Author Archives: shanedar

Proactive Prayer Grab! 🙏

You know what’s really cool? A pleasantly surprised pastor. Of course, pastors get surprised all the time: “A long term member has died. Can you do the funeral tomorrow?” “Did I tell you the kids are singing this morning so your sermon will need to be shorter!” And the ever popular, “We were going to give you a cost of living increase, but we decided to switch to fair trade organic coffee in the cafe instead!”

Here’s a challenge for the Muslim Connect tribe: Let’s pleasantly surprise our pastors by requesting this week three prayer times for Muslims over the coming months. However your church arranges to pray for special issues, either in a bulletin, from the front, or in a newsletter, ask for three of those slots. Tell your pastor you’ll provide great content for prayer, including the exact word count requested, a couple really nice slides and even a short video.

Here are four occasions to choose from. My approach is, “Ask for three, settle for two!”

Ramadan begins on April 2. Maybe your pastor would spring for a prayer guide for everyone. Maybe you could provide some prayer prompts on Sunday April 3, the second day of Ramadan. It goes for a month, so there’s wiggle room with this one!

Eid al-Fitr marks the celebratory end of Ramadan and happens on Monday, May 2-3. Let’s request a church-wide prayer slot on Sunday May 1st as Muslims end Ramadan and begin the Eid celebration.

Eid al-Adha, honoring Abraham’s obedience in offering his son for sacrifice, happens on Saturday, July 9th through Sunday the 10th. Let’s pray that Sunday morning for Muslims to understand the full symbolic weight of that story.

Finally, Sunday, June 5th is the International Day For The Unreached. Maybe go ahead and ask to preach that Sunday! If (when?) you get a “no,” settle for an all church prayer emphasis.

Let me know which of these slots you secure and maybe we can share ideas for killer content.

I’m recording a fun training talk with the head of GFM Ministries tomorrow. If you register here, you’ll be sent the link when the talk goes live later in the day. Thanks for giving it a shot.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bungling to Blessing

Please see the special note at the end of this email.

When my Lyft driver’s name popped up as “Noor,” I was pretty excited and a little surprised! I was aware that the name means “light,” but had only known it as a girl’s name and the driver was clearly a dude! Well, lesson number one.

We hopped in and headed out. Like a good driver, Noor asked where we’re from. In my mind that gives me a free pass to ask him back.

“I’m from here, but you mean where my family is from? From Afghanistan.”

To which I replied, “Ah, wonderful. I really wish I knew some Dari.”

Well, that uncorked some emotion. And lesson number two!

It was an honest blunder for me. I was trying to show that I at least knew the name of a language in Afghanistan, trying to establish some rapport. Showing off!

Noor gave me a quick overview of the history of Afghanistan, the influence of Wahhabism, and the importance of calling the language by its real name, Farsi.

While I lack sufficient background to put his words into proper context, it was fascinating to hear Noor’s views and to sense the passion that accompanied them. I also got confirmation that Farsi-speaking Afghans celebrate Nowruz. That’s motivating me to help host a party come late March!

The conversation had to end when we reached our destination. As we piled out of the minivan, Noor leaned over and said, “Not one in a hundred people care to hear about Afghanistan. Thank you.”

Here’s the point, God used my bumbling, self-aggrandizing efforts to accomplish at least two things: Increasing my understanding of the Afghan immigrant world and blessing one dear representative of it. Yay for God, Noor and me!

This is the last week of my semi-annual invitation to give to help Muslim Connect grow and go forward (I’m aiming for 5000 subscribers this year!). If you’ve found value in Muslim Connect please consider donating here (under “Staff” and choose “Shane Bennett”). Half of the funds that come in from this invitation will be passed on to help Afghans as they resettle in the U.S. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Babies in a Strange Land (Super Short Christmas Edition)

Please see the special note at the end of this email.

Life emerges from blood, sweat and tears; from hopes, desires and fears. Mary delivering Jesus in a strange, but warm and safe place, provides one of the most endearing images of Christmas.

