Several years ago, my confirmation class was invited to attend a Ramadan Iftar at a local mosque. (A meal served that breaks the Ramadan fast.) The eighth graders were excited, and a little nervous. “What if we say the wrong thing?” “What if we accidentally do something disrespectful?” and, “What if my head scarf falls off?” My reassurances didn’t seem to be working until we pulled into the parking lot of the mosque, and the youth saw a CROP walk sign. (CROP walks are held throughout the country as a way to raise money to combat hunger.) All of the sudden, the tension was gone, and one of the youth said: “We do the same things!”
At an interfaith worship service to pray for peace as our country was preparing to enter the second Gulf War, a young girl from Egypt spoke. The twelve year old related her experience at school saying: “Why do people call me a terrorist and killer? I’m 12 years old and I just want to go to school to learn to be a doctor…I’ve never murdered or threatened anyone.”
A good friend of mine converted to Islam many years ago. She grew up in Southeastern Virginia and now lives in North Carolina. People in her community taunt her and shout: “Muslim go home!” My friend straightens up, adjusts her head covering and shouts back in her deepest Southern drawl: “I am home!”
As I hear the angry rhetoric, and see the vilification of Islam in so many forums I think of these experiences. I think about my friends who are Muslim and who are receiving ugly words and actions. I think of the deep hospitality I have known from Muslims both in this country and others. I think of the times I have worn the hijab or head scarf—how freeing and honoring it was. And I think it’s time to speak up and take action—to tell about a different reality than what I’m hearing on the news.
So I share my experiences here. And I talk to my Muslim friends and ask what we should know, what can we do. I am reminded how angry Muslims are about the linking of Islam with extremism. To those who are Christian that linking is as offensive as saying that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity.
We have much to learn from one another. My prayer is that we move beyond voices that stir us to fear and anger. My prayer is that we become voices of respect and love. My prayer is that our words turn to action. I’ll be in touch with my local mosque…how ‘bout you?
We recently returned from visiting our parents over the Thanksgiving weekend. While there, we spent several nights in a hotel that had a great breakfast buffet. Since my husband sleeps in—which means he sleeps past 6 am—I would go down to the breakfast area early to get some work done without disturbing him.
As I worked, I overheard fascinating conversations from other guests. One morning it was a woman with three young girls. The woman was very deliberately teaching the girls about manners. Another morning it was a sales force meeting planning out the day’s work. On another morning it went beyond simply observing and I was blessed to be a part of two amazing, holy conversations.
The first was with the overnight desk clerk. Our conversation was first about our experience at the hotel. But it quickly moved to matters of faith. She shared her experiences of Christianity, what it was like to grow up in a religion that did not tolerate her questions. By now she knew I was a United Methodist Pastor! Our conversation moved to talking about the place for questions and thinking in our faith journey. True story—we talked about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral at this point—how we are guided by Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason! Then she shared with me her vision of a non-profit that would work with at risk women and their babies over a five year period.
My next conversation was with the breakfast buffet attendant. She shared with me how she had grown up going to church, spending hours each Sunday worshiping. Then, how she had fallen away from that practice. She got married and her sister-in-law brought her back to church. Then she shared how she was so thankful this had happened, because not too long after she had re-established her relationship with God she went through a really rough period in her life. Prevenient grace—God at work in your life before you even know you need God.
I am grateful for these conversations. They have inspired me. More importantly they have reminded me of the need to be aware lest we miss those holy conversations that God is placing in our paths.
We found this cross made of pennies while walking along the Delaware River at the Red Bank battlefield. It struck me as the appropriate picture for today’s word. Prosper.
The Holy Spirit gives us the breath to soar!
Where do you go to find those moments of peace?
I recently received a letter from a colleague telling me how important some of our conversations have been in his ordination journey. It reminded me of how precious and important it is to have those powerful conversations that help to define God’s call upon our lives.
We live in the promise and mystery of the cross.