Monthly Archives: March 2019

What Your Pastor Puts Up With!

Did you ever think, “Man, I’m glad I’m not a pastor?” I mean really, sometimes they must feel like second-grade teachers, but all the students have cars and can go to a different school if they get mad! And boy do they get mad. . . at the silliest things.

I’m sure I only see some of what my pastor puts up with and it’s sufficient to make me think, “He’s not getting paid enough for this.” And of course, everyone knows what he’s getting paid, right? We approve the budget! Once you get past the puerile, “Hee hee, he only works one day a week” jokes, it’s a wonder anyone takes the role!

Then, on top of it all, people like me (and maybe you!) pipe up and say, “Yeah, well it’s not enough to lead and care for your tribe. How about your church make a difference in the whole wide world?!?!

It’s a tough assignment, but we need pastors in many ways, not the least of which is to help churches know why to connect with Muslims and maybe even how to do so.

In an effort to help pastors with this, can I ask you to do something? Could you ask yours a couple of questions for me? Simply copy and paste these in an email or text. Of if you’re totally crazy, call him! (If you are a pastor, well, it goes without saying!)

Do you sense God leading our church to think or act in new ways toward Muslims? If so, any idea what?

If you felt God leading us in new directions with Muslims, what are some of the challenges you would face in doing so?

Simply that. Ask your pastor and let me know what you hear. I’ll be big time grateful.

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Things Unseen and Terrifying. . .

The late Senator John McCain showed up in my dream last night. During some sort of committee meeting, he bit down on a sheaf of papers I was holding! I popped the papers out of his mouth and smacked him over the head with them! Yes, this was disrespectful, but he took it like a champ. I might have been a little feverish.

Maybe nastier things than mouthy politicians haunt your dreams. For many Muslims, ghouls known as Jinn trouble not only dreams but real life.

Jinn predate Islam. They occupy a place in Islamic cosmology somewhere between humans and angels or demons. Amid a dizzying variety of beliefs and opinions about Jinn, these things are generally held to be true: They can be both good or bad, but usually present as troubling menaces, including possessing people. They can see but are not seen. They tend to live in dirty, desolate places. They are created by God and will be judged by him.

I’m no expert, but I don’t believe my stream of Christianity has a parallel being to these. Perhaps in practicality, we tend to view demons in the same way some Muslims view Jinn.

Even a little awareness of Jinn provides us with:

An opportunity for empathy. Scripture assures us nothing can separate us from the love of God. Jinn will be in the parade of captives Paul mentions in Colossians 2.15. While Muslims surely believe God is more powerful, they may deal with greater day-to-day fear.

A catalyst for conversation. Tell your Muslim friend you’ve heard a tiny bit about Jinn and sensitively ask them their thoughts.

A challenge to our cosmology. What do we believe about the nature of spiritual beings? I confess to stunted understanding of the spiritual world. I am a product of my culture in this regard and perhaps think too little of these things.

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Today, We Weep With Those Who Weep.

My heart is heavy with the news of the mosque massacre in New Zealand earlier today. How do you even wrap your head around something like this? A man walks into a mosque for Friday prayers, holding his son’s hand. He stumbles out later carrying his son’s now lifeless body.

Certainly many more people, Muslim, Christian and others will die alone and unknown today. But the situation in Christchurch is closer to our world. I don’t know about you, but it feels like it could have been where I live, maybe where you live.

As people who follow Jesus and are learning to love Muslims as he does, how do we respond to this? For starters, we weep with those who weep. Paul’s challenge in Roman’s 12 helps us put love into action.

We can also pray. . . for comfort, healing and hope. For those clinging to life in the hospital and for families wondering how life can go on after this.

If you’re reading this in time, consider reaching out to a Muslim friend and asking if it would be appropriate to go to Friday prayers with them. Or maybe even to stand in support outside the mosque. If not this week, perhaps next.

Consider sending a note of support and empathy to a Muslim friend. This is a collective tragedy. I wouldn’t for an instant presume to understand, but I hope we’ll err on the side of trying to care.

If you don’t have a Muslim friend to send a note to, consider a general word of sympathy on your Facebook page. You can read what I wrote here.

“Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” — Jesus.

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Ever doubt you have what it takes?  ??‍♀️

I once tagged along with a buddy on his speaking gig at Texas A&M. Fouad is Lebanese-American, has a Ph.D., several books to his credit and is a master teacher. I had a bit part in his day-long seminar because my superpower is enabling people to say, “Well, I guess if Shane can do it, I probably can too.”

The night before the seminar we accepted an invitation to the Aggie-land Nowruz celebration. Amid the food and fun, I sat next to Fouad as he chatted in increasing depth with an Iranian Muslim man. They talked about Islam, history and theology. I listened, learned. . . and wrestled with my value. I thought, “What sort of imposter am I? I have nothing to offer this conversation, let alone the capacity to start my own.”

If you’re not born into an Arab family, you never get that starting point. Dang biology! And while I could learn Farsi (Theoretically, I’m not delusional.), it will never be my mother tongue. Nor will I ever be an expert on the Quran, Muhammad or Muslim history.

Facing up to this reality, I have a few options, most of which I’ve taken at varying points.

Whine: Woe. Everyone’s smarter than me.
Envy: Of course I’ve never envied. Just thought it should be on the list.
Read a book: Actually did this once. No lie.
Resign: The couch is comfy and Friends is still funny on the fourth go around.
Cheer: Encourage the people who are smarter than me. (If you are an expert, good for you! You’ve worked hard to earn your capacity. Keep at it and kindly help the rest of us along the way.)
Accept & Expect: So I’m a dope. Most of the people God used in the Bible and history were also dopes. And believe me: You and I will connect with people in ways that experts can’t. We count. (Tweet this.)

Not an expert? No problem. We’ll do what we can! Let’s band together, download this app and do a tribe-wide, Lent-long prayer blitz for our neighborhoods and the nations.

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New Year, New Life, New Goldfish?

I’m longing for spring more this year than I can remember. The snow here in southern Colorado is fighting a valiant, but losing, battle with warming days; the sun rises earlier, sets later; and it looks like the propane is going to last until the furnace gets turned off. Bring on the equinox!

Joining me in this anticipation are millions of Persians and related peoples around the world who will celebrate their new year on March 20th. Although it predates Islam, Nowruz (No rooz), the Persian New Year, is celebrated by Muslims from Turkey all the way east to India and in diaspora communities all over the planet.

Nowruz is a beautiful celebration of spring, of new life, of putting off the old and looking forward with hope to coming days. Like Easter for Christians, but without the punch of Jesus coming out of the grave. It is a time of cleaning, feasting and fellowship with family. (Tweet this.)

Watch this charming two-minute video for a look at some of the symbolism behind the haft-seen decorations, a very rough parallel to a Christmas tree.

Depending on where you live, there may be public Nowruz celebrations happening nearby you could actually go to! (Hey, Google!?)

If attending a celebration isn’t happening for you, can I invite you to join me in this: Let’s buy a hyacinth and a goldfish. (Two of the haft-seen objects) Use them to remind you to pray for Persians and others as they celebrate Nowruz. Ask God for every bit of new life he has in mind for them to be realized in this coming year.

If you do buy a goldfish, let me know. I’ll send a prize to one lucky new aquaculturist!

Last week I mentioned a new engagement tool I’m working on called, “The Muslim Connect ‘Hey there, Thank you, and You’re Welcome’ Cheat Sheet.” If you’d like to help fill in some of the languages on the cheat sheet, you’re invited to peek behind the curtain here.

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