I stood on the sidelines of the sweetest nativity re-enactment this past week. Our church had over a few weeks collected the furnishings to outfit an apartment in a nearby city for a family who’d been evacuated from Afghanistan. Delivery day came and we hauled the cargo to the newly rented apartment.

It would be home to three brothers and the expectant wife of one of them. A cousin worked for the US military, putting the entire extended family in the sights of the Taliban. Eleven of them are now here, but 30 remain in hiding in Afghanistan.

Sixteen hours after we dropped off the cargo, the wife graduated to mom status and welcomed the newest Afghan-American to the world.

My buds and I were the donkeys on the periphery of this nativity. And darn happy to be so.

As we celebrate Jesus’s birth in the next few days, with gusto I hope, may the Holy Spirit remind us to breathe a prayer for those navigating new lives like the holy family of long ago.

Twice a year I invite Muslim Connect readers to contribute to the success and growth of this email. If you’ve found value in Muslim Connect please consider giving a year end gift here (under “Staff” and choose “Shane Bennett”). Half of the funds that come in over the next three weeks will be passed on to help Afghans, possibly the family above, as they resettle in US. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Can It Be a “Merry Muslim Christmas?”

If you had two words to describe your ideal Christmas, what would they be? Where would you land if asked to describe this particular Christmas season in two words? For me: Busy and blessed. I’m feeling so much of God’s goodness these days.

But I wonder what Muslims living in a non-Muslim country experience during Christmas. What is allowed, what is forbidden and how hard is it to explain all that to your kids?

If we take a chance and invite a Muslim friend to a Christmas dinner or party or maybe even a Christmas Eve service at church, could they, would they come?

Here is a video in which a Muslim teacher, with grace and empathy, says Muslims, “. . . can do things during the Christmas season that are Muslim things to do, because we believe in Jesus, on whom be peace, and we believe in having decent, halal fun.”

In this second video, the teacher is pretty snarky and reminds me how I don’t want to preach, write or answer honest questions! He says a Muslim should not even say “Merry Christmas!”

Finally, the “Official Website of the Ahmadiyya,” who I’ve found to be some of the nicest people ever give us, “Six reasons Muslims – or anyone – should not celebrate Christmas!” Bah Humbug!

As you would guess the views are various, and I suppose their actual implementation is even more so. It all makes it pretty hard for me to imagine what it’s like to be a Muslim in the U.S. this time of year.

Similarly, I wonder what these weeks are like for our Christian sisters and brothers living in non-Christian countries like Hindu India, Muslim Indonesia or largely secular France.

Let’s pray for them both. The good news the angels shared with the shepherds is good news for outsiders everywhere. And if you get a chance, lean toward adventure: Invite some Muslims to a Christmas event and see how it goes!

 

If you have a story of inviting a Muslim to your house, I’d love to hear it. I’m writing an article about this next week and your story would be helpful! Thank you. 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What About the Boebert Debacle?

You’ve heard the story, right? Maybe you’ve seen the video. (Or an earlier one.) Congresswoman Lauren Boebert from Colorado made a joke suggesting the only hijab-wearing member of Congress, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, is a terrorist.

I’m curious: What was your initial reaction when you heard? For me it was a mix of anger, sadness and embarrassment, due in part to a weird mix of commonality with Boebert: She’s the representative for my district, we both claim to be Christian and we both speak out about Muslims.

Before I share a couple thoughts and suggest a response, let me make some disclaimers:

  1. Yes, I probably am crazy to write about this.
  2. No, Ilhan Omar does not need me to defend her. (And to be clear: I’m not defending Omar’s policies and beliefs. I am defending her right to be a person.)
  3. I think this would matter less to me if Boebert weren’t vocal about her Christian faith. She referenced it in her apology (20 seconds in).

How should we think about this situation? And as people who love Jesus, is there action to be taken?

For starters, it wouldn’t kill me to take a quick check up on my own loyalties. I’d like to say I’m most loyal to Jesus, then country and family, but he and I both know it’s often my own sweet self at the top of the list.

