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.

 

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.

 

 

HospitaliTEA

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Some of my earliest memories are of celebrating Eid in Saudi Arabia. BWe would put on our best clothes, grab sweets and small presents and go from house to house, celebrating with friends. The same traditions continued when I moved to Pakistan and to the United Arab Emirates. People were always coming and going from our home. It was a very warm and welcoming place. My mother, an impeccable hostess, always had tea, fresh snacks and beautiful china ready to go in case someone happened to drop by.

When we moved to the United States, however, these visits were far less frequent. Many Pakistanis came to our home from our community, but we really did not receive invitations to dine at American people’s homes. This sentiment is echoed by others who are foreigners or even are people of other ethnicity who live here.

When I bring it up to people, many look at me wistfully and then tell me that stopping by a friend’s home for a cup of tea went away in the 1950’s. It is old-fashioned and just not done anymore – kind of like writing in cursive or sending a letter with a stamp on it.

Those who know me, know that I have a love of all things old. I love Victorian England and all the things that go with it. I like the fussiness of proper manners, correct grammar, and the idea of long dresses with rows of buttons. I like the slower pace of life and even the old European tradition of calling cards and paying calls on friends. If I mention this out in public today, people tell me to go to Wal Mart to get a calling card (as if I am getting ready to call international long distance) or paying calls (no one even knows what it means to pay a call, other than your phone bill at the end of the month).

At my family’s home, there is a long-standing tradition of tea time at 4:00 pm. I have mentioned this in my post about the concept of time in other cultures. This is something I have held onto all my life. Even today, my friends know that around 4:00 pm, there I will be sitting at my kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea. I also know that around the same time daily, I can find my parents doing the same thing across the United States. It’s a tradition and it is so soothing.

Even when I worked full time, I would stop what I was doing and make a quick cup of tea at 4:00 pm. My co-workers began to join me  in this tradition because nearly everyone experiences a mid-day slump around that time. It makes the rest of the day go by so quickly.

A cup of hot tea has that soothing property to it. There is nothing like making a little oasis in the middle of one’s day to STOP everything and just take a small moment out to drink tea. It is a refined tradition and one I love to pass on to my friends. I have had the chance to make real friendships, make a connection and share my home with many. Some of these people I have known for a long time. Others may be people I have just met once or twice.

People are generally surprised at the offer of coming over to my home for a spot of tea. I am met usually with a smile of surprise. It is much more common to get together at Starbucks or somewhere else. Hospitality, along with a cup of tea has also gone by the wayside. When I ask women why that is the case, many tell me that they feel pressure to have their home “just right.” With three children, I find myself wondering when that day might come! I don’t think we have had our home looking “just right” since the day we moved in. If I waited around for that very day, I shudder to think of all the beautiful conversations, the tears of sorrow, the new friendships and renewing of old friends I would have missed out on.

In the Bible, there is mention of hospitality being a part of the new church in Acts. In fact, there is a passage that I think of often “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts… ~Acts 2:46 So many Christians close off their homes to others, citing one reason after another. Even though I have entertained many people in our home, an invitation in return to come to other people’s homes is still sparse. Is it an indication  of some who are uncomfortable to see our personal life and  living space – to not be able to “come as you are.”

When you come to my home, you will see my daughter’s toys around the fireplace in our living room. You will sometimes see a pile of freshly washed laundry being sorted. You will see my jewelry tools and beads scattered about on the kitchen island. It’s not perfect, but then neither am I. I see this as a sort of ministry (yes, to have a messy home – not dirty, but messy!). I have had women tell me that seeing my house as it is makes them want to invite someone over and not have that pressure to have it looking like a model home.

If we keep wearing masks, we miss out on so many opportunities. There is something freeing about “come as you are.” There is something authentic about people seeing your home with dishes in the sink. There is something genuine about reaching across the table and sharing a plate of cookies with a steaming cup of hot tea.

May we be like the early church share our home with others. May we have open hearts and open invitations to others. May we comfort others as God comforts us. Amen.

 

P.S. Yes, consider this as an open invitation to join me at my house for a cup of tea!