that’s not a worry.

But the grocery is huge, the language still puzzling. And this hijab. This honorable head covering. This damn scarf. I honestly want wear it. For God, for my husband, for the ummah. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t resent the stares, the averted looks, the odd treatment. I’m a Muslim woman for Heaven’s sake. There are nearly a billion of us. Just let me be.

I’d made it through produce. Happily, carrots are pretty much carrots both where we come from and where we now find ourselves. Bread was ok: Get what’s soft. Cereal was fine: Get the kids something colorful.

Now I’m at the meat counter and I’m lost. I have an undergrad in computer science. I speak four languages, have born two children. I am not dumb. . . or weak. Yet it’s all I can do, standing here, waiting my turn, not to cry and run away. What meat is what? What, if anything, is halal? What can I do to not hold up the line and bring more stares?

“Hello,” her voice says softly. “Can I help you with this?” I turn. She is white as snow. Kind as the first day of spring.

I nod mutely. She takes my hand. Really, takes my hand, smiles and asks, “What do you need to get?”
If you’re female and wondering how someone like you can befriend Muslim women, may I heartily recommend “Without Borders,” a women’s conference that supports and equips Christians in building new friendships with Muslim women. It happens May 4-5. Find more info here

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Wait? What? It’s Not All Rainbows and Unicorns?

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Confession time: (Don’t get excited. It’s nothing juicy!) I have a tendency toward exaggerated optimism. Or maybe the ouchier and more honest way to say it is that I avoid and minimize problems and hard stuff. Reading Muslim Connect you might be led to think, “Wow, connecting with Muslims is easy as eating donuts and comfortable as a hot shower.

I’m quick to share great stories, like Hannah’s, but don’t spend as much time on the challenges.

A dear friend recently relayed some of the struggles she faces as she diligently welcomes Syrian refugees into her community.

“I had my friend over for tea to celebrate passing her driver’s license. She didn’t like my tea, ‘Is it Lipton’s? Syrians don’t like this kind of tea, just Jordanians, Egyptians, Turkish people, but not Syrians.’ Then she had a couple bites of my coffee cake and pushed it aside, saying, ‘Sorry, not going to eat.’ Then she also didn’t want any oranges that I offered her right off my tree. I smiled and will persevere, but its not always as easy as it seems it might be.”

She went on to say how her Syrian friend “schools” her in hospitality, an activity to which I can personally attest she is gifted!

Caring, connecting, across cultures is challenging. Maybe easy at the start, but tougher as you go deeper. People are so different from one another and, honestly, some of us are first class dopes! (tweet this)

If you’re building friendships across cultures and have thrown your hands up and said, “I’m done,” can I ask you to maybe give it another go? You have so much to offer. It can be crazy hard, but it is worth it. (tweet this)

You can read more that I recently wrote about the importance of grit here.

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Punish a Muslim Day?

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The NCAA basketball championship was big news in the U.S. this past week. But in the UK, and even in major US cities, police were on increased alert against violence toward Muslims. In March, flyers appeared in England calling for April 3rd to be Punish a Muslim Day. The viral letter, which also spread on social media, vilely assigned points based on various kinds of violence: 25 points for pulling off a headscarf, 500 for butchering a Muslim, 1000 for burning or bombing a mosque.

Even if Muslims were our enemies, and most clearly are not, Jesus’s command is clear: Love them. Certainly not throw acid in their face, for which the flyer awarded 50 points.

Instead of engendering violence, Punish a Muslim Day happily resulted in a backlash of love and concern. People looked out for Muslims, people prayed and the #loveamuslim hashtag trended.

This seems to me to be a good way to respond to violence both planned against, and perpetrated by, Muslims.

Last week Muslim parents in San Antonio were arrested and charged with abusing their daughter who refused to marry the man chosen for her. Police allege they beat her with broomsticks and threw hot cooking oil on her, contributing to her running away. Of course this kind of violence should not happen in the U.S. or any other country for that matter.

What feelings does this bring up for you? What can we do about this situation? Maybe not much. But perhaps we can look out for Muslims in similar situations, both kids running from parents and parents struggling to raise kids in foreign situations. We can certainly pray. And we can love, even when it’s hard. Even when it seems irrational.

Please join me in praying against violence toward Muslims both from outside the community and within families. And maybe make a special effort today to reach out to a Muslim with words of kindness and welcome.

Last week’s Muslim Connect talked about a recent book by my friend, James Wright. Please go to Amazon and get a copy of James’s book. (The Kindle version is a steal at $.99!) It will help you connect with Muslims. Plus, your buying a copy will facilitate books being given to Muslims who lack the resources to get their own. Contact James for more information and bulk discounts.

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The Quran Says What?

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In this week’s Muslim Connect I chat with long-time friend, James Wright, an author, academic and cross-cultural practitioner, who’s lived most of the past 30 years among Muslims in various countries. He’s smart, edgy and a little prophetic. His latest book is “A Christian Reads The Quran.”

Tell me about your background professionally and academically.
When Germans smashed the Berlin Wall in 1989, they also sparked radical change in my life. Collapsing Communist regimes opened access to many Muslim peoples. Our young family moved to Kazakhstan to plant churches. Circumstances made us relocate, first to Cyprus then 16 years in Turkey. Over the years I finished a missiology PhD at Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne. This is my sixth book.

Why did you feel it was important to for there to be another book about the Quran written by a Christian?
I’ve never seen a book about the Qur’an speaking mainly to Muslims. Sprinkling in fresh dialogue and stories, I write to Muslims primarily. I simply read and respond to the Qur’an from Surah 1-114, letting the Qur’an guide our discussion.  I ask honest questions without attacking.

How will it help Christians relate to Muslims?
It made me more compassionate and patient when I realized, “My Muslim friends aren’t just being stubborn or difficult. This stuff is all they know. It’s deep in their bones.” My book shows how to introduce Muslims to Jesus through Bible characters they already know from the Qur’an.

How does it help Muslims understand Christians?
Muslims seem particularly misinformed about the nature of Jesus. In addition to correcting caricatures of our faith, I’m hoping that Muslims can sense God’s love and ours as we take time to respectfully read their book and listen to their questions.

What have you heard from Muslims about the book so far?
A North African Arab artist wrote, “I like the conclusions especially the ultimate one in chapter 55. I would say, ‘Yes it’s perfect for the audience…’” 

Please go to Amazon and get a copy of James’s book. (The Kindle version is a steal at $.99!) It will enlighten and encourage you and help you connect with Muslims. Plus, your buying a copy will facilitate books being given to Muslims who lack the resources to get their own. Contact James for more information and bulk discounts.

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What Makes A Muslim Love Islam? #1

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Do you, like me, have a tendency to impugn the motives and character of people who think differently from you? If someone favors the New England Patriots over the Denver Broncos, they definitely approve of cheating. If someone dislikes Indian food, they’re a cretin. If they say “irregardless,” they’re illiterate.

Sadly, for me this often extends to how I think about other Christians and other faiths. Calvinists are rigid. Mormons legalistic. Unitarians adrift.

I think this happens to Muslims, too. We don’t understand the way they think, so we assume they’re dumb or maybe even evil, for thinking as they do. We might ask, how could a rational person believe that stuff? Why would they follow a religion like that?

Why indeed? Some Muslims have told me they love Islam because it thoroughly lays out for them how to live their lives. Between the Quran and the Hadith, most questions of thinking and behavior are answered. They find comfort in the completeness, reward in the rigidity.

I’m sure that’s not true for all Muslims, but for some it feels good to know the rules; to believe that if you follow the rules, God will reward you. I suppose there’s a pleasurable measure of control there, as well.

Even while not agreeing with the tenets of Islam, we can understand some of its appeal. We can acknowledge the logic, while disputing the conclusions.

If we do the admittedly hard work of understanding, acknowledging, even empathizing, we open ourselves up to relationship with Muslims in a way that’s impossible otherwise. And, doing so, we take steps toward loving our neighbor as ourselves. Those are good steps to take. (Tweet this.)

What have you heard, experienced or simply guess motivates Muslims in their adherence to Islam. Please share your thoughts here.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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I’ve recently connected with a long-time hero of mine, author, entrepreneur and Jesus follower Greg Livingstone. Greg has famously said, “No country is closed to missionaries if you’re not worried about getting out.” Today I want to share a snip of a related conversation we’re having about civil disobedience.

Greg: Is this the time for those called to peoples who have no access to biblical witnessing believers, to practice civil disobedience if ordered to stop and leave the country?

Me: Well, I. . .uh. . .

Greg: Here’s what I’m thinking: If a long term worker fails to have their visa renewed, should they continue staying and sharing? Would that build courage in new local believers? Would that follow the teaching of Jesus and the example of many, including Gandhi and MLK?

Me: I can see that, if the person is a single, older man. I’m unlikely to advise a husband and father of three to risk imprisonment and the resulting implications for his family. Does that mean I’m shaped more by Focus on the Family than the New Testament?

Greg: Well, Jesus did say hard things like, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” and “I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”

Me: Right, but he does go on to say, “. . .be smart as snakes and innocent as doves.” I wonder if snake smart sometimes means, in the immortal words of Top Gun, “It’s better to retire your aircraft and live to fight another day, than to push a bad position and lose.”

Greg: Could be, but here’s my point: If God has called you to teach the way of Jesus to a people who’ve not heard, maybe you should not too readily empower their government to say if you can obey or not.

Please weigh in with your thoughts, agreement, pushback, “Wait, what about’s?” and additional issues that matter in this ongoing conversation. Thank you.

 

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Pray for Your Enemy

ATFP

This much is clear: There are people in the world hell-bent on wreaking havoc. Some have earned the label terrorist and some of those direct their terror-inducing energy toward the U.S.

Jesus is equally clear: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

This might be different for you, but I find it easier to get going on the second part of that, with the first part taking greater effort. But even praying for enemies can be a challenge. (It’s not just me, is it?)

There must be better prayers than, “God bless the terrorists and help them not be so terroristic.” And who are they anyway?

I was reminded yesterday of friend of mine who’s gone to great trouble, effort and expense to help us obey Jesus in this regard. He’s developed a website and Facebook page called Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer.

When you go there, you’ll find a gallery of people who’ve been accused of terrorism with some information on each one. You can choose one and register your commitment to pray for them. This is a great way to obey Jesus.

But what do you pray? The site also has a wonderful list of Bible verses to guide in “how” to pray, along with a list of what to pray, complete with examples. Super helpful.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of adopting a terrorist for prayer and actually praying is the transformation this will work in our hearts and lives. I suspect we’ll find that praying for those who persecute us will actually help us love our enemies.

I just adopted someone for prayer. Will you join me?

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