Secondly, for anyone who claims to be a Christian, there’s no free pass based on, “Well, she did really bad things first!” We’re not talking to a seven year old about why he hit his sister.

What can we do? We can heed Paul’s admonition, “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made. . . for kings and all those in authority. . . .” We can vote. We can train our kids to love like Jesus and attack ideas, not people.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Brief Holiday Special: Do Muslims Do Thanksgiving?

What do Muslims do for Thanksgiving? Well, most of them probably go to work or school. But what about the several million who live in the U.S.? Do families celebrate with get togethers and eating halal turkey? Do they watch football? Presumably Robert Saleh will. He’s the head coach of the New York Jets and a Muslim of Lebanese descent. Even though no matter which of the six teams playing today win, he’ll still be second to last in the league!

Khalil Abdur-Rashid the Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University says, “Thanksgiving. . .affords people who are normally heedless and forgetful of the myriad of blessings, of which we are recipients, to at least once a year acknowledge those blessings. Consequently, Thanksgiving, while not directly legislated by Islam, is at least in essence compliant with the spirit of Islam.”

He goes on, “In most houses, the practice of circling the dinner table with family, expressing what we are thankful for, and why we are thankful for it, is a way of not only expressing thanks to Allah, but also declaring and announcing our gratitude to others. It is an expression of the verse in the Quran, “And as for the blessings (ni’mat) of your Lord, proclaim them!” (Quran 93:11).”

You are a blessing! I’m thankful to God for you and grateful to you for reading Muslim Connect. 

Maybe there are some Muslims on the way to celebrate Thanksgiving at your house right now, maybe tomorrow, maybe Christmas or next year. That would be a blessing to them and to you and your family. I’m grateful for that as well.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vests of Death: Why Do Suicide Bombers Do It?

Three suicide bombers blew themselves up in Kampala, Uganda earlier this week, killing three others, injuring dozens and permanently altering the lives of many.

When we hear of a suicide bombing, our hearts go out to the victims and their families. That’s natural and appropriate. But do we ever wonder about the man or woman who killed themself?

We’ve got busy lives and maybe it seems a waste to give thought to those who choose to kill themselves in an evil effort to kill others. I get that, but sometimes I wonder: What do they want? What do they expect to happen? What could be so important or make them so desperate? As my friend David Weston asks in his provocative essay, “[what is the] reasoning behind the motivation that leads a person to literally give up their lives by taking the lives of others, often in a most violent and gruesome way?”

I’m not satisfied with answers like, “That’s the way Muslims are,” or “Of course they do it. They instantly get 70 virgins in paradise.” Almost no Muslims are that way, including the cowards who recruit, coordinate and deploy the bombers. And the women who strap on the vest don’t do it for the virgins.

However true those motives are, I wonder what else might be going on.

Author and professor, Adam Lankford contends that Muslim suicide bombers are people who want to kill themselves, but need an “Allah approved” way to do it. When you want to die, but Islam tells you that taking your own life is a ticket to Hell, maybe you look for another way.

How many are motivated by revenge similar to Samson, arguably one of the very first recorded suicide attackers? And if so, revenge for what?

And how many die believing, hoping their sacrifice expands the kingdom and glory of God?

 

Could you do me a favor? I had an article published this week on the very popular Denison Forum site. Please give it a look and a comment. I’d appreciate it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Richest Muslim in the World

On this Veteran’s Day, I’m grateful for Muslim Connect readers who’ve served our country, perhaps even amongst Muslims. Thank you.

One of my favorite things to say is, “I had no idea.” Not only does this honor the person you say it to: They were, after all, trying to tell you something novel, it also shows a bit of humility and helps cultivate a delight in the world God has created.

I had no idea that the richest person in history was a Muslim guy named Mansa Musa who lived from 1280 to 1337. He inherited his kingdom from his dad (Still the best way to be super rich!) then multiplied his holdings with gold and salt. It has been said that he had so much wealth, it couldn’t really be assessed. When Musa led his entourage of 60,000 people on Hajj to Mecca in 1324, he gave away so much gold along the way that he crashed the economic system of a good portion of North Africa!

