ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

ISIS & the Cultural Muslim

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I know Muslim homes around the world were cringing yesterday when a Muslim man’s name was announced for the terrorist attacks in Spain. My family gets really agitated and worked up each time there is an attack. They don’t want to hear it was a Muslim person yet again who was driving into people, killing at random.

Most of my family and friends are “Cultural Muslims.” They will tell you that they are not terrorists. In fact, this is what I used to go and speak about as a Muslim woman after the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim community sees itself as a peaceful, working class group – just like any other patriotic citizen.  There is a desire to fit into the culture, yet be set apart from it due to the religion and what it entails. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a fight I had within myself as I grew up Muslim in America.

The freedoms you have in the West do not compare to the oppression from Islamic nations. It’s really easy here to get used to being able to talk freely to everyone (including men), to speak your mind and share opinion without repercussions and to practice your religion – even at work. I enjoyed all these freedoms!

When faced with the media and portrayal of Muslims, I find a broad-brush statement like  “all Muslims are terrorists” or even “all terrorists are Muslims.” The frustration for others comes when Muslims do not stand up and deny that Islam teaches this type of behavior. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t come from this culture to understand what’s going on in the background.

Muslims – even cultural Muslims will not condemn what ISIS is doing because ISIS is indeed going by what the Quran says (see Quran 3:32, 48:29, 5:23, 9:29, 9:73, 9:111, etc). Orthodox Muslims will tell you that ISIS is those who are holding true to the Quran = real, authentic Muslims. In fact, Orthodox Muslims say that the Cultural Muslims are not real Muslims and have denounced them. 

When I was a Muslim and we showed up to the Mosque, I would inevitably get the 20 questions routine (I have blogged about this before). There is a battery of questions asked unashamedly by others. I was usually asked what my name was, my parents’ names, where we were from (city), if I was married, husband’s name (this was a kicker when I was married to an American, but remained a Muslim), if I kept all the fasts for Ramadan, if I prayed 5 times a day, on and on. They weren’t trying to be nosy – they were trying to figure out what kind of a Muslim I was. The reason why they asked is because we were not regulars to the Mosque! Should’ve been obvious we were not Orthodox in our beliefs. The question and answer session usually concluded with the person looking down at me in disdain.

Nevertheless, even the Cultural Muslims will not come out against what another Muslim is doing, especially if they have no clue as to whether or not the Quran supports it (for many have not read the Quran or have only read it in Arabic when it was not their native language). The condemnation only comes from the Orthodox Muslims for the rest of the Muslim world to follow what they are doing. This is not only scary for the Cultural Muslims (because they actually want to live in Western countries and want to work and be “normal”) but also for the rest of the population for the US and Europe. Did you follow that? Orthodox Islam condemns Cultural Muslims for their flimsy, watered-down beliefs. 

There is a definite call to follow Orthodox Islam. Saudi Arabia sets the tone for the rest of the world because it is the heart of Islam and the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslim world looks to Saudi Arabia for everything from when the moon is in the right phase for the start of Ramadan to dictates that they set (especially Sharia law). In 2007, Saudi Arabia launched an official website for issuing of “Fatwas” (religious decrees and mandates put forth by Islamic scholars on a council, including who was an enemy of Islam).

When I speak publicly about growing up Muslim and becoming a Christian, I get responses like “well, the Muslims I know are nice people and not terrorists.” My response is that my own family is made up of nice people and not terrorists, but that isn’t the point. The point is that to say you are a Muslim, you have to believe 100% of what is in the Quran. You cannot say “I don’t believe in the violent passages of the Quran.” That is not possible. As a Muslim, it’s black or white. Either you believe or you are not a Muslim. This is the choice I was faced with when I started to read the Quran. I didn’t know there were passages about violence against women. I didn’t know that there were passages about violence against non-believers and that they were the enemy of Islam. I didn’t want to believe that. The problem was I could not then say I was a Muslim. I knew either I believed it or I did not.

Here’s just a small sample of what the Muslim Scholars say about a Muslim who doesn’t pray 5 times a day:

If the one who does not pray does not do it because he denies that it is obligatory, even though he is aware that Allah has commanded that prayer be established, then he is a kaafir and an apostate according to the consensus of the ummah. 

If a person does not pray because he denies that it is obligatory out of ignorance on his part that it is obligatory, such as one who is new in Islam, he is not deemed to be a kaafir, but he is to be taught and instructed to pray. 

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:  The Muslims are unanimously agreed that the one who denies that prayer is obligatory is a kaafir who is to be executed if he does not repent from that kufr. However they differed concerning the one who affirms that it is obligatory but deliberately does not do it even though he is able to.

End quote from al-Istidhkaar, 2/149 

NOTE: Kaafir = Unbeliever (usually used as an offensive word)

The choice I had to make was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I was led to a church, where the pastor shared the definition of GRACE with me. He also explained that Jesus was the only one who was sinless and could bridge the gap between us and God, thus giving us assurance of heaven. Muslims do not have assurance. They only have works. Either they do good deeds or they go to the fiery place and burn for an eternity. There is no Savior – it’s all up to you. This is why Jihad is so alluring. Jihad is the only 100% way to get to Paradise (Quran 4:95 & 3:169-170). It’s an act of desperation – of knowing you cannot make it to heaven because you have sinned. You cannot do it on your own, so you drive a van into a crowd.

Christians need to use this opportunity to share the message of Grace with a Muslim -that God offers us His mercy and pardon from sin as a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. It’s not what we do, but what Christ does that brings us to a place of peace and restoration with God and thus, with the world. The Muslim world is not our enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.  How much better would the world be if we realized we are not to hate your enemies but to love them and offer them peace found in Jesus Christ?

Father’s Day

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My father and me in Murree, Pakistan

Father’s Day is a reminder to us to go back and think of our earthly father who has influenced us over the course of our life. My father has been a generous source of caring and love. I have photos of him carrying his daughters around and you can see his giant grin that goes from ear to ear. He is the kind of father that is ready with a hilarious joke, a well-told story or the loving kindness in his smile – even for strangers.

Over the years, I have come to the realization that some don’t have a warm, fuzzy recollection of our father. For some, that person was just a “donor” and left soon after they were born. Others never knew an earthly father who raised them up.

We live in a broken, messed up world. There are painful stories people have shared with me that have brought me to tears, listening to the cruelty and heartbreak of an uncaring, missing father. Some of these personal stories have left me wondering how does this person carry on with their life or even more than that – how do they have a role model to follow?

Not only did I have my father who raised me up, but we had the additional blessing of having our maternal grandparents who lived with us for several years. My grandfather (lovingly called “Abba”) was also kind, caring and ready to sit with you. He wanted to be involved in your life and was genuine in his affection.  He was quiet in his manners and demeanor but made you feel special even when you sat next to him. He had all the time in the world to spend with you.

When I became a Christian, imagine my surprise at reading about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name…” He told them to call God their Father. It even got more strange for me, because I was told the Aramaic (what Jesus spoke to his disciples) – “Abba.”  I about flipped out of my chair that Sunday morning! Abba was my grandfather – my grandpa. Abba was not God Almighty’s name!

As a Muslim, I was taught that God was way up high in the heavens and that he was indifferent to us unless it was during the time of prayer. You see, as  a Muslim, you have to have an appointment to truly talk to God. Even then, you aren’t really “talking” to him as an equal. You are bringing in your petition like a slave does to a king. You bow down low (literally the case during prayer) and then you say certain verses in Arabic. You don’t just plop down on the couch and chit chat with God (YIKES! Blasphemous!) but you approach His throne (see another post I wrote on this here: MY Dad’s Chair) carefully so you don’t cause offense.

There is no relationship with God. That is just a ridiculous notion to a Muslim. When I heard someone praying and calling God Almighty her “Daddy,” I freaked out then also. I did not realize that Jesus had given us the model to pray. We truly DO have the freedom to call Him our Father in Heaven, as well as “Abba.” He is just that close to us in a true relationship.

What a mind-blowing revelation to me! Yet, many Christians take this fact as nothing special. When we realize that we have officially been adopted into the Kingdom of the LORD God Almighty – creator of Heavens and earth, we should be shaking in our shoes. Instead, He welcomes us into an embrace – He runs to us (Prodigal Son parable – see Luke 15:20) with joy and His arms open wide!

On Father’s Day today, if you have a crummy earthly father, don’t give up hope. If you have a missing earthly father, don’t give up looking. If you have a wonderful earthly father, give God praise. For all of us, remember that we have a PERFECT Heavenly Father who is waiting for us very patiently to return to Him so He will run to us, embrace us, and call us His child.  What a wonderful God, Redeemer and Savior we have! Amen.

Muslims in Your Backyard

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Today, I was invited by my friend to attend a talk given by the Religion Department at Oklahoma City University. I welcomed the opportunity to be in the audience, given that I think we should have an open mind to see what the current Muslim conversation and views are in our community. The speakers were all from the University and were intended to present what it’s like to be a Muslim in America today.

Even though I was not speaking or on the panel (= not a Muslim), I had to pray that the Lord keep my mouth shut unless 3 conditions were met. I prayed “Lord, open my mouth only if 1) it glorifies you, 2) it glorifies your Son, and 3) it is wrapped in your love.” So, being equipped with prayer, I set off with my daughter (who had a fever yesterday and is fine today, but could not attend school due to 24 hr rule for fevers). Right when we got there, I realized I did not bring my notepad to take notes. So, digging into my purse, I found my Sephora coupon for a free mascara. After a moment of hesitation (free makeup!), I went ahead and wrote down notes from the speakers.

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Giving my ALL for Jesus!

The first speaker was the Imam from the Greater OKC Mosque. He is the Assistant Professor and Chair in Islamic Studies Religion and hails from Palestine. Just a side note, he is also the Imam for the guy Alton Nolan who beheaded an innocent woman, Colleen Hufford in Moore, Oklahoma. The Imam started off talking about Islamophobia in the US

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Alton Nolen in front of the Greater OKC Mosque

and asked why we couldn’t “coexist.” He cited examples of being harassed at the Muslim Day at the Capitol but nothing specific, other than saying that a Christian man from Kansas (how he knew he was Christian, I’m not sure) told him that he was “the devil.”

The other two speakers were less emphatic. The professor spoke about being victimized and using Muslims as doormats. He made political comments about the current presidency and also how he has been reading MLK Jr’s books about the Civil Rights Movement. He actually went as far as to say “the Civil Rights Movement is applicable now to the Muslim Community.” How? I find that to be a far reach. The African Americans at that time were facing serious oppression – separate bathrooms and eating areas, not being allowed seats on public transportation, etc. That is most definitely NOT what my family has faced as Muslims. He also said something that caught my attention. He said that Muslims needed to call for tolerance… really? Show me at least ONE Muslim nation that is “tolerant.” This is the reason why so many Muslims flock to the West – tolerance is here in the United States. You cannot find tolerance in the Sharia law that governs Muslim nations.

The young student they had on the panel was just darling and sweet in her replies. I told my husband afterwards that she reminded of me as a Muslim, telling everyone how wonderful Islam was. Her opening remarks were that she had not read the Quran and was not familiar with the writings, but she would share her experiences. She said that she had not felt any hate remarks aimed at her, even though she wears a hijab. She made it a big point to stress that she CHOSE to wear a hijab to cover and that no one was forcing her to do so. Her closing comment on Islam however, was naive and mistaken. She said that she wanted everyone to know that “Islam has the root word for peace and whenever we greet one another, we say ‘Salam’ which means peace be on you.” Unequivocally… not true.  If you want to know, here’s an excerpt from the website Answering Islam:

“In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related to the ‘stinging of the snake’ or ‘tanning the leather’?

Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: “Aslim, Taslam!”. Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama which is the root of Salam, i.e. ‘Peace’, neither one of them implies the meaning of ‘peace’. The sentence means ‘surrender and you will be safe’, or in other words, ‘surrender or face death’. So where is the meaning of ‘Peace”In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don’t necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means ‘submission’, is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means ‘peace’ and so is the verb Salima which means ‘to be saved or to escape from danger’. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means ‘the stinging of a snake’ or ‘The tanning of the leather’. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. ‘Peace’, does that also mean that it must be related t’ in such a religion that threatens to kill other people if they don’t submit to it?”

Pastor Mateen Elass also wrote a great blog on the very topic of Islam not meaning Peace. You can find it here & I encourage you to check it out.

The question and answer session began with the question “All of you have been talking about how peaceful Islam is, but what about the violent passages in the Quran?” The Imam took that question right away and said there were NO passages in the Quran about violence at all! He continued to say that in fact, the Quran does not have words like “kill” or  “kill the Infidels,” “convert or die, ” or even the word “sword.”  The professor on his right picked up this theme from the Imam and said how Jihad was only to indicate a personal struggle and that all the students in his class were Jihadists because they struggled to get good grades. The Imam said that the media had bastardized and perverted what was written in the Quran… after all, it is interpretation that is the issue.

NO, NOT SO. We cannot continue to play the “it’s written only in Arabic, so we cannot truly understand the Quran unless you read it in Arabic.” “Kill” in Arabic pretty much means “kill” in English. This was a hard thing for someone who has been a Muslim as an adult and has read the Quran to swallow. I had to break down and whisper to my friend who invited me and tell her that was a blatant lie. There are over 164 passages in the Quran that are violent and deal with war, jihad (even though the word is not used, the intent to fight infidels is clear), or killing. It is not a story about peace and love… not even close. On average, one out of every six lines is about hell fire and damnation.

There is NO good news for Muslims.

Here is a list of over 109 passages in the Quran from a website called The Religion of Peace. Below is only ONE of these verses where you will find… drum roll please… “Kill, Killing, and Kill again” from Surah Al-Baqara (2:191-2):

وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِندَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِن قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.

It’s difficult to sit there and see what is being said in front of you without anyone in the audience to challenge it. Yet I knew that this was not a place for debate and I was so thankful for coming to the place prepared through prayer ahead of time. The woman who asked the question about violence in the Quran left early, so I could not catch up to her to talk – maybe it was not meant to be. The rest of the questions were very politically correct and were in the line of “why can’t we all just get along?”

The message from the Muslim community (including those in my family) is mixed. There are many who do not know what is in the Quran and those who DO know (like the Imam) are choosing to not tell the truth or even a part of the truth.

It is important to know and look things up for yourself. The Quran is available online and all you have to do is to Google “violent passages in the Quran” or something along those lines to see BOTH the Arabic and the English. Please don’t accept things at face value. God gave us a brain and he intends for us to use it. Let’s use our brains to His glory and know what is being said in the media and on this type of a panel.

The end was more of the same. The Imam made an ostentatious claim that we are all under one God. He said “Allah, Eloh, Ilah” are all the same (look up the name Ilah & you will find something totally different!). Again, not true. Allah is only one dimension. Our God as revealed by the Scriptures is YHWH. He exists in three dimensions. Unless you know the relationship of love that exists between God the Father, the redeeming love of Christ Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit, you miss the whole picture. Allah is not the God of the Trinity.

There is great confusion and darkness for those who do not know God as revealed in the Scriptures. I pray that the Church will wake up and heed the Great Commission to GO! As one who lived in the US as a Muslim, I was accustomed to the darkness. I blindly believed what the Imams said in the mosque and what my parents told me. When the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth of God as revealed in Christ, it was indescribable. There is great freedom and love in Christ Jesus. I just pray that we, as Christians will share the Gospel in love. We need to always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE we have ~ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15.

I beg you… Be ready! Be prepared! Give that reason for the hope you have in Christ. DO IT with gentleness and respect. This is what we need to share with Muslims today. Find a Muslim in your own backyard and share the Good News of the Gospel!

Divorce in Islam

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A few weeks ago, as I was quietly sitting down to a meal with my family, the discussion about women’s rights and Islam came up. The spirited discussion was heavily one-sided. The claims about how wonderful Islam was and how much women gained from the Quranic laws were being thrown around liberally.  Someone even made the comment that the Quran does not have any sayings about divorce, but that the divorce decrees and rules are all made by the Imams.

I couldn’t take it anymore…

I tried to sit in silence, but sometimes the unsubstantiated claims become too much to bear. I prayed quickly (“Lord Jesus, help me!”) and then said that I agreed that Mohammad put an end to female infanticide (killing baby girls because of the patriarchal society) but apart from that… nothing more. That’s when the whole table jumped on me. There were claims being made that Islam allows for women to openly divorce me (no, not true) and that women do have a choice when it comes to marriage (again, not according to the  Quran).  Another claim was that the “I Divorce You” statement said three times was also not in the Quran (yes, it is… see Al Baqarah verse 2:229-230). When I challenged that the Quran does indeed have rules about women and divorce, I was told “well, you read the translation – in Arabic, it’s different.”

Oh yeah… let’s play the translation card.

There is an entire Surah (Chapter) on Divorce! It’s called “Al Talaq.” The very first verse says :

“O Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah , your Lord. Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah . And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself. You know not; perhaps Allah will bring about after that a [different] matter. (Al Talaq, 65:1)”

So… what is “the waiting period?” What is a “clear immorality?” Notice, that you don’t let them go and neither can they go of their own choice. If they leave = clear immorality! It’s a catch 22. There are women right here in Edmond, Oklahoma who are trying to help a Muslim woman leave her husband’s home because he has encouraged their young son to join in on the physical beatings she has received since the day they were married. She has suffered through this over the last 13 years. I met her 6 years ago, when the ladies from a church offered her a safe home. She told me then that she had no choice, but to return to him, since she was his property and rightfully belonged to him. Now, 6 years later, the beatings have doubled. There is NO HOPE.

Why then are Muslims, even cultural ones like my family, so quick to come to the defense of Islam and elevate it to the high levels as ones who not only support women’s rights, but PROTECT them?

The answer is: They haven’t really read the Quran. If they have read the Quran, they’ve read it in Arabic. If they’ve read it in Arabic, know that over 84% of the Muslim world doesn’t speak Arabic as their mother tongue. In other words, they have “read” and recited the Quran in Arabic (that’s the only way you are supposed to read it if you are a Muslim, by the way, for Arabic is considered to be the language of Heaven). If you read the Quran in a translated language, it is not exact because you are not reading it in Arabic. You cannot know what it says unless you read it the way it was given – in Arabic. The Muslims who don’t speak Arabic DO NOT actually understand what the heck it is they are reciting – in the Quran and also in their prayers.

The second piece of this mystery is the Hadith. The Hadith are traditions of the prophet that were used to explain confusing passages in the Quran. When I was a Muslim, I knew about the Hadith, but there was no access to it. The internet has brought the Hadith to everyone, but even now my family shrugs it off – they have the Quran and that’s all they need. They get traditions and Quranic verses confused all the time. Here is a good website where you can find more information on what traditions exist about Divorce and Women.

When I was a Muslim (and a pretty bad one at that), I tried to pray 5 times a day after 9/11. The prayers are all recited in Arabic. Did I mention that I was one of the 84% that didn’t speak Arabic? Yes, it’s true. I recited all my prayers in Arabic, knowing that I probably was not pronouncing the prayers correctly, so I would do extra rakats (for extra credit). This is the reality and truth for many Muslims around the world: Praying without knowing what you are saying, reading your holy book without knowing what it says and then claiming that you know what Islam is all about.

I hope this explanation helps with understanding why so many Muslims seem confused about what they believe in. I was one of those.

Here is a link to an excellent article by Pastor Mateen Elass titled

Fake News Headline #2: Muhammad Was a Champion of Women’s Rights!

Many Muslims have a heart for God. They are out there searching for answers and the truth. Islam is confusing. The writings in the Quran are confusing. They are praying for God to show them the way. Please pray that they will indeed find the WAY, the TRUTH and ultimately, the LIFE through Jesus Christ Our Lord!

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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.

Every Nation, Tribe & Tongue

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Crescent Project National Conference – Houston, TX

Last weekend, I had the honor of being invited to speak on a panel of Believers of Muslim Backgrounds (BMB) for the Crescent Project National Conference in Houston, Texas. The conference had about 400+ people in attendance. Fouad Masri, founder was spoke on the first night about how Fear exists not only for Christians who believe the media about Muslims but also for the Muslims in the United States who believe the media about Christians. There is a desperate need for an AUTHENTIC Christian witness to all people.

The panel was both exciting and interesting. I want to walk you through the details. There were only two women (myself and the other woman to my left in the picture) and all others were men. The moderator, Fouad Masri, had us sit in a particular order by country from left to right – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, another from Iran, Morocco, and Palestine. I want to point out that there were many more Believers from Muslim Background at this conference, about 21 of them (but not all were on the panel). This is the most I have seen gathered in one location. When we were introduced according to country, the man from Iraq put his arm around the man from Iran. They said something amazing “Only Jesus can bring these two countries together like this – arm in arm.”

Each of us had the chance to briefly tell our story. There were several questions asked by the moderator, that included why we decided to follow Christ, what made us follow Him, what is the one point we want people to know about Muslims. If you don’t know my story, let me briefly share it with you. I wasn’t looking for Jesus. I wasn’t interested in following him. In fact, I was trying to become a better Muslim. My family is considered to be moderate Muslims or nominal Muslims. In other words, we were Muslim in name, not by practice. We did not pray 5 times a day nor did we uphold many of the pillars of faith.

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After 9/11, I decided that I didn’t know much about what I believed, so I went into a deeper commitment to Islam. I started by reading the Quran (or Koran – different spellings can be found). The Quran brought questions for me – I didn’t have any questions about my faith, but just wanted to know more. The Quran actually was confusing and troubling in it’s treatment of women (Sura Al Nissa). It also contained a whole chapter on Jesus (Sura Maryam) that I didn’t understand – why did Jesus have so much power to do miracles like raise people from the dead? Why could he alone give life and heal?Through prayer, the Holy Spirit led me to a church where the associate pastor helped to connect the dots.  This was not an overnight thing, but was a journey that took over a 3 and a half years. At the age of 35, I accepted Christ and was baptized along with my husband and 3 children! What a huge praise it is and I still thank God for His mercy and grace on our family.

Sometimes I think that people in the United States sell Christianity & themselves short. They think that Christianity is just a religion for “white people.” Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Christ didn’t come for just one group! He came as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and for the world. 

This was the most amazing part of this conference. To share the gospel of love with Muslims, you don’t have to go across the world (unless you want to) or to the Middle East (unless you want to). You simply can go to the local grocery store, University classroom, or restaurant. God has brought Muslims here to the United States. There are many who are lost, who need Christ’s message of hope  and need an authentic witness in their life. What are you doing to help reach out to them?

God said “GO” in the Great Commission. Are you going? God said “LOVE” in his commandment to us (John 13:34). Are you loving others in the world or just the ones you are comfortable around? God said “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7). Are you fearful?

