Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ramadan Conversation

“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:6

“I can’t wait to travel to my country for Ramadan. I love Ramadan,” Hanifa stated passionately. “What do you love about it, Hanifa?” I asked. “I love being in the malls after midnight. You know… all the lights, and crowds and shopping. It’s wonderful. Then I get to see all my family and we enjoy special foods that we eat just during Ramadan.” You’d think she was partying for the month; not fasting.

Young Maryam said excitedly, “Ramadan is coming!” It sounded like a kid counting how many more sleeps until Christmas when she can open her gifts. The gifts will come after Ramadan which brings excitement and anticipation. “My mom fasted yesterday,” she said proudly. Yes, I knew her mom was fasting before Ramadan because she announced it to me. She was making up for the days her period would take place. Even though she doesn’t have to fast during her period she will make up for those days before Ramadan starts.

“What will you do on summer school holidays?” I asked Ali last year. “Fast,” he replied dejectedly. That’s all? I was overcome with sadness and vexation that a young child did not have anything fun to look forward to. After Ramadan I asked some school girls what they did on their summer holidays. “We fasted. It was SOoo boring! You can’t do anything fun.”

We will hear all kinds of responses from our Muslim friends. They are proud of fasting. Some enjoy the month tremendously while others find it challenging if they have to go to school or have jobs. Many Muslims will travel to their homelands where everyone will be fasting and they will enter into the cultural traditions and activities of Ramadan. Perhaps you wonder how you should respond to all the Ramadan talk. For many years I tried to speak into their fasting using Scripture. Most times my conversation was not gracious or effective but more of a theological lecture. It can be challenging having a spiritually fruitful conversation during Ramadan. Fruitful discussions about fasting arise at other times of the year but during Ramadan a strong spirit of works and traditions comes over them making it difficult for them to hear or understand anything different. I usually refrain from visiting my fasting Muslim friends during Ramadan. Sometimes they actually ask me not to come during Ramadan. It is hard to schedule visits anyhow with their routines being changed. However I like to keep in touch by phoning, emailing, or texting them. Normally I do not break the fast with them. Ramadan will pass and things will get back to normal. God sustains our relationships put on hold.

The temptation to make snide remarks or to joke or mock about their fasting constantly arises but to do such is not gracious nor effective. I once lost a Muslim friend over making a snide remark and regret that. Better to keep the mouth shut than make snide remarks and let the Holy Spirit reveal issues. I don’t want any ungracious speech to destroy a relationship.

Dear heavenly Father, please help me to be gracious with my Muslim friends when they talk about fasting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giving Cards for Mother's Day

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for a child she has borne?  But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”  Isaiah 49:15

Abdul read without any embarrassment some flowery poems he composed about his mother. No doubt his beautiful sweet wife wished he would compose some endearing poem about her. Muslim mothers are sacrificial in their love for their children; especially their sons. Islam and the culture esteem motherhood. They have taught me a lot. 

The job of motherhood among my Muslim friends is presently being challenged as more and more women juggle outside work and motherhood. They are frequently left with most of the domestic responsibilities resulting with new tensions in households. It has been my observation that  conservative Muslim women who stay at home and have not had higher education surprisingly appear quite peaceful and secure. Not always but it has been an observation. There seems to be an acceptance of their prescribed role. Perhaps there is a resignation that it would be either impossible or not permissible to enter the working world outside the home. Some of my other Muslim and Jesus follower friends, however, feel enormous pressure to help share the financial load with their husbands. When they do go to work outside the home they often experience significant tiredness.  As a result the subject of motherhood comes up frequently on my visits in their homes. These young women look to older women to speak into their tensions; especially if their mothers are across the ocean. Many of them feel pressure from our western society’s value to become independent and have a job. Some of them harbor a sense that something is wrong or deficient with them if they don’t.  One of my Muslim friends asked me for help in filling out her citizenship application. There was a question on the form: Do you stay at home? Give your explanation. I was shocked they had to explain. 

Recently I went to a card store and bought many beautiful Mother’s Day cards which will be given to my Muslim and Jesus follower friends.  Encouraging and affirmative words about motherhood are sentimentally expressed in them. It delights me to give these cards to my friends and then ask if I may pray that God will help them and bless them in their big job of mothering. Single moms or moms who have lost a child through death are given priority attention. Sometimes I give them a real or a silk rose or even a bouquet of flowers along with the card. A homemade cake is a lovely gesture of blessing. In the past we have had Mother’s Day parties where the group shares about their mothers. Mother’s Day is an excellent time to speak into their lives and also to share how God’s heart is like a mother’s, full of unconditional love and tenderness. Such sharing often sounds unfamiliar but attractive to them.

Mother's Day is a time when Muslims and Christians experience a common bond of each having a mother.

Dear heavenly Father, please give me an opportunity to speak of Your heart to my friends this Mother's Day. In Jesus' name, Amen.