Some of the currently richest Muslims in the world are ones who own countries or who married into the royal family. For instance, Princess Lalla Salma, the former wife of the king of Morocco is reportedly worth $2.5 billion. Many others have made their fortunes in finance and business. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, a 67 year old Emerati, took over his uncle’s bank and now is said to have $2.7 billion, well, in the bank.

After his dad’s death in 1966, 21 year old Azim Premji left Stanford, mid-way through his engineering studies, to return to India and take over the family business. He did ok with it, expanding into the tech world and eventually being dubbed, Czar of the Indian IT Industry.  In 2013, Premji signed the Giving Pledge, the first Indian to do so, and agreed to give away at least half of his $11 billion fortune, including over $2 billion to education causes in India.

Jesus said, “it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s pray that these and many others would be the camels who could!

 

PS: Got any thing you’d like to see addressed in Muslim Connect? Questions you’re wondering about? I’d love to give them some thought and maybe write about them in coming weeks. Shoot me an email. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Arabic word madrasa basically means a place for education. Outside of Arabic speaking countries it has come to refer particularly to institutions focused on Islamic training. As you’d guess, there’s huge diversity in the theology and purpose of various madrasas.

Years ago some friends and I were taken to lunch after Friday prayers to a madrasa in Malaysia. As we sat on the floor, feasting on a mountain of yummy chicken and rice, a young student put his missionary training into action: With earnest sincerity he put his hand on my pastor’s knee, looked in his eyes and said, “Brother, become a Muslim.” That will leave a mark, pretty much whoever you are!

Madrasas in many parts of the world serve similar purposes for young Muslims as AWANA does for kids in evangelical churches. I think AWANA has a leg up on most madrasas in that kids can memorize scripture in the language they speak! Muslim kids usually memorize the Quran in Arabic. They learn how to say it, but maybe not what they’re saying!

Think about why you take (or might take) your kids to Sunday School, youth group or AWANA. Probably most Muslim moms and dads have similar motivation. They want their offspring to grow up and live out the faith. They want good and respectable kids.

If you grew up in church, maybe you remember early Sunday School days. One of the first people ever to teach me how to follow Jesus was Ethel Smith. Her face deeply wrinkled, breath smelling like Sen Sen, it was fifty years ago she taught our unruly class and I’ve never forgotten.

The good people at PrayerCast.com just released a beautiful video in which a former Muslim leads viewers in prayer for kids and adults in madrasas. Will you watch it and pray with me for the winsome, kingdom work of Jesus to break loose in madrasas all over.

Much thanks to those who responded to the questions in last week’s Muslim Connect, “Muslims Are Trouble.” I appreciate you. It’s not too late to weigh in, if you wish. 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Muslims Are Trouble”

My friend Martin Brooks recently recommended an amazing TED talk by Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie in which she “warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

I’m toying with the idea that Americans mostly hear a single story about Muslims. That being: Muslims are trouble.

Of course the “trouble” part of this one story has several facets with varying degrees of reality: Muslims shoot at our sons and daughters. Muslims migrate to our country and don’t follow the rules. Muslims want to take over the world. Muslims are backward and oppress women. Muslims threaten Israel.

My intent is not to debate these individually, but to be honest about what messages are usually conveyed and consider that their aggregate, Muslims are trouble, ends up being the single story Americans have about Muslims.

And sadly, I think the subset of Americans who’d call themselves Christian would have the same single story. Certainly not all of them, but too many.

I’m wondering about this and would hugely value your input. I know you’re busy and I’m thankful you even opened this email. But can I ask you for two minutes to answer these questions:

  1. Does this observation jive with what you see?
  2. If so, what other facets comprise the single story: Muslims are trouble?
  3. What do we miss out on when this is true?
  4. What can we do about it?

You can reply in an email or comment on this post at shanebennett.com. Either way, I’d be so grateful for your input. Perhaps together, we can add other stories. Maybe we’ll find to be true what Chimamanda says at end of her TED talk, “. . . when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized