El Roi – God Who Sees Me

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Can you imagine having a Muslim covering on while at the airport? We all know how difficult it is to travel with the hassles of airport security but for one woman, this was compounded by wearing a hijab and dealing with little ones, passing through security and then feeling like all eyes are upon you.

A friend and I were on the way to Florida a few years ago. A young woman in a hijab caught my eye while getting on the plane – not because of her hijab, but truly because of her lovely little children. They were darling and were seated a few rows behind us. Having my crochet stuff in hand and a long flight, I settled in to see if I could whip up matching crochet hats for the little ones. It was a bit stressful, but somehow, it was done. When the plane stopped and everyone jumped up, I said hello and gave her the gift of my hands. She was shocked and so was her husband. They had the largest smiles on their faces when they saw my backpack full of yarn. She quickly asked me for my name and we connected on Facebook. This was a chance encounter – over two years ago.

This morning, I opened a package in the mail… it was a hand-written note and the most beautiful beaded jewelry that took my breath away from the same woman. She said she was not good on time management and I am sure any woman with little children can attest to that.   It’s not about the timing of the note, it’s not even about the woman who gave the gift of her own hands, but it’s about God who sees me and knows what I love.

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The gift comes at a time that I offered up everything to God in prayer. This is not a shallow offering, but one of taking a step out in faith. I know that He has good plans for me. These plans may not look anything like I want or even foresee. But I know that God is the One who sees us. He is El Roi.

Genesis 16 says that Hagar was sent to Arabia after Sarah (Abraham’s wife) treated her harshly after she learned that she had conceived Abraham’s child. She prayed to God in her distress and he answered her. The Bible says in Genesis 16:13 thatShe gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me (El Roi). Muslims, Christians and Jews believe this to be true.

I know that God knows my heart and this morning’s package of jewelry and beautiful hand-beaded work was a love note directly from Him. He knows the details of your life and the desires of your heart. Offer yourself up to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and watch what He does with your life.  He is the Almighty God and when He is involved in the details, there is nothing and no one who can harm you. He reminds us of this in Hebrews 13:6 “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

So with that in mind and in prayer, why don’t you reach out to a Muslim TODAY with love?Why not share in the talents and gifts God has given you? Why not invite someone of a different and even challenging belief to a meal in your home? Why not do something positive and encouraging for a world that is hurting? Do not fear and do not be afraid – especially of sharing your love that is in Christ Jesus.

Who knows? You might be a recipient of someone’s love two years later!

May God be given all the glory. Amen.

 

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Looking Forward, No Looking Back

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The New Year brings anticipation for many and anxiety for others. What challenges will I face? What will the days bring? We used to stay up to watch the clock strike 12:00 am and celebrate the coming of the new day. Not anymore. There’s really no point to it. Technically, it’s already the New Year somewhere in the world… so just because the ball drops in New York which is still not midnight in Oklahoma or the big potato drops in Idaho, doesn’t really mean much to us anymore.

I have been talking to a few people about the incoming New Year and about children getting ready to graduate or other life’s changes. Many of them have spoken to me about it with anxiety written on their faces. There is a very strong desire to hold on to the past and simply ignore the future. We aren’t really supposed to look that far into the future, for Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I think this is why my attitude about the New Year is nonchalant. Everyday is a new day – why don’t we celebrate that? Why are Mondays the cause of so much grumbling? Isn’t that a new vista of opportunity?

Along with the New Year’s traditions, people sing the tune from 1788 called “Auld Lang Syne.” For many years, I didn’t realize that it was Scottish. I only thought it was sung by drunk people who were blurring the words together so they didn’t make any sense (yes, that still may be true). The song, translated in English talks about the days gone by and how old acquaintances should be remembered. When I contemplate the popularity of the song around New Year’s time, I am sure that people are thinking about past regrets and others that have slipped out of their lives.

There is definite sadness to that. There are many this year who have suffered, have lost loved ones and have dealt with hard times. I know that the anxiety for the New Year brings some to consider more of the same kind of things for their family and even more changes. That can make anyone apprehensive. Yet, the story of Lot’s wife comes into play here for me. There was something that captured my attention when I first read about this in Genesis. For those of you who may not be familiar, in Genesis 19, Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family are told to take their family and flee from the city of Sodom that was going to face utter destruction. In Genesis 19:26, there is one line “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” What in the world? Why would that happen to her and what made her look back – even though the angels had given firm instructions NOT to look back?

That’s the only line in that story – it doesn’t tell us much about her, what happened next or why she did it. The only explanation I could come up with were that she was still attached. Even though the city was evil in the sight of the Lord, she still liked her stuff. She still had friends there and maybe was thinking about her home and things (I can relate!). It wasn’t until I started to read more of the Bible and learn about what Jesus says about the cost of Discipleship with Him, that the story finally makes more sense. In Luke 9, Jesus tells a man to follow him. The exchange takes place like this:

59Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” the man replied, “first let me go and bury my father.”

60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to my family.”

62Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Think about it…there were people who saw Jesus face to face and told him “no, thanks.” They were tied to their family and to their things. They wanted to take their time and follow Jesus when they wanted to – not when He said to do it. In 1 John 2:15, the verse says “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Yikes… there is much I love in the world including my own family. This is a sticking point for many of us. What do you put first? Who do you put first? It’s easy to talk about following Jesus, but when push comes to shove, would you do it? Would you look back to the stuff you used to have? The buddies you used to go out with? The shows you used to watch on TV? How about your family? What if your family was not on board? There is a cost to following Christ. Are you ready to pay it? What if you don’t pay it?

The scriptures that bring all of this together are given to us in Luke .There is a price to pay now for following Christ and for walking with Him daily. People will look at you and call you “over-zealous” or even “over-religious.” Some may not have nice things to say at all or even laugh at you or react to you in anger. The truth is that tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. You can die today. We can plan for a whole New Year – think about the next 365 days, but none of that will matter. So what about today? Luke 17 says:

 30“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36]

Chilling thoughts. Not necessarily ones we want to think about on New Year’s Day with the clean up from last night’s celebrations. But Christ WILL come. It’s truth and a given. When He comes, where will you be? Will you go back to thinking about what you have or what you own? Will you be like Lot’s wife, and from the shelter of her husband, from behind him, look back towards destruction?

When you walk daily with Christ, you walk forward towards eternal life. There is a comfort and a peace that blankets you. There is a knowledge that whatever comes your way, you have a Savior who loves you and has died for you. He has taken on death so that when your time comes, you move from this physical state into another state of eternal glory. In the blink of an eye, you will be changed (1 Cor 15:52). From the lyrics of an amazing song by Horatio Spafford “It Is Well with My Soul:”

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

~May that day come without fear or anxiety for you. May it truly be well with your soul. That is my New Year’s blessing and prayer for you.

On Labor and Work

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Today is the day that the United States pays homage to the contribution made by workers and to the resulting productivity and commerce. For me, it’s a curious thing to not do work in order to think about and pay tribute to work. A bit of irony…

When I moved to the US and first heard the term “Labor Day, ” I thought it was a day to commemorate mothers who have had children, but then I realized that “Mother’s Day” did that already earlier in the year. There are so many holidays that made no sense to me as an immigrant. Maybe I thought too much about all of this and should have simply enjoyed another day off.

The freedictionary.com defines labor as:

la·bor

(lā′bər)

n.

1. Physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting; work. See Synonyms at work.
2. A specific task or effort, especially a painful or arduous one: “Eating the bread was a labor I put myself through toquiet my stomach” (Gail Anderson-Dargatz).
3. A particular form of work or method of working: manual labor.
4. Work for wages: businesses paying more for labor.

5.a. Workers considered as a group.

   b. The trade union movement, especially its officials.
6. Labor A political party representing workers’ interests, especially in Great Britain.
7. The process by which childbirth occurs, beginning with contractions of the uterus and ending with the expulsion of the fetus or infant and the placenta.
In essence, I was ignoring the definitions #3 – 6 and focused on 1, 2 and 7. The Bible sets the standard for both WORK and LABOR right at the beginning, in Genesis. We see God at work, creating the Heavens and the Earth because on the seventh day, He rested. Genesis 2:2-3  says “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” God also gave Adam a job to do in the garden. As I mentioned in another blog post titled “Bringing LIFE to Work,” Adam’s duties for work didn’t change after the Fall – instead, everything became more difficult, frustrating and arduous. That was the price of sin entering into a perfect world.
Labor came into play for Eve as well. In Genesis 3:16, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” So Eve, in essence, also gets work assigned to her in a different way. While the ground will bring about thorns and thistles for Adam and cause him great frustration, Eve’s pain comes from her children… sound familiar to anyone?
In our home, we have a measure of relative peace. It is common, however, for my husband to call me with great frustrations from his work – from contracts that are not going well, customer care, to employee issues = thorns and thistles. For me, even though I work in the business world, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it does for him. I’m not sure why that is. However, hand me a kid-related issue and I go crazy! One of the translations (KJV) says it a bit differently ” I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” I think with teenagers, I can relate to the “sorrow” part due to the heartaches we deal with.
It is a true testimony to the love we bear one another that we even have children and families. Men and women take on a lot when they are the sole earners for their families. It’s a tough burden to bear. Many women who choose to stay at home are not dismissed from the Labor and Work category. In fact, as someone who took years off to be exclusively at home with our children, I can attest to the fact that at least at work you can get a coffee break or a bathroom break without someone barging in with a request! Marriage takes love, sacrifice and work. Children take love, sacrifice and work (and no thanks many times). Families take a lot of love, sacrifice and work, yet millions of people sign on willingly to do all of this.
In a culture that is trying to break down marriage, family and the home, it’s a good day to reflect upon the work that you do apart from work in the office also. Take into consideration what God has worked on to show you His love and sacrifice. In turn, offer that to others by sharing what the Lord has given you.
From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. ~Proverbs 12:14
May you glorify God in all you do and may your work be blessed. Amen.

Why Did God Do This?

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Yesterday, a Christian friend told me that she had a co-worker who asked her “Why did God do this?” in regard to the horrendous story about the two year old child who was dragged away to death by an alligator at Disney World. Personally, I wouldn’t have stopped there if I was the co-worker. You can apply that question to all the horrific things that happen in this world – why is there murder, rape, sex trafficking, etc., however underneath that first question are a few underlying assumptions:

  1. God exists.
  2. He doesn’t care.
  3. He actually was the perpetrator of the acts.

My Eastern mind answered her with the assumptions first: Why does this co-worker believe she is above God Almighty in that she can sit in the Judgment seat to question, prosecute, and judge God as guilty – all in one question? This is a very Eastern way of thinking… who are you to condemn God or even ask Him that question? Yet, God being accessible to us in the person of Christ allows us to at least place these questions before Him.

So, let’s take this a few steps at a time. First of all, the answer for all this lies in the way that God has chosen to speak to us = the Bible. The very first chapter of Genesis addresses the answer, which is Original Sin. It starts at the Garden of Eden where man was given free will and death entered into God’s creation plan (that up to that point He had deemed to be good). When Adam & Even chose wrongly, all of creation fell into the curse – the curse is the result of not doing what God had laid out for them to do. He had only given them ONE rule to not break and guess what? That’s the one that got broken. This is the reason for the breakdown we see all around us. From the alligator to the Orlando shootings and the tragic loss of lives. There is so much sadness around us, it’s sometimes hard for me to think.

If the person sees that what happened is wrong and sinful, then we can start there as Christians. We believe that there is an absolute standard for wrong and right. That standard does not come from man – if it did, then many would say that what the Orlando shooter did was right. Taking life for any reason is wrong. This is a standard God put into action a long time ago with the Ten Commandments (see Commandment 6 as listed in Exodus 20:13). ALL human beings are created in the image of God and only God has written when it will be the end of their days. That life does not belong to man to take away. If there is a right and wrong and God put that into motion, then these acts occurred either as a part of a fallen, broken world (as in the case of the alligator) or due to man’s free choice to ignore what the Lord has put into place.

God’s original design for mankind and the world was to live in communion with Him. He created everything (Genesis) and called it “Good.” Man’s disobedience is not a one time thing. Man continues to run away from the call of God to return to Him and His decrees, causing more hurt, sin and violence. You don’t even have to go far in the Bible to see this happening! An animal had to be killed to clothe Adam and Even after the Fall “21And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”(Genesis 3:21). Cain commits the first murder of his own brother Abel within a few chapters of the Fall. Just 11 verses later, the first murder takes place  when Cain kills his own brother Abel out of jealousy (Genesis 4:8). The intentions of man’s heart are evil. Without God, only our own selfish desires rule.

Don’t forget for one minute that the Orlando shooter claimed to be from ISIS and did this act during Ramadan. We visited a Muslim restaurant just today for lunch and I asked the woman (whom I knew to be fasting) how she was faring since she worked around food all day and was required to fast. She told me that this Ramadan season had been exceptionally difficult and that she was not fasting today. She would rather not fast than to keep a fast and break it (= higher sin penalty).  A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fasting and the checklists one has to fulfill to be a good, devout Muslim and how many fall short of this exacting standard set by Islam. I personally believe that there was a desperation the shooter must have felt from the Muslim standards that increased his drive to do this heinous act.

When we believe that we are the ones in control of our lives and we try to work our way to Heaven, we will miserably fail. This is the reason why we need a Savior.

Jesus Christ did not condone any of these acts. God did not will for the two year old child to die. He did not want the suffering caused by the horrific act of one man who took the lives of many in Orlando. In fact, I believe that Jesus Wept (John 11:35). There is a blog entry done by Vince Vitale at RZIM that addresses this in a beautiful way, titled “Tears for Orlando.” Jesus came to earth to take on the burden we all bear and take our sins at the cross as his own. He is the ONE who was blameless and without sin (in fact, the Quran also says that Jesus was the only one without sin – see Surah 19:19 in Chapter for Maryam – Mary).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Please join me in praying for all the families affected by the devastating events that took place in Orlando this week. May we, as Christians extend the LOVE God has instead of judgment and blame.

 

Bringing LIFE to Work

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The Coca Cola Company published an article about what “Work/Life Balance” might mean today. There is a shifting trend going on with Millennials (those born between 1982 & 2004). The way work is viewed varies from generation to generation. With the advent of technology, those lines are blurred even more. Just last night, before going to bed, I had a meeting request from someone – there are no real set office hours anymore. People can send meeting requests, texts, e-mails when on vacation, on the weekends or in my case, at night before bed.

This is what gets the younger generation up in arms. If I am working at night on a project, or am logging on to do work-related  stuff, then why can’t I take an extra long lunch or come in a bit later in the morning (after all, I was working on your project)? When the traditionalists see office hours as 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, it’s a valid argument. Work is being done at different times of the day – so why shouldn’t there be flexibility during the 9 to 5 hours?

For those of us who have heard the term “Work/Life Balance” for at least a few decades now, still scratch our heads to see how it actually gets balanced out. For me, personally, it means making sure I am there when I need to be and everything in my personal life takes a back seat. That is NOT the case today. If there is flexibility in the time that you can do your work (and I am talking mainly of a desk job, with a computer that can be accessed from anywhere) then you should be able to do work at 3:00 am if you want to and take off from the office for a 3:00 pm Parent-Teacher conference.

PERCEPTIONS

Why is there such resistance to this flexible time notion? Doesn’t it mean that employees could possibly be working more if they are logging on at all hours of the day? According to the Coca Cola article, it’s about priorities and a seeming lack of respect. “I gotta leave” is the comment and there is no request “Hey, could I schedule an afternoon appointment with my child’s teacher or with my chiropractor or could I take a golf lesson?” Many of the Boomer generation did these things on their own time, especially the exercise or golf lesson part. To even think of doing something like that during the workday is unimaginable.

The bottom line is productivity. If Millennials are focused on the outcome of the project, they don’t care how many hours are spent on it – even if they are working into the night. In fact, many of the Millennials I have spoken to are more productive at night, actually preferring the peace and quiet instead of the morning hours when everyone is showing up to the office. The implication here is to take another look at how we view work.

WORK

We were made to work.In Genesis 2:15, God gave Adam a garden to work – even in a perfect setting, he was given something to do. After the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Adam was still going to work, except that it was going to require the sweat of his brow. WORK is not a dirty, four-letter word (okay, so it IS a four-letter word, but you know what I mean). It is something that gives both men and women a feeling of accomplishment and also for some, it is their identity. It is something that is a blessing on us that we are able to use the gifts to produce or make something.

If we look at work in this manner, it is appropriate to conclude that if the end-result is what’s desired, then the hours you spend upon it shouldn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times at the workplace I have found people chatting it up in the break room, the smoke area outside or by the coffee machine. How many people linger on after meetings for 10-15 minutes, catching up on the weekend or the ball game? There is time being wasted at the office but no one seems to mind, as long as you show up. If someone is accessible and is working from home, then what’s the problem?

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image from Forbes.com – liz ryan

Social media also blurs the lines between work and personal life. Millennials have grown up with social media and are often the first to know details about a new hire. This gives insight to how they wish to work. It is next to impossible to block out your personal life and not bring it to work, especially if there are big things going on that impact your work. The idea to have a workplace that accepts the fact that you have a vibrant life outside of work, that you CAN bring your laptop to the coffee shop and work there as well as the office, to know that when there is an important meeting, you will be present – but when there isn’t a mandate to be at the office, you might go and do some volunteer work… all those might be the new way to see how the office day might be changing.

In addition, work space has also changed. People don’t need large offices, or even desks. Many are choosing to share space where they plug in their computer and get to work. This is a generation that has grown up on the soccer and sports field. They are used to working in teams. They are okay with not having a corner office.

By taking a fresh look at the use of time during the weekday, we can actually invigorate the work day. The re-defined work day can actually go to after hours, into the night and even past midnight. Creativity and productivity don’t have to be limited to the office area and to the desk or cubicle. Instead of separating out our life from work, we can bring new approaches, new ideas and yes, life to work.

 

Invitation

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I had a chance two years ago to see Author Nabeel Qureshi speak about cultural expectations. He shared a very poignant example about how a foreign exchange student came from Saudi Arabia with two suitcases full of gifts. When his roommate asked him if he had family or friends here, he replied that he didn’t know anyone in the United States, but when he was invited to their home, he would be sure to bring a gift as is customary. The worst part of Nabeel’s story is that the student returned home to Saudi Arabia with two suitcases still packed full.

Last week, I wrote about the need for Hospitality in a world full of isolated people who were focused on their technology and relied on iPhones for communication. An article on Bloomberg Business by Bruce Weinstein even coined a term way back in 2007 called “iPhone iSolation.” I think that the author was way ahead of the game. There is something still said for conversation face-to-face. Even our kids are plugged in at the restaurant, in the car, or at home.  Still, the draw of personal contact, communication is present. I was at the car dealership last month to get the oil changed. A lady next to me was actually reading a book, while I crocheted. It was not a normal situation – usually in waiting rooms, everyone seems to be staring down at the glowing screen in their hand. We struck up a conversation about her book and ended up sharing phone numbers and e-mail. I love getting to know people. It’s a joy. One on one communication is falling by the wayside, but the satisfaction of getting to find out more about another person and to make a connection is wonderful. One only has to go and see that more work-related decisions are made over a round of golf or a glass of wine than in the office. There is a sense of ease, a familiarity that allows us to get out of a formal setting and into someone’s personal life.

Now, before you shake your head at me and say something like “Not everyone likes to be everyone’s friend, Mona” or like someone I know says to me in good humor “I have all the friends I need right now. If I meet someone else, I will have to bump someone out on my list of existing friends!” I understand that not everyone likes to strike up random conversations. HOWEVER, most of you reading this article do have a circle of intimate friends and then others in the periphery. What I am asking for is to reach out those in the periphery – get to know them more than just in passing at the water cooler at work, at the kids’ school or soccer game, or even at church.

Human Beings were created to be social. In fact, in the book of Genesis, it states “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” Genesis 2:18 I do think this is one of the reasons so many men become more isolated than women. Women have a natural tendency to be a “helper” to one another. Men do this also, but not as much as us women. We like to socialize, to share stories and to work with one another.

I taught at the State of Oklahoma about Cultural Diversity in November 2015. The class was very diverse in make-up and we had several individuals who had either visited foreign countries or were immigrants. I posed a few questions to the immigrants:

  • When was the last time your colleague asked you about your family or children?
  • When was the last time you received an invitation to share a cup of coffee or tea with someone American?
  • When was the last time you received an invitation to their home?

A man from China raised his hand and his answer made me so very sad. He said that this training was the first time that anyone had asked about his home or family. He had NO invitations to have a cup of tea or coffee – not even at Starbucks or a coffee shop. He has lived here for 8 years and has had NO invitations to come to someone’s home – not even an invitation from his neighbor.

I then asked if he has extended the invitation to others. He smiled and said yes. He said it was a part of his culture to do so but no one has the time to visit him. He stayed after the class and we chatted for a bit (yes, of course I invited him to come and meet my family!). It was one of those things that stays with you. There is a sadness in the world that is caused by us living in bubbles. We drive in our little bubble and wave quickly to neighbors. We come into the office and sit in our little bubble of a desk. We stay in that bubble at lunch with our phones. We then drive back home in the bubble and quickly close the garage door in case a neighbor wants to talk or worse, complain. Why don’t we pop that isolation bubble and go make a new friend or go deeper in a relationship with someone you might be thinking of right now?I think you might be surprised at the blessings you will receive! If you reach out and extend that Invitation to join you in conversation, a cup of coffee or even dinner, let me know how it turns out for you. I think we truly can change our culture one Invite at a time.

 

 

Unity out of Diversity~ God’s Way

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Last week, I talked about how diversity is looked at here in the United States. I think in order to understand the Unity piece of it, we need to go to the beginning. The VERY beginning, namely, Genesis. My husband and I were guests at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) Founder’s Weekend Conference the past four days and author, apologist Amy Orr-Ewing spoke on the very topic. She stated that when God put forth the heavens and the earth in Genesis, He worked in pairs. He made the Heavens & the Earth, Darkness & Light, Day & Night, Land & Sea, the greater light to govern the day & the lesser light to govern the night, and finally, male & female (see Genesis 1). There is a natural pairing that God does, yet He makes them complementary. Just as the sun lights the day, the moon offers a gentle light at night. Even though they are different, they work together as one.

If you have a significant other, you can further see the diverse nature of man and woman in a relationship. When married, these differences can either make the marriage or break it. So diverse are we in our gender. Take for instance, the difference between my husband and I when it comes to packing for a trip. We used to take one suitcase when we were newlyweds (how stupid can you get?). Now, after 22 years of marriage, we take our own. It’s just better that way. It takes me at least a day or two to pack and even then I don’t feel like I bring enough stuff. I am constantly saying “Oh, I wish I would’ve packed XYZ.” There’s nothing like that for him. It takes him under one hour to pack and he’s good. We have a different way of looking at just about everything – from relationships, to child-rearing, communication, work, weather, and of course, maps & following directions.

Yet, there is something special about the way we work together. It is truly wonderful. One of the greatest blessings is when we end up with the same thoughts on things of importance. We tend to have the same values on religion (God has helped us in an amazing way), family (we had to learn more about each other here), and also how to use logical thought for problem solving. These are things add meaning to our marriage and help us to become one. The most important thing in our marriage, however, was to stop focusing on each other and instead to focus on God.

I think that is also the secret to understanding diversity – whether it’s in marriage or at work. If you focus on what God has designed and look at people for what gifts God has given them, you gain a fresh perspective that is tinged with excitement. I love asking people about what spiritual gifts they have. If you are a believer in Christ, the Holy Spirit has given YOU a gift. If you don’t know what it is, there are many spiritual gifts inventories you can take (try this one here)!

There is diversity in the way that God has made us and He did that because He can – what a glorious creativity! As we walked through the airport, I marveled at all the different types of people I walked past just in the terminal. So many features, skin color, backgrounds… it’s not boring to people-watch. Christ unites us, while the world tries to divide. The world wants to divide into categories: rich, poor, slave, master, Jew or Gentile.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Yet, when He looks at us and calls us, He tells us to keep the unity of the Spirit. One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and the Father of all. This is true unity and only through that unity, do we keep the bond of PEACE. That bond of peace only comes through the Holy Spirit and the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6

What’s in a Name?

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For the Eastern mind, a name indicates the essence of a person. Many parents even decide to wait to name a child until they see its face to determine the child’s personality (we could not tell our children’s personality within the first week of life!). I was given the name Sabah  (صباح) when I was born. Sabah is an Arabic name that means early morning or dawn. For those who know me… that is a big, gigantic misnomer!  I cannot function in the mornings. Instead, around 6 pm, I happen to get my big burst of energy. So where did “Mona” come from? It was a nickname given to me by my uncle who died at an early age. Out of remembrance for him, my family continued to use his nickname for me, his little doll.

In the Bible, The Lord places much emphasis in names. He gives Adam the privilege of naming the animals  ~ The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:20 Adam also names Eve (Gen 2:23). Later in Genesis 17:15, God gives Abram and Sarai new names also, for they were a new creation in Him. He changed Abram (means Father in Hebrew) to Abraham (means Father of many). Sarai’s name was a bit different. Some say that the original name may have a root of meaning quarrelsome or argumentative. Then the name was changed to Sarah or “my princess.” The Lord continues to do this with Jacob along with others all the way to the New Testament when we see Saul’s name changed to Paul.

As a Muslim, my heritage was no different than others in the East. There was great significance in names and religious names were considered superior, for they were given to prophets and God’s people. Even before Stephen and I had children, we had settled on the name of our first child – it would be Jacob (Arabic – Yaʿqūb) and if it was a girl, it would be Sarah. We both liked the fact that Jacob’s name could be Muslim and Christian. The name Sarah was different: it was Stephen’s great grandmother’s name and for me, it was my best friend’s name in Pakistan. When our first born son was born, we named him Jacob. We didn’t really do much research into what the name actually meant – holder of the heel, underminer, supplanter. All we knew was that the name was in both of our Holy books and that was good enough for us.

When our second son came, we were at a loss. I wanted Gabriel or David – both were strong names in the Quran and Bible. Stephen wanted John for his father’s name. We couldn’t agree. One day, a close friend came over and we were talking about baby names. She suggested “Joshua” – when we asked why, she simply replied “Sounds good with Jacob!” So much for picking thoughtful names… we went with Joshua for our second-born son.

For our daughter who came next, her name had been chosen over 9 years before she arrived! It was a no-brainer: Sarah if it was a girl and John David if it was a boy.

Looking back on all this as a Christian who converted from Islam, I cannot help but see the uncanny way The Lord was mapping out my life with my children’s names: Jacob – the liar, the one who undermined his brother and wrestled with God, Joshua – He Saves (also Yeshua in Aramaic – the name given to our Lord and Savior, Jesus) and finally, Sarah – my princess.

In the first part of my life, I wrestled continuously with the constraints put upon me through Islam. There were so many rules and I felt like I kept breaking all of them (not intentionally, but one after another). The wrestling continued until I met The ONE Who Saves, Jesus Christ. He then called me “His princess.”

God has a plan for each one of us (see Jeremiah 29:11), this is a plan to prosper us and not harm us, a plan to allow us to walk closely with Him. In His graciousness, He allows me now to look back and see that He was always with me – in my struggle, confusion, in a plan to redeem me for His purpose and a plan to allow me to dwell in the House of the Lord forever as His Princess.

What a beautiful God He is! Amen!