Jerry Ruff and St. Mary's Press have been gathering the stories of young people searching for meaning and community in today's world. Their most recent blog entry profiles a young Muslim woman who walks a path that is at once familiar and unknown to many.
For a fascinating window into a young person's search for religious identity, see here.
My dear friend Aisha is a hijabi - a Muslim woman who wears a hijab to keep her hair covered when she’s in public. She is also remarkably generous. For example, this Thanksgiving she hosted 70 people, only four of whom were family, in her home for dinner. In addition to the traditional turkey she also served leg of lamb and shish kabob so that all of her guests would feel at home.
Last year a local agency was short on donors to purchase Christmas gifts for families without the financial resources to buy presents themselves. A staff member knew Aisha and asked if she could help out, and in her characteristic generosity she said yes. With two bags of gaily wrapped gifts in tow, she knocked at the door of the first family assigned to her. The door opened slowly and a woman peeked out. On seeing Aisha she seemed confused. Very confused.
Aisha piped up with a cheery “Merry Christmas!” which seemed to puzzle the woman even more. After a brief but awkward silence, Aisha lifted the bags of gifts toward her. “These are for you and your family. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!”
The woman looked down at the bags in her hand, and then back up at Aisha’s smiling face. After a long pause she asked, “Do you know what Christmas is?”
Aisha assured her there was no mistake and that in fact Muslims have great reverence for Jesus. The woman slowly accepted the bags and thanked Aisha. Then she turned toward the excited children gathering behind her and gently closed the door.
Wise ones came from the East
following the star and bearing gifts.
And they called his name “Emmanuel,”
which means “God with us.”
On average, most of us have more adrenaline sloshing around in our systems than we did two years ago. Today’s news stories, online debates and heartstopping tragedies all contribute to a rising tide of anxiety and anger permeating the very air we breathe. We’re less happy and more reactive. Most of us are VERY clear on who’s to blame - and we're convinced it’s not us.
While the causes of today’s angst run deep, requiring large-scale economic and political change, we also do well to remember the simple power of personal interactions. Take Daryl Davis, for example. Davis is a black jazz musician who over the years has developed friendships with a couple hundred KKK members. Some of his friends’ have left the Klan, leaving their robes with him as a tribute to his influence. Like most bridge-builders, he and his new friends catch flak from both sides. But the positive impact of those unlikely relationships is unmistakeable.
When we engage in arguments online, in person, or even just in our heads, we want to win, usually by outclassing and humiliating our opponent. Occasionally people change their minds in response to a rousing verbal thumping - but not often. Especially if the exchange is tinged with contempt, resistance stiffens. Every time we engage in a blistering exchange, we contribute to the negative electric charge in the air. Give a listen as Davis describes the openness and persistence that led to his remarkable saga. Whether or not you agree with all of his choices, we can’t argue with the positive impact rippling out over the years.
If someone offered you a method to win 200 allies to the cause of peace and justice, would you take it? Well, he is and we can.
(Note: We selected this clip for its content and backing by the King Center. The requests for donations at the end belong to the King Center, not to us.)
We like pleasant conversations. We need hard conversations. Rarely do we find pleasant and hard in the same conversation.
Out of Context is one such exchange. An extended interview of Shaykh Omar Suleiman by Christian pastor Mike Baughman, this video is at once challenging and reassuring.
Both men are reflective, articulate and unafraid of disturbing the comfort between them. Baughman asks tough questions, one after another. Suleiman draws on his vast knowledge of Islamic history and theology to give answers that are direct and clear. We know these are questions he's fielded hundreds of times, yet he gives no signs of impatience.
Almost as compelling as the wisdom in Suleiman’s answers is the kindness in his eyes. He is nuanced, thorough, and disarmingly funny. But his charm doesn’t tempt Baughman to lob only softballs. These are penetrating, important questions. The interview feels like a conversation between friends with the courage to go deep.
Broken into brief segments of five to ten minutes, these clips are a perfect resource for individuals or groups wanting to learn more about Islam. Those with some previous knowledge are sure to learn something new, while newbies can watch one or two segments and find a solid start to a new understanding. Watch with a friend and start your own deep conversation. Click here to start.
The power of this video goes beyond a Memphis congregation's decision to welcome some new neighbors. The real story lies in the change of heart needed to take that generous step.
Upon hearing about plans for an Islamic center to be built across the street from their church, welcome was not Heartsong's first instinct. Pastor Steve Stone and his congregation's ability to open their arms rested in the deep courage they first showed in examining the fear in their own hearts.
When we search for God's way through the untrimmed shrubbery of our lives, we're often led down surprising paths. May we be blessed with companions as wise and brave as the members of Heartsong Church.