Today’s the day to change all that. Decide to live for Christ and watch what happens. A world of new relationships awaits… from every nation, tribe, people and tongue…

 

Let’s Talk

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My husband & I are Marriage Mentors. We developed the Marriage Mentoring Ministry at our last church and by the grace of God, are helping to create a new Marriage Ministry at our new church. It is an amazing blessing to work with couples who are either seriously dating, are engaged to be married or are newly married. We are NOT counselors, nor do we give advice. This is how mentoring differs from other things. More on that later in another post.

I have taught Business Communication for Undergraduate Business schools since 1997 – coming up on 20 years! Much of what works well for the workplace can and does work well for the home. It’s just that we tend to be more polite to those we work with than those with whom we live. It’s a fact. Familiarity adds to the casualness with which we approach relationships that are close to us. While we take care to watch our words at work, it doesn’t always happen to me at home. I am mostly talking about myself here… I don’t want to point a finger at you because when I do that, I know that four other fingers are pointing back at me (in my case, that is literally true, as I have one husband and three kids! Ha! Ha!).

I taught a Conflict Resolution course earlier this week to College Interns. They were absolutely NOT interested in the session or me, until I asked them how many of them were in a relationship. Most raised their hands and that’s when they got connected into the topic. Sometimes, we think that this stuff we are learning at work does not apply to anything other than work. When you can link things at work to home, that’s where learning becomes valuable and memorable to others.

Talking to others about personal matters is not easy. In the study of Conflict Resolution, I usually start off the session by asking them to think about how conflicts were handled in their home when they were growing up. Did their parent(s) yell? Were they passive aggressive or always trying to keep the peace? These behaviors can definitely influence how you react to conflict.

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There are several ways you can approach conflict resolution – I also wrote about conflict & perspectives in my blog titled “Bridges, Balconies, & Burquas“. The first is to know your behavioral style. Most inventories (DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jungian, etc) are based on two dimensions: Task & People (horizontal axis) and Direct & Indirect (or in the figure, Outgoing/Reserved). There are free online tests you can take (& I encourage you to take them!) to find out how you fall into these quadrants. No matter what you take, the main questions are:

  1. Do you tell people directly how you feel about certain things or do you beat around the bush in order to spare feelings?
  2. Does interaction with others (maybe 20 min or more of talking) energize you or leave you making a mental laundry list of all the things you needed to get done in that time you just spent?

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Answers to those questions will allow you to figure out which side you land on – if you are energized with interactions with others, you will fall near to the “I” and the “S” side. If you are not, then “D” & “C” are more your style. If you are direct, you will go towards the top half of the circle and if indirect, then “C” & “S” may be more like you. Nothing is etched in stone, but knowing how you like to be approached is a good start to communicating with others.

Lack of Communication is one of the top reasons for divorce in a marriage. It is also one of the main reasons why employees leave (1. My boss & I didn’t get along OR 2. My co-workers & I didn’t see eye to eye). That’s it. It’s really that simple. When we start to see where someone might fall into the style spectrum, it’s easier to understand that them being quiet doesn’t mean they don’t like you – it simply means they are processing information & are being Contemplative! In other words, they are actually taking the time to think about what you just said! How many times do we misunderstand what we just saw in another person and shake our heads? The answer: I just did it today! 🙂

So, before you decide to say “Let’s Talk” to someone, you may want to consider how they like to be approached, how they view the world (=differently than you) and also what you may need to do in order to come to a good resolution. If we thought things through on a daily basis, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much energy in assuming a negative situation. The Bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.(NASB – Philippians 4:8). That is a great place to start. In addition, Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you watch your words and think for just a second before you speak, it can make a complete difference in the way you approach others and in return, how others approach you.

If you would like to learn more about the DiSC assessment or any of the things I wrote about, I would love to hear from you!